Barry Sanders was as ‘advertised’ in Holiday Bowl win over Wyoming
STILLWATER, Okla., -- Barry Sanders set 34 NCAA records during the 1988 season.
It could have easily been 35.
“They told me I was just two or three yards away, but that didn’t mean anything to me at all,” Oklahoma State's junior running back told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I’m just glad we won the game.”
That won't be the last time you hear Sanders say something like this.
Sanders rushed for 222 yards -- just three years shy of a bowl-game record set by SMU's Craig James -- and a Holiday Bowl record five touchdowns in a 62-14 rout of the Wyoming Cowboys in front of 60,718 fans crammed inside San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium.
Take a look, if you dare:
He made it look so smooth and effortless, didn't he?
Sanders opened the scoring with a 33-yard jaunt into the end zone. He added one from two yards out in the second quarter. The soft-spoken, unassuming tailback put the nail in the Pokes' coffin in the third, scoring on runs of 67, 1 and 10 yards.
All of those scores ended with his trademark flip to the nearest referee.
Sanders sat out the entire fourth quarter with the game in hand.
“Sanders was everything that he was advertised — strong, quick, fast,” UW head coach Paul Roach told the local newspaper postgame. “He’d be terrific even on asphalt.”
The Heisman Trophy winner capped a historic regular season with 2,628 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns, both then-NCAA records.
Those were his numbers before the Wyoming game.
Sanders averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground. Three times he eclipsed 300. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound Wichita, Kan., product averaged nearly eight yards per carry in 1988, his first season as a true starter at OSU after replacing Thurman Thomas.
I spent the past week visiting family in Stillwater, home of Oklahoma State University. I was just 5 years old when Sanders gashed Wyoming in that blowout. But I remember it. Even if I didn't, I have an aunt and uncle who won't let me soon forget it.
Sanders' image is plastered all over campus. Rightfully so. The lone Heisman winner in OSU history also has a statue outside the main gate of Boone Pickens Stadium. Inside a school clothing store, an old newspaper clipping hangs on the wall. The main headline reads "OSU crushes Wyoming, 62-14."
The column below states: "This wasn't a Wild West duel, it was Little Bighorn."
"Take nothing away from Wyoming," OSU head coach Pat Jones said in that article. "But I thought if we went out and played our game, we would win decisively. We were physically superior.
"I did not think it would get out of hand like this."
Sanders' buddies helped out, too.
OSU quarterback Mike Gundy -- the team's current head coach -- completed 20-of-24 passes for 315 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wide out Hart Lee Dykes snagged 10 of those throws for a then-Holiday Bowl record 163 yards.
"Close? This was about as close as Yasser Arafat's shave," Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote.
To think, the guys from Laramie were just a 3-point underdog heading in.
Wyoming finished that season 11-2 overall. The Cowboys were ranked as high as No. 10 in that nation. They won a second consecutive WAC Championship with an 8-0 mark in league play. That memorable team will be enshrined in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame this September.
Sanders, who would forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL Draft, rushed for 15,269 yards in just 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions. He's the third-leading rusher in league history. And if he didn't walk away from the game at age 31, he would've cruised past Walter Payton to become the all-time rushing king.
In true Sanders' fashion, that didn't matter. He finished just 1,457 yards shy of Payton's record.
"I understood full well who Walter Payton was, what he accomplished," Sanders told the Los Angeles Times in 2012. "Not just Walter Payton, with all the guys that had tried to do what Walter did. The record for me wasn't important enough to force myself to stay around to try to get the record."
Here are just a few of the images of Sanders I ran across in Stillwater: