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Looking Back at Barry Sanders’ 1988 Season: His ‘Worst’ Game

Mike Gundy called the game “easy,” and Barry barely played the fourth quarter.



One win (if we’re calling it that?) on the content side of things during this pandemic has been that I’ve been diving into the history books more than I normally would. There’s more time, and it’s more necessary if we’re going to keep churning out interesting things.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do is walk back through all of Barry Sanders’ games from the 1988 season and write about them individually. That’s what this series is about. Old articles, quotes, stats and tidbits you may have missed or didn’t know about. 

Game 1 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Game 2 vs. Texas A&M
Game 3 vs. Tulsa
Game 4 at Coloado
Game 5 at Nebraska

Game 6: 49-21 win over Missouri (Oct. 22, 1988)

This was … Barry’s worst game of the year. I’m using “worst” there pretty liberally considering the stat line: 25 carries | 154 yards | 2 TDs. Every game after this one, though, would be a 200+ yard performance.

The Cowboys — ranked No. 15 and favored by three touchdowns — led Mizzou just 15-7 at halftime (in the most Big Ten score I’ve ever seen) but put up 34 consecutive points to run out in front of the Tigers 49-7 in the second half before settling in for the 49-21 win on Homecoming.

As the Oct. 23, 1988 Oklahoman notes, Barry came into this game averaging 135 yards in the first half of OSU’s first five games, which is just disgusting. Mizzou jammed him up a little bit, though for Barry being “jammed up” meant a 150+ yard game in which he still had 83 yards at halftime.

“I guess they were ranked pretty high against the rush, and they paid a lot of attention to Barry,” said wideout Hart Lee Dykes. “We were able to make some things happen because there was a lot of one-on-one coverage.”

In the game, OSU became the first team in Big Eight history to score 40 points in six consecutive games. Sanders grabbed his 20th and 21st touchdowns on the season early in the third quarter which helped set up OSU for the runaway win.

“Those numbers — 154 or so — were not big numbers,” said Pat Jones a few years ago. “We figured up one time that he did not play in the fourth quarter in about a third of the season. This probably being one of them.”

This is correct. According to the 1988 Oklahoman, Sanders did not play for the last 11 minutes of the game against Mizzou.

“It was an easy game for our team,” Mike Gundy said recently. “I think that was the game where I was reflecting back. I think I played the game without Missouri ever touching me. … The reason why was because of Barry Sanders and Hart Lee Dykes.”

At the halfway point of OSU’s season, Barry had 155 carries for 1,156 yards — which at the time would have been the sixth-most rushing yards in a single season in OSU history. And it was about to get a lot (a lot!) better from there.

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