This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • Jamaal Williams broke one of the oldest and most-revered BYU football records in Friday night's wild 55-53 win over Toledo: Eldon "The Phantom" Fortie's 54-year-old single-game rushing mark of 272 yards in 1962 against George Washington University.
A fifth-year senior, Williams ran for 286 yards against the Rockets, and tied the school record for rushing touchdowns in a game, five, held jointly by Luke Staley (2001) and Eric Lane (1979).
In this day and age of social media and television and internet oversaturation, a case could be made that the non-LDS, occasionally troubled running back from Fontana, Calif. who missed the entire 2015 season to get his personal life in order, as he has said has emerged as one of the most popular players in school history.
It would be hard to find a more admired non-quarterback among the BYU faithful than Williams, whose larger-than-life personality sometimes surpasses his considerable ball-carrying ability. Williams dances during warmups, plays catch with fans in the stands who arrive early, and constantly pumps up his teammates' confidence before kickoff.
"I am really proud of Jamaal, with his history, and his career has been unbelievable here at BYU," coach Kalani Sitake said after the performance that should earn Williams some National Player of the Week honors when those are announced Monday. "I'm glad he was able to get that game."
Williams has also climbed nationally, and is now second in rushing yards, 703, and third in rushing yards per game, 140.6. He is tied for third in rushing touchdowns, with eight, and 23rd in yards per carry, 6.45.
"It has been so much fun playing with Jamaal, and I couldn't be happier for [him]," quarterback Taysom Hill said after Williams' big night. "He deserves it. He was such a fan for us when we were all playing last season. He deserves all that he has gotten."
After their sluggish start against Arizona, Utah and UCLA, the Cougars have moved up to 65th in total offense (425.2 ypg.) and 79th in scoring offense (27.6 ppg.) by averaging 554 yards and 43.5 points against West Virginia and Toledo.
"We had a great night," Hill said after BYU put up 586 yards and 55 points against a Toledo defense that was in the top 10 nationally. "The mentality of this offense is to score 50 points every night. I don't anticipate this many possessions again all season, be we will take advantage of every possession we get."
Next up in the sights of Williams and Hill is a chance to knock off a national power on its home field, although Michigan State (2-2) fell out of the national rankings after Saturday's 24-21 loss at Indiana. The Spartans have dropped to No. 51 in Jeff Sagarin's ratings for USA Today (BYU is No. 45).
Michigan State will be without starting defensive lineman Malik McDowell in the first half, after he was ejected for targeting in the second half against Indiana. BYU will be without linebacker Sae Tautu until the second half for the same reason.
The Spartans are 29th in total defense, allowing 345.3 yards per game. Of course, Williams will now have the full attention of every defense he faces.
"I am grateful [for the record]," he said, "but I just couldn't do it without everyone blocking. It all goes out to them. This record is for the whole team. … We learn every time we come out here, then we go back to practice and we learn some more."
BYU at Michigan State
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
TV • TBD
BYU's rushing records
Game • Jamaal Williams, 286 vs. Toledo (2016)
Season • Luke Staley, 1,582 (2001)
Career • Harvey Unga, 3,455 (2006-09)