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Looking Back at Barry Sanders’ 1988 Season: That Famous Colorado Photo

Barry helps OSU down CU in Boulder.



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 the 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 Colorado (Oct. 8, 1988)

Following three straight 50-point performances by Sanders, Mike Gundy and OSU’s offense, the Pokes slipped under the 50-point mark but still beat CU 41-21 in Boulder. Barry had 24 for 174 and four touchdowns.

OSU was only favored by two, but its defense created six turnovers, and yeah, that’s far too many possessions for a squad with Sanders, Gundy and Hart Lee Dykes. Through four games, OSU outscored its opponents in points off turnovers, 87-3.

This was the game in which the most famous Sanders photo of all was taken. The one of him leaping the pile for six in one of the end zones in Boulder. Barry would later say that this was the game when he started realizing what was happening.

It took Barry Sanders four games to figure out how special his 1988 season at Oklahoma State might be. Returning the season’s opening kickoff for a touchdown against Miami (Ohio) didn’t do it for him. Neither did his dominance of Texas A&M or his 304 yards and five touchdowns rushing against Tulsa.

It started becoming real for him during a masterful performance at Colorado. The Buffaloes were on the rise with a defense that included future NFL players Kanavis McGhee, Alfred Williams and Deon Figures. [AP]

Still, it was one of the “worst” games of the season for Sanders.

“I could tell something was not quite right with him on the next to last play,” said head coach Pat Jones after the game. “He just kind of ran up in there. It was not Barry. He said he felt his hamstring get a little bit tight.”

Turns out, he would be fine (as the rest of this series will prove).

In this game, Sanders’ biggest run was a 65-yarder on a sweep in which Colorado tried to stack the line. “He hits the sidelines, and it’s all over with,” said Jones in 2010.

“He obviously is a very, very exceptional talent,” added Jones after the game in 1988 as Sanders hit 15 total TDs on the season (and he was in the leaner part of what he would eventually do). “If the Heisman Trophy is for the best player in college football, Barry certainly would certainly have to be considered.”

*Quotes from the Oklahoman.

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