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Reaching 2,000 rushing yards doesn’t have same meaning as 25 years ago

In 1994, Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam became 4th player to reach 2,000 yards; since then, 21 have done it

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam topped the 2,000-yard mark by erupting for a 67-yard touchdown run against Iowa State at Folsom Field on Nov. 19, 1994.

When Rashaan Salaam surpassed the 2,000-yard mark in dramatic fashion on Nov. 19, 1994, it was a remarkable and rare feat.

His 67-yard touchdown run against Iowa State that day was one of the great moments in Colorado football history, as it put a cap on his 2,055-yard season.

The CU junior became just the fourth player in college football history to hit the 2,000-yard mark. Like the others – USC’s Marcus Allen (1981), Nebraska’s Mike Rozier (1983) and Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders (1988) – Salaam wrapped up the season as the Heisman Trophy winner.

A quarter century later, the 2,000-yard milestone is still a big deal, but it’s not what it used to be. Since Salaam did it, the 2,000-yard mark has been hit 21 times, and there are three players within striking distance this season. Of all those players to reach 2,000 since 1994, only two won the Heisman Trophy: Texas’ Ricky Williams in 1998 and Alabama’s Derrick Henry in 2015.

It was just a year after Salaam’s magical season that the 2,000-yard season began meaning a little less.

In 1995, Iowa State’s Troy Davis rushed for 2,010 yards, but finished fifth in the Heisman voting, as his Cyclones sputtered to a 3-8 record. Davis was even better in 1996, rushing for 2,185 yards, but the Cyclones were worse, at 2-9. Still the only player to reach 2,000 yards twice, Davis was second in Heisman voting in 1996.

Texas Tech’s Byron Hanspard also reached the mark in 1996 (2,084 yards), and he was sixth in Heisman voting. That was the first time that two players hit the mark in the same season, but it’s now happened six times. Three players hit the mark in 2007.

There has been at least one 2,000-yard rusher every year since 2013, and two players did it every year from 2014-17.

Two major changes have allowed for more 2,000-yard seasons:

  • In 2002, the NCAA began allowing bowl game stats to count for season records.
  • In 2006, the regular season expanded from 11 games to 12. Add in conference title games and a two-game college football playoff, and players could now have anywhere from 12 to 15 games to play.

Henry, in fact, played 15 games in 2015 and finished with 2,219 yards. He had 1,526 through 11 games (Salaam had 2,055 in his 11 games in 1994), and added 693 in games 12-15.

Since 2002, there have been 16 players reach 2,000 yards and eight needed postseason stats to count in order to get there. Only four got there within 11 games.

This season, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard (1,936 yards), Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (1,909) and Ohio State’s JK Dobbins (1,829 yards) could all get there. Taylor could join Davis as the only two-time 2,000-yard rushers, as he finished with 2,194 a year ago.

Reaching 2,000 is still remarkable, but Salaam was the last player to make that milestone a truly unique and special achievement.

“I had rushed for 2,000 yards and back then, that was the fourth time in NCAA history,” Salaam said in an interview with Buffzone.com in 2014. “That’s history right there. The three guys before won the Heisman.

“(At the Heisman ceremony), I was excited. I couldn’t wait. I was like, ‘Who else could it be?’