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Wayne Staats | | December 8, 2019

College football career rushing yards leaders: All-time stats

Mansfield's 2010 reenactment of the first-ever night football game in 1892

Here's a list of the top career rushing yards leaders in major college football history. San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey is the all-time record holder, rushing for more than 6,400 yards in a college tenure that ended in 2016.

Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor is the active leader with 6,080 yards through Week 15 this season. It's important to note the NCAA record book does not include bowl games for any players before 2002.

College football career rushing yards leaders:

1. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State (2013-16) — 6,405 yards in 54 games

Pumphrey broke Ron Dayne's NCAA record in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl, becoming the new record holder in the fourth quarter.

The Aztecs star rushed for 752 yards as a freshman before jumping to 1,867 as a sophomore. After running for 1,653 yards his junior season, Pumphrey used 330 carries in 2016 to pick up 2,133 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior.

San Diego State's 34-10 win against Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl boosted SDSU to a 11-3 record and a No. 25 national ranking.

2. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99) — 6,397 yards in 43 games

Dayne won the Heisman Trophy as a senior, lifting the Badgers to consecutive Rose Bowl wins. His No. 33 was officially retired in 2007.

The "Great Dayne" started all four of his seasons — and easily topped 1,000 yards each season. In fact, his worst season of 1998 still saw him rush for 1,325 yards.

Though his bowl yards don't count, Dayne left a lasting legacy in three huge games. He rushed for 246 yards in the 1996 Copper Bowl, 246 yards in the 1999 Rose Bowl (1998 season) and then 200 yards in the 2000 Rose Bowl (1999 season).

3. Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98) — 6,279 yards in 46 games

"Hello, record book!"

Williams broke Tony Dorsett's record for career yards in what was the annual rivalry game against Texas A&M. He raced 60 yards for a touchdown and a place in history.

Williams' run lifted the Longhorns to a 26-24 upset win against No. 6 Texas A&M. He later won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, picking up 714 first-place votes; No. 2 finisher Michael Bishop of Kansas State received 41 first-place votes.

4. Tony Dorsett, Pitt (1973-76) — 6,082 yards in 43 games

Dorsett held the record until Williams passed him more than 20 years later.

During his freshman season, Dorsett helped a Panthers program go from 1-10 to 6-5-1. Two more winning years followed before a huge senior year in 1976.

A season-opening 31-10 win at Notre Dame charged Pitt to a national championship, including a 24-7 win against rival Penn State and a 27-3 win against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Dorsett had 202 yards and a touchdown in the win against UGA.

5. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (2016-present) — 6,080 yards in 40 games (through Week 15 of 2019)

Though Wisconsin couldn't hang on to its 14-point halftime lead against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, Taylor rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. That now puts him over 6,000 yards in his career.

RANKINGS: AP Poll Top 25 | Coaches Poll

6. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis (2002-05) — 6,026 yards in 44 games

Williams' impressive Tigers career saw him set an NCAA Division I record for 100-yard games with 34 and all-purpose yards (7,573).

After rushing for 694 yards as a freshman in 2002, Williams topped 1,000 yards the next three seasons. He also reached 1,900 yards in each of the last two years. He also finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting in 2005.

7. Royce Freeman, Oregon (2014-17) — 5,621 yards in 51 games

Freeman was only a freshman on the high-powered Ducks 2014 team that made the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. But he still had 1,365 yards and 18 touchdowns (both Oregon freshmen records).

More yards followed, with his peak of 1,836 yards in 2015.

RECORDS: College football championship history

8. Charles White, Southern California (1976-79) — 5,598 yards in 45 games

White was Rose Bowl MVP twice, earning the honor at the 1979 and 1980 games. USC won a split national championship his junior season, which ended with a 17-10 win against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. 

For his senior season, White won the Heisman Trophy as the Trojans went 11-0-1 and came in No. 2 in the polls. USC beat AP No. 1 Ohio State 17-16 in the Rose Bowl, with White rushing for 247 yards.

9. Travis Prentice, Miami (Ohio) (1996-99) — 5,596 yards in 44 games

Prentice helped the RedHawks upset a ranked Virginia Tech team in 1997 and a ranked North Carolina team in 1998.

In 1999, Prentice ran over Akron for a school-record 376 yards while breaking Ricky Williams' record for career points and touchdowns.

10. Cedric Benson, Texas (2001-04) — 5,540 yards in 49 games

Benson, who passed away in August 2019, started four seasons for the Longhorns. He never failed to hit 1,000 yards in a season, even as a freshman.

In his senior season, Benson won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back by rushing for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns. Texas had an 11-1 season that concluded with a thrilling 38-37 win against Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

11. Justin Jackson, Northwestern (2014-17) — 5,440 yards in 51 games

Jackson had four seasons of at least 1,000 rushing yards while scoring 39 touchdowns on the ground.

In a 2016 Pinstripe Bowl win, Jackson rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns to upset AP No. 22 Pitt. As a senior, Jackson and the Wildcats rebounded from a 2-3 start to conclude 10-3 and No. 17 in the rankings.

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