One week ago the parting shot that so many Oklahoma State fans remember from the television broadcast of the Cowboys 35-24 loss at Baylor was freshman running back Justice Hill sitting alone on the bench with his head bowed and in his hands as he was distraught over a fumble on the 2-yard line as he was finishing a 12-yard run and part of three straight carries for 62 yards on the possession.
It was Hill's second fumble of the game, the other taking place just before halftime. No excuses, after the game Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy said freshman or not, you can't turn the ball over against good teams on the road and win. Hill would need to learn his lessons and fast.
Lesson learned as the explosive freshman, who turned heads this summer coming in from Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School following a sensational high school career and ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash and according to Gundy wowed the staff with a 41-inch vertical jump, did not fumble once in his 25 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma State did not turn the ball over once in 71 offensive snaps and that was a major ingredient to the Cowboys dusting off Texas 49-31 in winning their first Big 12 game of the season and leveling their conference record at 1-1 and going 3-2 overall.
"Last week, Mason (Rudolph) was in the tackle box and took two hands off the ball. That's a mistake the quarterback can't make and got the ball knocked away. (Justice Hill), the first fumble, the guy really yanked the ball out. The truth of the matter is that the guys he was playing last year in high school don't pull at the ball like that," Gundy said after the win over Texas.
"Then, on the goal line, as he was fighting for yards, they came up from behind him and hammered the ball. It's a tough way to learn that at this level, that's going to be every play. We talked about it, we corrected it and as a coach, you teach it and correct it and hope it doesn't happen. Our goal this week was to minimize the big plays, which we probably gave up five or six in this one, but we didn't turn the ball over. We got half of what we wanted to accomplish with our big plays, and to play in a game like this with as many plays as we had, to not turn the ball over it a pretty good accomplishment."
Hill can't state his goal or goals as he is a first-year player who does not speak with the media. His teammates are happy to speak for him.
"He is the real deal, Justice Hill," said slot receiver Jalen McCleskey.
"I love watching him run and he is a big part of what we've done offensively," quarterback Mason Rudolph said. "I think he is going to be productive the rest of the season. He is a major weapon for out offense."
He sure is, and today with his 135 rushing yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, he became the first Oklahoma State running back to rush for back-to-back 100-yard plus games since Joseph Randle did it back in 2012. Like the famous chili commercial says, "that's too long."
"If you look at numbers, it is what it is," offensive coordinator Mike Yurich added. "He was pitching a group effort and it was, but Hill is a catalyst right now and everybody can appreciate it even if for now he can only be seen and not heard."