Tramel: Dez Jackson joins Oklahoma State football's proud tailback legacy of aches & pains
FORT WORTH, Texas — Dezmon Jackson woke up sore last Sunday. But 50 years and six days earlier, Bobby Cole woke up on a Sunday morning feeling fine.
Chalk it up to the differences the way football is played or maybe to faulty memory.
On Nov. 21, 1970, in a home football finale, OSU switched to the I formation, and Cole carried 49 times for 237 yards in a 36-27 victory over Iowa State. That remains the Cowboy record for carries at a school with a history of load-bearing runners.
Soon enough, OSU would become Tailback U., and the likes of Earnest Anderson, Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders and David Thompson routinely put on a hard hat and carried the ball all game long.
Such a tradition was revived a year ago, when Chuba Hubbard had a 37-carry game at Texas, and last Saturday, with Hubbard and LD Brown sidelined by injury, Jackson carried 36 times for 235 yards in a 50-44 victory over Texas Tech. That’s a stat line straight out of 1982.
The 15th-ranked Cowboys play Saturday at Texas Christian, and TCU always is a rough-and-tumble opponent. But OSU now knows that even if Hubbard and Brown remain gimpy, it has a tailback who can carry the freight.
“The next day, I was so sore,” Jackson said of Sunday. But “mostly, I was still kind of on a high, the adrenaline was still going.” By Monday, the adrenaline was gone and the soreness remained.
“Monday was probably the worst,” Jackson said. “I really hope I don’t have to carry it 36 times again. But I’ll do anything to win.”
- Related to this story
- Article: OSU football: How Jake Springfield's unique journey paid off for Cowboys
- Article: OSU football at TCU: How to watch, betting odds, predictions
- Article: OSU football: Can Spencer Sanders continue his consistent play at TCU?
- Article: OSU football: The Six Shooter pregame thoughts on the Cowboys at TCU
- Article: OSU football: How does Tylan Wallace stack up against the Cowboys' greatest receivers?
- Video: OSU Football: Running backs, TCU and the Big 12 championship
The Cowboys, beset by offensive line problems this season, had somewhat shunned the running game. In Bedlam the previous week, Hubbard and Brown combined for just nine carries each half.
Of course, the game has changed. Modern teams throw 40-50 passes a game. Tailbacks aren’t asked to run between the tackles down after down.
Cole, now retired in his hometown of Gatesville, Texas, said that on his record-setting day against Iowa State, he didn’t even discern he was en route to 49 carries.
“I didn’t realize I had carried more than 10 or 15,” Cole said. “I took a pretty good beating every week.
“The main thing I remember, at halftime, the coach came up and said, ‘You’re doing a good job. We’re going to stick with you.’”
Cole didn’t cop to any soreness, but Anderson did. In 1982, Anderson had one of the great seasons in OSU history. He led the NCAA in rushing (1,877 yards) and carries (353, 32.1 per game). Anderson has three of the top-10 carry totals in single-game OSU history — 43 against Iowa State, 39 against Colorado, 38 against Kansas State.
“It was tough,” said Anderson, now living in Beaumont, Texas, near his hometown of Orange. “Back in the day when I played, Arkansas, Oklahoma, man, those people…”
Anderson had a routine. He wouldn’t go out on Saturday night.
“That was the healing time,” Anderson said. “I’d go back to the dorms, take a shower and relax. Might get up the next day on a Sunday evening, move around. It was recovery.
“It took its toll. Every game, it took its toll. Today, backs carry the ball like that, they don’t last very long. Not much durability.”
These days, coaches realize rotating tailbacks can keep a player fresh. Jackson’s 36-carry game came out of necessity, not choice.
“These guys can do it, they’re just not conditioned to do it,” Mike Gundy said. “We hope that we have at least two running backs that we trust to put in the game, then if you have a third, you’re really in a good situation.
“We need to keep these guys fresh. In the old days, we didn’t worry about keeping these guys fresh.”
Nope. Quarterbacks just turned and handed the ball to the tailback snap after snap, quarter after quarter, game after game. In 11 games of 1982, Anderson carried 353 times. In 11 regular-season games of 1988, Sanders carried 344 times.
“Back when we played, it was five yards and a cloud of dust,” said Anderson. “It changed a lot. And it has a lot to do with how they play the game today. They try to use the tailback more running the ball, catching passes in the flat, pretty much open up the offense.”
OSU did that even Saturday; Jackson had two catches against Tech. That’s 38 touches in 21st-century football, for a player who coming into the game had 20 touches total over two OSU seasons.
But now Jackson is a proud member of the OSU tailback legacy that in quiet circles should be known as the Aches & Pains Club.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.