College football has its own version of the 1998 home run chase unfolding in the coming days, as Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds have one more opportunity each to set the NCAA touchdown record.
Dixon is tied with former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, whose 83 career scores from scrimmage set the benchmark in 2012. Reynolds guaranteed he’d finish ahead of Ball, scoring his 84th and 85th touchdowns from scrimmage in Navy’s win last Saturday over Army.
Both Dixon and Reynolds play a bowl game in the next 10 days. The question now is if Reynolds or Dixon will end 2015 as the new NCAA touchdown record-holder.
“I never envisioned myself doing this,” Dixon told me in an interview for Athlon Sports in October. “I knew wherever I went I’d work hard and just continue to thank God for every chance that I’d get.”
Dixon would almost assuredly at least be tied with Reynolds heading into Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl, were it not for an ankle injury that sidelined him from October games against UT-San Antonio and Mississippi State.
No matter, as a New Orleans Bowl matchup with Arkansas State promises to be high on points, and thus provide Dixon ample opportunity to finish his illustrious career with a flourish.
Reynolds’ pursuit of the NCAA touchdown record heading into Navy’s Military Bowl matchup with Pitt is already historic, whether or not he sets the new mark. The record doesn’t include passing touchdowns, of which has 29. This particular milestone is one largely saved for running backs, as evidenced by the top 13 record-holders:
2t. Montee Ball and Kenneth Dixon, 83
4. Travis Prentice, 78
5. Ricky Williams, 75
6. Ron Dayne, 71
7. Taurean Henderson, 69
8t. Brock Forsey and Anthony Thompson, 68
10. Cedric Benson, 67
11. Tony Dorsett and DeMarco Murray, 63
13. Marshall Faulk, 62
You have to go back to No. 14, 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch for the next quarterback in this particular record. Reynolds’ smashed Crouch’s quarterback mark last season — why wasn’t Reynolds a Heisman finalist, again?
The establishment of new records in college football is often met with skepticism in this era. The proliferation of uptempo offenses, rules changes from past eras and, most importantly, longer schedules arguably dilute some season and career marks.
In the case of the touchdowns from scrimmage milestone, Ball setting it just three years ago might explain some of the otherwise surprising lack of fanfare following Dixon and Reynolds into their finales. However, before Ball established a new record, Miami (OH) running back Travis Prentice’s mark stood for 16 years.
Neither Ricky Williams nor Ron Dayne could catch Prentice, despite capping their careers with the Heisman. No hurry-up, no-huddle pioneers threatened the mark, and it took six seasons after the 12-game regular season became standard for the mark to fall.
Once either Reynolds or Dixon (or both) exits college football with the new standard in tow, you can bet it will stand much longer than the three years Ball held it.