|Houston QB Andre Ware passed for 517 yards in a single half in 1989.|
California Chrome goes for horse-racing immortality Saturday in the Belmont Stakes when he attempts to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history and the first in 36 years.
In honor of his quest, we decided to put together a list of college football immortals: NCAA record-holders who hold unbreakable records.
You won't see any mention of the longest punt, run, pass or reception on this list. Each is a 99-yarder and obviously cannot be broken. But that's the thing: Those are too obvious to list. We're trying to be a bit more esoteric with our choices of unbreakable records.
Here are the 10 we chose. There are others that won't be broken, too, but these intrigued us the most.
Rushing yards per game, individual in a seasonRecord: 238.9 ypg, by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 1988.
Buzz: Sanders unquestionably put together the best season by a running back in history, and his reward was the Heisman Trophy. Only 15 backs ever have rushed for 2,000 yards, and Sanders' 2,628 leads the way. Sanders' big season came before the NCAA began counting bowl games in the record book; Sanders ran for 222 in a Holiday Bowl rout of Wyoming, which meant he rushed for 2,850 yards in 12 games. Only three backs ever have averaged 200 yards per game in a season -- Sanders, USC's Marcus Allen (212.9 in 1981) and Cornell's Ed Marinaro (209.0 in 1971, when the Ivy League still was in the highest classification). Sanders' per-game average is 26 yards more per game than Allen's.
Longest winning streakRecord: 47, by Oklahoma in 1953-57.
Buzz: The staggering streak spanned part of five seasons. It started with the third game of the '53 season and ended in the eighth game of the '57 season. OU went three entire seasons (1954-55-56) without a loss. During the streak, OU outscored its foes 1,621-276 (that's an average score of 34-6). The Sooners held their opponents to single digits in 35 of the 47 wins and shut out their opponents 22 times during the streak.
Most passing yards, one halfRecord: 517, by Houston's Andre Ware on Oct. 21, 1989.
Buzz: SMU was coming off a two-season "death penalty" in '89 and didn't belong on the same field with a Houston team that would finish 9-2. But that didn't stop Houston coach Jack Pardee -- whose team coincidentally was on probation that season -- from letting Ware throw it all over the place against SMU, which was coached by Forrest Gregg. Ware threw for 340 yards and five TDs in the first quarter and was 25-of-41 for 517 yards and six TDs in the first half, which ended with the Cougars leading 59-14. Ware didn't play in the second half and Houston won 95-21. Gregg wasn't too happy afterward: "I'd never run up the score like that on a group of freshmen and sophomores." It was one of five games that season in which the Cougars scored at least 60 points and one of eight in which they scored at least 40. All of that leads to ...
Total offense, yards per gameRecord: 624.9, by Houston in 1989.
Buzz: Baylor came close last season, averaging 618.2, but Houston and Baylor are the only schools in NCAA history to average 600 yards in a season. Houston's run-and-shoot offense took no prisoners that season, especially when the Cougars played overmatched foes, but it did struggle in a 17-13 loss at Texas A&M. Houston lost twice and finished second in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. The Cougars rolled up a record 1,021 yards against SMU, one of two games with at least 744 yards. They hit the 600-yard plateau six times and only once were held to less than 500 yards (369 by A&M). The Cougars also committed an astounding 39 turnovers, including 23 fumbles, and 129 penalties that season.
Most punting yards in a gameRecord: 1,318 by Texas Tech's Charlie Calhoun on Nov. 11, 1939.
Buzz: Yep, 1,318 punting yards in one game. Calhoun punted 36 times that afternoon against Centenary (that's 12 more punts in one game than Tech attempted in a season in 2008). The game was played in a downpour and the field basically was unplayable. The teams combined to gain 30 yards of offense and for 77 punts (67 of them came on first down); the contest ended in a 0-0 tie. Calhoun's mark was one of 13 NCAA single-game records set that day, the most of any game in NCAA history.
Average rushing yards per game, teamRecord: 472.4, by Oklahoma in 1971.
Buzz: Oklahoma's wishbone attack -- guided by offensive coordinator Barry Switzer and quarterback/option wizard Jack Mildren -- struck fear in everybody, though the Sooners did fall to Nebraska 35-31 on Thanksgiving Day thanks to the heroics of Johnny Rodgers in one of the best college games ever. OU was 11-1 that season and scored at least 30 points in every game but one; the Sooners scored at least 40 seven times. Sooners runners had 18 100-yard outings that season. OU rushed for "just" 279 yards in the Nebraska loss, the only time that season that the Sooners didn't rush for at least 342. Records compiled by OU football historian Mike Brooks show that the Mildren-led wishbone cracked the 500-yard barrier five times and the 400-yard barrier 10 times. And remember: This was not total yardage but rather rushing yards.
Most interceptions thrown in a gameRecord: 9, by Florida's John Reaves vs. Auburn on Nov. 1, 1969.
Buzz: Florida came in 6-0, thanks mostly to the passing arm of Reaves, who eventually was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972. That day, though, Reaves attempted 66 passes and completed nine to Tigers defenders; Auburn LB Sonny Ferguson had three picks, and LB Bobby Strickland and DBs Buddy McLinton and Larry Willingham had two interceptions each. McClinton finished with a school-record nine picks that season. Auburn won 38-12. The loss was the Gators' only setback that season, as they finished 9-1-1. Reaves finished the season with 24 TD passes and 19 interceptions; he graduated with 7,549 passing yards, which was the most in NCAA history at the time.
Rushing yards allowed per gameRecord: 17.0, by Penn State in 1947.
Buzz: The Nittany Lions surrendered just 153 rushing yards in nine games that season. And get this: They allowed 0.6 yards per carry (the 153 yards came on 240 carries). Penn State finished 9-0-1 that season, with the tie coming against SMU in the Cotton Bowl. Arizona's 1993 "Desert Swarm" unit is the only post-1960 defense that has come close to Penn State's mark, and the Wildcats allowed 30.1 rushing yards per game.
Most seasons rushing for 1,500 yardsRecord: 3, by Pitt's Tony Dorsett (1973, 1975-76), Georgia's Herschel Walker (1980-82), Miami of Ohio's Travis Prentice (1997-99), Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe (2004-06) and Oregon's LaMichael James (2009-11).
Buzz: The idea that a 1,500-yard rusher is going to stick around for four seasons these days is folly. Gaining 1,500 yards is hard work, and who is going to risk injury going for it four times? Take the yardage and run (to the NFL).
Consecutive games catching at least two passesRecord: 53, by Houston's Tyron Carrier from 2008-11.
Buzz: Carrier caught at least two passes in every game in his career. His tally was helped by Houston's appearance in two conference title games and three bowls. To beat the record, it will be vital that a receiver plays on a team that wins division titles. Simply going to bowl games (which would mean 13 games in four consecutive seasons) won't be enough. And chances are if a receiver is that good and on a team that is that good, he goes pro before his senior season. Carrier, who now plays in the CFL, was an extremely good college receiver, but he also was just 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds.
Here's one more record -- perhaps the most unbreakable in any sport. But it is not recognized by the NCAA because official NCAA stats didn't exist until 1937.
Largest margin of victoryRecord: 222 points, by Georgia Tech over Cumberland (Tenn.) on Oct. 7, 1916.
Buzz: One of the most famous games in college football history because of Georgia Tech's 222-0 victory. John Heisman was Tech's coach, and there's no question he ran up the score on a vastly overmatched team. Cumberland had decided not to field a team in 1916, but there nevertheless was a signed contract for a game. Tech officials said they would call off the game -- if Cumberland paid a $3,000 cancellation fee. Instead, Cumberland -- which received a $500 guarantee for playing -- decided to go ahead with the game. Cumberland showed up with 13 players; three members of the team missed the train after a layover in Nashville, about a 30-minute train ride from Cumberland's campus in Lebanon, Tenn. Tech led 63-0 after one quarter, 126-0 at halftime and 180-0 at the end of three quarters. The second half was shortened to 15 minutes (Heisman's one concession to the overmatched opponent, apparently). Neither team made a first down: Tech scored on every possession and seldom needed more than two or three plays to score.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.