Just days after the death of the legendary Walter Payton, a Big Sky junior running back accomplished something no one in Division I football had ever done before.
Sacramento State's Charles Roberts, who stood just 5-foot-6, rushed for 409 yards. Yes, in one single game. No one in Division I football had ever eclipsed 400.
"I wanted to try and come out and run hard like he ran,'' Roberts said after the game, referring to Payton.
Roberts' amazing 409-yard game in a 41-20 victory over Idaho State on Nov. 6, 1999 ranks 26th on the list of the Big Sky Conference's "50 Greatest Men's Moments.''
The Big Sky's all-time leading rusher rarely wanted to come out of a game. Late in the Idaho State game, however, was one of those times.
"I knew I had run for a lot of yards because I was tired enough,'' Roberts recalled. "I had no idea I was approaching a record. Coach (John) Volek told me I wasn't coming out, that I was on the verge of history."
"That's exactly right,'' said Volek, Sacramento State's head coach from 1995-2003. "We were winning the game, but it wasn't a blowout against Idaho State. I wasn't feeling good yet. I brought him over, and asked him if he had some more. He looked at me, and said, 'Yep.' He never denied me. He always knew I was looking out for him, at least I hope he did.''
Roberts carried the ball 39 times and set a school record with five touchdown runs. He scored two 1-yard TD runs, added another from 18 yards out, and hit big from 59 and 69 yards.
In the first quarter, Roberts had 10 carries for 97 yards. At halftime, he had 179 yards. His biggest quarter came in the third when he busted off the 69-yard TD run, added a 33-yard jaunt, and finished the 15 minutes with 138 yards to hike his total to 317 with 15 minutes to play.
On his first carry of the fourth quarter, he scored on an 18-yard touchdown run. On his next touch, he raced 59 yards for a touchdown to put him at 394 yards.
With that run, he broke the single-game I-AA record of 379 yards set by Siena's Reggie Green against St. John's in 1996. Kansas' Tony Sands held the I-A record of 396 yards, set in 1991 against Missouri.
The Hornets led 38-20 at that point, and more than 12 minutes remained in the game.
"We weren't trying to rub it in or anything,'' Roberts said. "But I think Idaho State was frustrated. I started taking some hits that wouldn't be allowed in today's game. I was happy Coach Volek kept me in the game. I only had one opportunity for this, and a lot of us never get that.''
Roberts eclipsed the 400-yard mark with a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter, putting him at 401. He carried the ball five more times for eight yards.
Sacramento State rushed the ball 57 times for a total of 470 yards. The Hornets finished with 608 yards of total offense. Quarterback Ricky Ray, who is still a star in the Canadian Football League, threw for 112 yards.
Roberts is quick to give credit to his offensive line, which went by the nickname "The Hammerheads." The unit consisted of Jon Osterhout, Doug Hollingsworth, Lonie Paxton, Terance Wager, Tim Conley, tight end Chris Kelly and fullback Mike Wooster. Paxton earned three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots.
"I had NFL-type lineman blocking for me,'' Roberts said. "The focal point of our offense was running the ball, especially prior to Ricky Ray getting there. We were running the ball, and everyone knew it. It wasn't a big surprise."
The 409 yards remain the most ever in a single-game by a Big Sky back. A couple of weeks later LaDanian Tomlinson of TCU became the first I-A back to rush for 400, gaining 406 against UTEP. On Oct. 6, 2001, Maruice Hicks of North Carolina A&T broke Roberts' Division I record by gaining 437 yards against Morgan State.
Roberts finished his collegiate career with 6,553 rushing yards, a Big Sky record. In 1998, he rushed for 2,260 yards, the most ever at the time by a I-AA running back. In 1999, he gained 2,082.
After his college career, he starred for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. He is one of five running backs in league history to rush for more than 10,000 yards. Roberts currently works for the U.S. Postal Service in Orange County.
"I haven't looked at that game in many years,'' he said. "But a lot of the runs I still remember. I remember diving into the end zone on one of the runs. I remember a small blip on ESPN. It was a really exciting time for me.''
April 29, 2014 WILLIAMS, ESKEW NAMED TO HAMPSHIRE HONOR SOCIETY
April 25, 2014 SPERBECK RESIGNS AS HEAD COACH; SEARS NAMED INTERIM
April 12, 2014 OFFENSE ERUPTS IN SPRING GAME
April 5, 2014 SHORT-HANDED FOOTBALL HOLDS SECOND SPRING SCRIMMAGE
February 24, 2014 FOOTBALL ANNOUNCES 2014 SCHEDULE
February 10, 2014 FOOTBALL NAMES SOLOMONA TAPASA DEFENSIVE LINE COACH
February 4, 2014 FOOTBALL UNVEILS 2014 SIGNING CLASS
January 27, 2014 SACRAMENTO STATE EARNS 22 FALL BIG SKY ALL-ACADEMIC HONORS
January 24, 2014 JODY SEARS HIRED AS FOOTBALL DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
January 2, 2014 FOOTBALL ADDS MORGAN NEVIN TO MIDYEAR SIGNING CLASS
December 19, 2013 FOOTBALL INKS THREE IN EARLY SIGNING PERIOD
December 19, 2013 ROBERTS RANKED 18th AMONG BIG SKY'S GREATEST ATHLETES
December 18, 2013 TODD DAVIS AND JUSTIN WELDON HONORED AS FCS ALL-AMERICANS
November 26, 2013 FOOTBALL PLACES NINE ON ALL-BIG SKY CONFERENCE TEAMS
November 25, 2013 FOOTBALL HANDS OUT END OF SEASON AWARDS
November 23, 2013 FOOTBALL SUFFERS 34-7 LOSS TO UC DAVIS IN CAUSEWAY CLASSIC
November 22, 2013 A LOOK BACK AT MAGICAL 1988 SEASON ON 25TH ANNIVERSARY
November 21, 2013 ROBERTS' RECORD-BREAKING EFFORT RANKS 26th ON BIG SKY COUNTDOWN
November 19, 2013 60th CAUSEWAY CLASSIC TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY AT HORNET STADIUM
November 18, 2013 SAFRON NAMED ROOT SPORTS BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK FOR THIRD TIME
November 16, 2013 SAFRON SHATTERS RECORDS, LEADS COMEBACK IN 43-42 WIN OVER PSU
November 13, 2013 FOOTBALL PLAYS FINAL ROAD GAME AT PORTLAND STATE ON SATURDAY
November 9, 2013 CAL POLY RELIES ON RUSHING ATTACK IN WIN OVER FOOTBALL
November 7, 2013 FOOTBALL TRAVELS TO CAL POLY FOR IN-STATE SHOWDOWN
November 7, 2013 FORMER HORNET RICKY RAY NAMED TO CFL ALL-STAR TEAM
November 4, 2013 SAFRON NAMED ROOT SPORTS BIG SKY OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
November 2, 2013 FOOTBALL FALLS IN OVERTIME TO No. 12 MONTANA
October 30, 2013 FOOTBALL WELCOMES MONTANA ON MILITARY APPRECIATION DAY
October 19, 2013 FOOTBALL DOMINANT IN 31-7 WIN AT NORTH DAKOTA
October 15, 2013 FOOTBALL MAKES FIRST TRIP TO NORTH DAKOTA IN 34 YEARS
October 7, 2013 SAFRON NAMED ROOT SPORTS BIG SKY OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
October 5, 2013 FOOTBALL CRUISES TO 37-21 WIN OVER NORTHERN COLORADO
October 2, 2013 WILLIAMS NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR CAMPBELL TROPHY
October 1, 2013 FOOTBALL HOSTS NORTHERN COLORADO FOR HOMECOMING ON SATURDAY
September 30, 2013 SANKEY NAMED NATIONAL AND BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK
September 28, 2013 FOOTBALL BEGINS BIG SKY PLAY AT WEBER STATE ON SATURDAY
September 28, 2013 FOOTBALL RECORDS FIRST WIN AT WEBER STATE
September 21, 2013 FOOTBALL EDGED IN OVERTIME BY SOUTHERN UTAH
September 18, 2013 FOOTBALL CONTINUES HOMESTAND AGAINST SOUTHERN UTAH ON SATURDAY
September 16, 2013 CARTER NAMED CO-FCS OFFENSIVE NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
September 14, 2013 FOOTBALL PREVAILS IN OVERTIME SHOOTOUT, 63-56
September 11, 2013 FOOTBALL HOSTS SOUTHERN OREGON IN HOME OPENER ON SATURDAY
September 5, 2013 FOOTBALL STUMBLES IN LOSS AT ARIZONA STATE
September 3, 2013 FOOTBALL HEADS TO ARIZONA STATE FOR ANOTHER PAC-12 SHOWDOWN
August 29, 2013 FOOTBALL OPENS YEAR WITH LOSS AT SAN JOSE STATE
August 25, 2013 FOOTBALL OPENS SEASON AT SAN JOSE STATE ON THURSDAY NIGHT
August 21, 2013 FOOTBALL CONCLUDES CAMP WITH SECOND SCRIMMAGE
August 17, 2013 FOOTBALL MAKES FIRST SCRIMMAGE A FULL TEAM EFFORT
August 14, 2013 NEWS & NOTES FROM AROUND FOOTBALL CAMP
August 7, 2013 TRAVEL WITH HORNET FOOTBALL IN 2013
August 2, 2013 NEWCOMERS ARRIVAL MARKS START OF FOOTBALL SEASON
July 29, 2013 MAKE PLANS TO WATCH FOOTBALL OPENER AT SAN JOSE STATE
July 25, 2013 McMAHON SIGNS WITH GREEN BAY ON EVE OF TRAINING CAMP
July 15, 2013 FOOTBALL PICKED SIXTH BY BIG SKY MEDIA AND COACHES
July 15, 2013 WORTHLEY, NORRISE NAMED TO BIG SKY PRESEASON TEAM