Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor breaks Herschel Walker's record for rushing yards through junior year

Jack Baer
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs for a touchdown against Nebraska linebacker Mohamed Barry, left, during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Jonathan Taylor already has a special place in college football history. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Record books and Nebraska football have one big thing in common these days: They’ve both been victimized repeatedly by Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor posted 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Saturday in a 37-21 win over Nebraska, giving him a 200-yard game for the third time in three career games against the Cornhuskers.

Jonathan Taylor is pretty good

That’s the first time in Wisconsin history a player has ever rushed for 200 yards three times against the same opponent, and it’s the sixth time a Wisconsin running back has done it against Nebraska this decade (Taylor thrice, Melvin Gordon twice, Montee Ball once).

Additionally, Taylor reached 5,634 career rushing yards, topping Georgia legend Herschel Walker for most yards through a player’s junior season in NCAA history.

Taylor also passed Ohio State’s Archie Griffin for the second-most rushing yards all-time in Big Ten history, which is impressive when you remember we’re dealing with a junior here. The only man left ahead of him: Wisconsin’s own Ron Dayne.

There is a good chance Taylor keeps up the march through history next week against Purdue, the only program he has bullied worse than Nebraska.

Of course, all those records do come with one rather big caveat, and you’ll be shocked to hear it’s because of an arbitrary decision from the NCAA.

The one problem with Taylor’s records

As far as the NCAA record books are concerned, Taylor is now college football’s rushing king through his junior season.

However, there is the awkward fact that Walker actually rushed more than the 5,596 yards he’s officially given credit for. That’s because Walker’s 337 rushing yards from his three career bowl games don’t count according to NCAA rules, while Taylor’s 335 from his two bowl games do.

The NCAA changed its rules in 2002 to count bowl game stats as official records alongside regular season games, giving a major statistical boost to players in the years following the change. The rule change has already affected the overall NCAA career rushing record, as San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey passed Dayne in 2016 because Dayne’s 728 rushing yards from his four career bowl games didn’t count.

This all could have been prevented had the NCAA just allowed bowl game stats to retroactively count when it changed the rules, but, well, that would have required the NCAA doing something more than the bare minimum.

Of course, Taylor still has three or four more games to pass Walker’s real total. That obviously matters little in the grand scheme of things, considering we’re not exactly hurting for ways to prove that Taylor is a special talent.

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