There is no debate that Marshall Faulk is the best running back in San Diego State history. He still will be 100 years from now — well, if football still exists.

But it also should be pretty clear who ranks No. 2 on the top Aztecs’ back list.  

That would be the current star — Walter Camp Player of the Year finalist Rashaad Penny.

Penny leads the nation with 2,027 rushing yards and has a stellar 7.4 average to go with 19 rushing scores. He has topped 200 yards on five occasions this season and had just one poor contest when he gained just 53 yards on 21 carries during a loss to Boise State.

He also matched the all-time record for career kickoff return touchdowns with seven.

When this month began, Deacon Turner was still the second-best running back in San Diego State history. You can still call him BBF – Best Before Faulk.

But it is now clear that Penny is No. 2, which is plenty amazing when you consider he was the backup to NCAA all-time rushing leader Donnel Pumphrey last season. I wondered a few times if Penny was the best back on the San Diego State roster while he was rushing for 1,005 yards.

We got the answer. He was the best this season. He was the best last season. He would be the best in any season in Aztecs’ history other than the Faulk Years (1991-93).

So we need to have a definitive Top 10 list of San Diego State running backs. I saw most everyone on the list play — ummm, not Norm Nygaard (1952-54) of course — so I am the right person to compile it.

Surely don’t want anyone at the school messing up the list. When I was on the beat and Lynell Hamilton was having a big freshman season in 2003, the game notes didn’t have Darrin Wagner listed among the school’s top-ever freshman rushing leaders.

I told the guy of the omission and he just stared at me. He finally said, “Who?”

That’s what happens when universities hire people who don’t know the school history.

Anyway, the next year I turned to the page in the media guide and guess whose rushing yardage from 1989 had been added to the freshman leaders?

Yep, Darrin Wagner.

OK, here are the Top 10 running backs in San Diego State history:

 

1. Marshall Faulk — San Diego State had never landed a talent like this and benefited that major schools wanted him to play cornerback. Well, their loss as Faulk set the then single-game rushing record of 386 yards before he ever started a game and got the Aztecs unprecedented national publicity. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1992 as ESPN’s Lee Corso repeatedly belittled the fact Faulk played at San Diego State and single-handedly prevented him from winning the award. Faulk rushed for 4,589 and 57 touchdowns in his three seasons before becoming an NFL Hall of Famer.

2. Rashaad Penny — See above for the superlatives but ranking fourth in school history with 3,435 rushing yards (and likely soon to be third) is pretty impressive when you were just a starter for one season.

3. Deacon Turner — He had a first name of David but nobody ever used it when discussing his exploits. He was the star of back-to-back 10-1 teams – there weren’t 322 bowl games back then — and was part of the biggest victory in school history, the 41-16 slaughter of No. 13 Florida State in 1977. He fell on hard times after his NFL career ended and isn’t in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, which is a travesty. Claude Gilbert, who coached Turner, was a defensive coordinator at San Diego State in the mid-1990s and told me then that the committee had once decided to induct the Deacon but backed off because it was worried about what kind of shape he was in or if he would even show. Well, the guy is dead now so that’s not an issue. Turner’s absence needs to be rectified because he was one of the biggest difference-makers in school history.

4. Ronnie Hillman — You could go with any order for Hillman and the following two guys but Hillman (3,243 yards, 36 touchdowns) would have shattered Faulk’s then-record if he hadn’t mistakenly left for the NFL after two seasons. He was better than the Mountain West level and repeatedly put up big numbers.

5. Donnel Pumphrey — He’s the all-time NCAA rushing leader (6,405 yards) as long as they don’t reinstate bowl stats from the old days (then it will be Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne) and rushed for 62 touchdowns. The craziest stat is he racked up 33 100-yard outings during his career — heck, the ESPN folks will make a power-conference player a star with three 100-yard games.

6. George Jones — One of the more muscle-toned running backs ever seen and he was the first to break Faulk’s single-season mark when he compiled 1,842 yards in 1995. He had four career 200-yard games while rolling up 2,810 yards and 34 touchdowns over two seasons.

7. Norm Nygaard — I was told by a longtime school expert that this guy was the top running back prior to Deacon Turner’s arrival and that is good enough for me. He rushed for 2,619 yards from 1952-54 and that was well before running backs got 20 to 25 carries per game so perhaps he could have doubled that total with today’s workloads.

8. Chris Hardy — He had a big junior season (1,150 yards in 1985) and then was one of the top players on one of the more beloved teams in school history — the 1986 Holiday Bowl team. He rushed for 2,341 yards and 22 touchdowns.

9. Larry Ned — He ranks third in school history with 3,562 yards and rushed for 36 touchdowns. He once rushed for 285 yards against Eastern Illinois in 2001 — the quarterback of Eastern Illinois was a guy named Tony Romo.

10. Wayne Pittman — Here’s a guy you don’t hear a lot about and that is because he had the unfortunate timing of being Faulk’s backup for three seasons. But he rushed for 1,136 yards in his lone season as a starter (1994) and that is good enough for me.

 

Missing the cut — Lynell Hamilton (2003-07) was a star as a freshman before a badly broken leg and a 22-month absence changed everything. … Adam Muema (2011-13) had rushing seasons of 1,458 and 1,244 yards before mistakenly turning pro and basically disappearing. … Paul Hewitt (28 scores from 1987-88) was a touchdown machine as a junior-college transfer. … Art Preston (34 touchdowns from 1949-51) has his name plate in the football locker room so that tells me all I need to know. … Jonas Lewis (1996-99) was consistently good while racking up 2,843 yards.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s