In Front of Barry Sanders, OSU’s Running Backs Put Up an Historic Performance

November 14, 2021

With the greatest running back to ever tote the rock on hand, Oklahoma State’s rushers turned in Oklahoma State’s best ground game performance in over a decade.

Earlier in the week, Mike Gundy recalled his tailback committee looking at Barry “like Santa Claus.” But when was asked after the game if Jaylen Warren played with an extra edge because the GOAT was on-hand, he was a bit bullish.

“Oh, you know, I mean, for the story I’d like to say yes, but Jaylen (Warren) likes to play,” said Gundy. “I’ll say yes for your story.” 

Whether it was Barry, the Blackout or him being on the precipice of his first career 1,000-yard season (he came into the game with 928), Warren was a man possessed in the first half, punishing TCU’s front and paving the way for a blowout victory.

Warren is the complete back and has been a godsend for OSU, and he showed why on Saturday. He gashed TCU for a pair of signature one-cut-then-away tears — one for 43 yards and another for 24. And then he had several, nearly as impressive, plays in which he felt contact at or near the line of scrimmage before barreling down, pads low, and popping out five or six yards down the turf behind his would-be tacklers. None of his 17 carries went for negative yards and a few could have.

His first half would have been one hell of a game for most tailbacks: 14 carries, 104 yards and a career-high three scores. Warren logged three more tough runs to start the second half but “got his breath knocked out of him a little bit” and, with the the rout on, there was no reason to tempt fate. So OSU coaches benched their best weapon to preserve his firepower for Texas Tech and Oklahoma, and beyond.

Gundy may have not been willing to feed the playing up for Barry storyline, but his OC was.

“Our guys were fired up and excited to play in front of Barry Sanders,” said Dunn. “We talked about that and the blackout and Barry being in town and obviously honoring him with the statue out front. We just didn’t want to disappoint, and the guys played really, really hard.”

When No. 7 hit the sideline, it was Dezmon Jackson’s turn. The buzzworthy former junior college transfer has seen injury inhibit his impact in over his three seasons at OSU. He turned in season-highs in rushing and scoring, racking up 68 yards and two TDs. After those two seniors did their damage, a potential tandem of the future took over.

We’ve seen plenty from Dominic Richardson over the last two seasons, and on Saturday night TCU linebackers got their fill.

Richardson led the Cowboys with a season-high 134 yards on just 12 carries despite not taking a handoff until nearly midway through the third quarter. The former TCU signee averaged over 11 yards per carry on the team that recruited over him, causing him to look elsewhere for a scholarship.

Jaden Nixon rounded out the quartet of OSU backs to log double-digits yards and find the end zone, but he did his damage with just three carries, including the Cowboys’ longest run of the night. He finished with 69 yards. Before this, he’d totaled just 53 yards, all against Kansas.

With the game well past in-hand, Mike Gundy might have preferred a nice, steady final drive to run out the clock, but try telling that to a true freshman staring at his first opportunity to score.

“If you get in front of [Richardson] you’re gonna get punished and he runs hard and he takes pride in it,” said Gundy. “And then [Jaden Nixon] comes in and, you know, showed why we recruited him. So, I’m very encouraged by those guys.”

Add those performances up and you have the Cowboys’ No. 7 rushing performance all-time (447 yards) and the second-highest number of rushing TDs (eight), behind only that Savannah State massacre in 2012.

But record book fodder and statues aside, OSU continues to solidify its new identity — a stout, stingy defense and a physical offense that will punish you and then take back-breaking shots over your head. Saturday night proved that the Pokes have the horses to do it.

Coming into this season, we knew little about OSU’s tailback group other than its potential. An assumed RB-by-committee approach was precluded due to injury, and then proven to be not necessary thanks to the greatness of Warren. Now, with just two games left, OSU looks poised to compete in its first Big 12 title game, and it looks built to win it.

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