The Most Unbreakable Records in College Football
What makes a record unbreakable?
Is it the wideness of the gap between the old record and the new, or how rare it is for a player/team to even come close to breaking it?
How about a record’s age?
Think about it, if a record hasn’t been broken in 50 or 75 years, does that make it more unbreakable?
Age may be the only quantifiable way to define the likeliness of shattering an all-time mark.
Even though the game of college football has changed immeasurably since 1869, when Rutgers and Princeton squared off in what looked more like a Rugby match, certain records have stood the test of time.
According to the NCAA FBS Record Book, following are 25 of the oldest records in the history of college football.
As a note, records co-held by players, groups of players or teams are not included. Single-game, team records mentioned include at least one current FBS team.
25. Fewest Yards of Total Offense Gained, Single Game
Date: Oct. 18, 1947
Record Holder: Syracuse
Record: -47 yards
Syracuse passed for 60 yards and rushed for minus-107 in its 40-0 loss to No. 9 Penn State in 1947. The Orange finished the season 3-6, averaging a mere 8.6 points per game.
The performance also earned the Penn State defense the NCAA FBS record for fewest yards allowed in a single game.
24. Fewest Rushing Yards Allowed per Game
Record Holder: Penn State
Record: 17 yards per game
Penn State’s 1947 rush defense is the most prolific in college football history, allowing a total of 153 rushing yards in nine games. To compare, the best performance in the last decade came in 2006, when Michigan’s D held opponents to an average of 43.4 rushing yards per game.
The Nittany Lions finished 1947 with a 9-0-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the final AP poll. They also set the NCAA FBS record for the lowest average yards allowed per rush (minimum 240 rushes), 0.64 yards.
23. Most Yards Gained per Rush, Career (Minimum 300 carries)
Record Holder: Glenn Davis, Army
Record: 8.26 yards per rush
Army’s Mr. Outside rushed 358 times as a collegian, racking up 2,957 yards along the way. To compare, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon just wrapped up his impressive career with 4,915 yards on 631 carries. That’s 7.79 yards per carry, a half yard per rush off Glenn’s all-world mark.
Davis also holds the record for the most yards gained per rush, season (minimum 75 rushes), set in 1945 with 11.51 yards per rush.
22. Most Passes Attempted Without Completion, Single Game
Date: Oct. 18, 1946
Record Holder: West Virginia
Record: 18 passes attempted
The Mountaineers threw 18 passes without a completion in their 6-0 loss to Temple back in 1946. They finished the season 5-5 and averaged 12 points per game, earning them the No. 90 slot out of the 120 teams nationally.
21. Most Kickoff Returns, Single Game
Date: Oct. 12, 1946
Record Holder: Arizona State
Record: 14 kickoff returns
Arizona State returned 14 kickoffs for 290 yards in its 74-2 loss to Nevada in 1946. The Sun Devils were outscored 313-93 that year, finishing 2-7-2, including a 67-0 loss to Arizona.
To compare, Bowling Green returned 62 kicks in 14 games in 2014, more than any other team in the FBS. That works out to 4.4 returns per game, or 10 fewer than the record.
20. Most Yards on Punt Returns, Single Game
Date: Sept. 21, 1946
Record Holder: Texas A&M
Record: 319 yards
The Aggies returned 10 punts for a whopping 319 yards in their 47-0 shellacking of North Texas in the 1946 season opener. The game was the high point for a season that ended in a 4-6 finish and 125 total points scored.
Only 13 of the 128 FBS teams in 2014 (or 10 percent) finished the entire season with more than 319 yards in punt returns. One of the biggest days came when Ohio State racked up 142 punt return yards in its 66-0 beatdown of Kent State.
19. Highest Average Gain per Rush, Season (Minimum 400 rushes)
Record Holder: Army
Record: 7.64 yards per rush
Army rushed 424 times for 3,238 yards in 1945, the same season it went 9-0 and captured the second of its three consecutive national titles.
The closest any team has come to the mark since 2000 is Nevada, rushing 607 times for 4,484 yards in 2009, an average of 7.39 yards per carry.
18. Fewest Passes Attempted, Both Teams, Single Game
Date: Oct. 20, 1944
Record Holder: Michigan State and Maryland
Record: One pass attempted
Maryland was the only team to attempt a pass in the entire 60 minutes of its 1944 game with Michigan State. The one try wasn’t completed, and the Terrapins fell to the Spartans 8-0 on their way to a 1-7-1 record.
Michigan State went 6-1 that year, outscoring its opponents 167-31.
17. Fewest Yards of Total Offense Gained by a Winning Team
Date: Sept. 30, 1944
Record Holder: North Carolina State
Record: 10 yards
The Wolfpack cranked out a whopping 10 yards in their 13-0 win over Virginia in 1944. N.C. State finished the season 7-2, while the Cavaliers went 6-1-2.
16. Most Points per Game, Season
Record Holder: Army
Record: 56 points per game
In what might be the most shocking statistic, Army scored 504 points in nine games in 1944, the same year it won a national title. Compare the team’s 56 points per game to Baylor’s 52.4 in 2013, the highest mark in the last decade.
The ’44 Black Knights also hold the record for the highest scoring margin (52.11) and the most touchdowns per game (8.22).
15. Fewest Passing Yards Gained, Both Teams
Date: Nov. 13, 1943
Record Holder: North Carolina and Penn State
Record: -13 yards
The Tar Heels went 1-of-7 for minus-seven yards through the air while the Nittany Lions went 2-of-12 for minus-six yards in their blockbuster 1943 meeting.
North Carolina won the game 19-0 on the way to a 6-3 finish, Penn State went on to post a 5-3-1 record.
14. Most Turnovers by a Winning Team
Date: Oct. 2, 1943
Record Holder: Purdue
Record: 11 turnovers
Purdue coughed up nine fumbles and two interceptions in its 1943 clash with Illinois but still managed to win, 40-21. The unlikely victory catapulted the Boilermakers to a 9-0 finish, including a shared Big Ten title and a No. 5 rank in the final AP poll. Illinois went 3-7 that year.
Since 2008, no FBS team has turned the ball over more than Idaho’s 2012 product, posting 39 turnovers. The Vandals' season lows came at North Carolina and at BYU when they turned the ball over five times each. Even combined, the total still leaves them one short of Purdue’s single-game record.
13. Most Punt Returns per Game, Single Season
Record Holder: Texas A&M
Record: 6.9 punt returns per game
The 1943 Aggies forced their 10 opponents to punt the ball an average of six times per game. That’s a far cry from the 2014 leader in punt returns, Virginia Tech, averaging 3.5 per game.
Texas A&M’s defense held opponents to a mere 6.5 points per game in ’43, the 11th-best mark in the nation. The Aggies finished the season 7-2-1, losing 19-14 to LSU in the Orange Bowl.
12. Most Passes Intercepted by a Linebacker, Single Season
Record Holder: Bill Sibley, Texas A&M
Record: 9 interceptions
No linebacker has scored more interceptions in a single season than Texas A&M’s Bill Sibley, who hauled in nine in 1941. The best a linebacker has done since 2008 was Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, posting seven in 2012.
The Aggies finished the ’41 season 9-2, capturing the Southwest Conference Championship and ultimately losing 29-21 to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
11. Most Consecutive Non-Losing Seasons
Record Holder: Penn State
Record: 49 seasons
The only thing holding Penn State back from besting Notre Dame’s record of 42 consecutive winning seasons (1889-1932) is its back-to-back 5-5 finishes in 1965-66. The missteps came during the final season of the Rip Engle era and the first of Joe Paterno’s tenure.
The Nittany Lions finished ranked in one of the major polls 28 of the 49 years of the streak (57 percent) and won national championships twice (1982 and 1986).
10. Most Consecutive Shutouts (Regular Season)
Record Holder: Tennessee
Record: 17 shutouts
Tennessee’s 17 consecutive regular-season shutouts might be the most impressive record in the bunch. The streak started on Nov. 30, 1938 when it blanked Tennessee-Chattanooga 45-0 and didn’t end until Oct. 19, 1940, when Alabama scored 12 points in a 27-12 loss to the Vols.
The record doesn’t include the postseason games from the same time period: A 17-0 win over Oklahoma in the 1939 Orange Bowl and a 14-0 loss to USC in the 1940 Rose Bowl.
Tennessee outscored its 17 opponents 479-0 during run, a time frame that produced three consecutive SEC titles and the 1938 national championship.
The Vols also hold the NCAA FBS record for the most consecutive quarters opponents held scoreless, 71. That streak lasted from the second quarter of the 14-6 win over LSU on Oct. 29, 1938 until the second quarter of the 27-12 win over Alabama on Oct. 19, 1940.
9. Fewest Yards Gained, Total Offense, Both Teams
Date: Nov. 11, 1939
Record Holder: Texas Tech and Centenary (Louisiana)
Record: 30 yards total offense
Texas Tech and Centenary’s 0-0 tie on Nov. 11, 1939 set at least nine NCAA FBS records. The two teams combined for 33 plays in the game, Tech gaining minus-one yard and Centenary posting 33.
Single-game combined records shared by both teams include: fewest plays (33), fewest rushes (28), most punts (77) and most punt returns (42)
According to the NCAA FBS Record Book,
The game was played in a heavy down-pour in Shreveport, Louisiana. Forty-two punts were returned, 19 went out of bounds, 10 were downed, 1 went into the end zone for a touchback, 4 were blocked and 1 was fair caught. Sixty-seven punts (34 by Texas Tech and 33 by Centenary) occurred on first-down plays, including 22 consecutively in the third and fourth quarters.
The Red Raiders hold the single-game record for fewest plays (12). Additionally, Texas Tech’s Charlie Calhoun holds the record for most punts in a single game (36) and Milton Hill holds the record for most punt returns in a single game (20).
Centenary holds the single-game record for fewest plays allowed (12).
8. Fewest Kickoff Returns per Game
Record Holder: Boston College
Record: 0.70 kickoff returns per game
Boston College returned a mere seven kickoffs in 10 games in 1939, a stat that tells the story of a defense that gave up 46 points during the entire season.
The closest any FBS team has come to the mark since 2008 was last season when Nevada returned 18 kickoffs in 13 games, an average 1.4, or double the Eagles’ record.
7. Fewest Passing Yards Allowed per Game
Record Holder: Penn State
Record: 13.13 passing yards allowed per game
The school with most prolific rush defense in history also holds the record for the best pass defense, only where Penn State shut down the run in 1947 it obliterated the pass 11 years earlier, in 1938.
The Nittany Lions gave up a total of 105 passing yards to its eight opponents that season. Compare that with the best FBS pass defense since 2008, Alabama, which gave up an average of 111.5 yards per game in 2011.
6. Most Yards on Punts, Season
Record Holder: Johnny Pingel, Michigan State
Record: 4,138 yards
It took Michigan State’s Johnny Pingel 99 punts in nine games to set the all-time record for punting yards back in 1938. Pingel was an All-American halfback for the Spartans in 1938 and 1939, selected seventh overall by the Detroit Lions in the 1939 NFL draft.
Compare that to Idaho’s Bobby Cowan, the only guy since 2008 to crest the 4,000-yard mark, he needed 88 punts in 12 games to hit 4,084 in 2011.
5. Most Scoreless Tie Games in a Season
Record Holder: Temple
Record: Four scoreless ties
A record that will never be broken due to the overtime rule being added in 1996, Temple had four games end in a 0-0 draw during in its 1937 campaign.
The Owls enjoyed scoreless draws with Ole Miss, Boston College, Holy Cross and Bucknell that year, finishing 3-2-4 under then-coach Pop Warner.
4. Most Punts per Game, Single Season
Record Holder: Tennessee
Record: 13.9 punts per game
Tennessee punted the ball away a record 139 times in its 10 games in 1939. That’s double the average of seven that Kansas—the nation’s top punting team—managed in 2014. The Jayhawks, along with Texas-San Antonio and Eastern Michigan, all punted 84 times in 12 games last season.
The ’37 Vols finished the season 6-3-1.
3. Most Consecutive Games without a Defeat
Record Holder: Washington
Record: 64 games
In a streak that kicked off more than 100 years ago, Washington didn’t lose a game between its scoreless tie with Whitman on Nov. 28, 1907 and its 14-6 win over the same team on Oct. 20, 1917. The run ended on Nov. 3, 1917 when the Huskies traveled to Berkeley and got shut out 27-0 by Cal.
What prevents Washington from overtaking Oklahoma’s 47-game mark for the most consecutive victories are three ties: a 6-6 decision with Washington State in 1908, a 0-0 outcome with Oregon State in 1914 and a 0-0 game with Oregon in 1916.
2. Most-Played Rivalry
Record Holder: Minnesota-Wisconsin
Record: 124 games
The Minnesota-Wisconsin series is four games longer than its closest competitor Kansas-Missouri, a rivalry which ended after 2011 when the Tigers bolted for the SEC.
The Golden Gophers and Badgers also hold the NCAA FBS record for the longest uninterrupted series. The duo’s mark of 108 games (played since 1907) is three up on Clemson-South Carolina.
1. Most Consecutive Winning Seasons
Record Holder: Notre Dame
The oldest record in the book, because the clock started ticking 126 years ago, is Notre Dame’s 42 consecutive winning seasons.
The run began with the 1889 team that went 1-0 and ended with the 1932 product that went 7-2. The ’33 Irish went 3-5-1, the only losing team until 1956’s 2-8 finish. It’s worth noting that the school didn’t field a team in 1890 and 1891.
The program with the most consecutive winning seasons since 1937 is Nebraska, who rolled up 40 straight from 1962-2001.