Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Eric Rekieta was going eight-for-eight to open up the game, the Cajuns were consistently flirting with going into the Oklahoma State endzone, the Cajuns had 131-yards to the Cowboys 33-yard-line, all while the Cowboys had 33 yards of offense. They also had 32 yards in penalties, not a winning ratio.
Cornerback Robert Jones appeared to save the Cowboys with an interception in the endzone to stop a Cajun threat, but Cowboy tailback and the Big 12's leading rusher Tatum Bell gave it right back with a fumble on the next play. The bench was solemn, the fans were too quiet, and enter Venrand Morency.
This is the same Vernand Morency that flashed onto the O-State landscape with a sensational 108-yard debut against Louisiana Tech in the 2002 season opener. The same player that was curtailed by an ankle injury most of last season. Yes, this is the same guy that came from minor league baseball and got into trouble off the field in the spring. He has spent more time in head coach Les Miles' dog house than he has he out of it.
Morency made major strides toward playing time during the open week. Backup Seymore Shaw has been hampered by a turf toe, and when Bell committed the cardinal sin of fumbling, Morency got the call to return to action. He started with three carries for a total of 13 yards and a first down. That was just the warmup, as the next series he busted a 12-yarder, then an 11 yard carry, a sensational tackle busting 17-yard pickup, a tough three-yarder to the one, and finally, the one-yard plunge for the touchdown. It was good hard, tough running. The kind of performance delivered by Cowboy great tailbacks of the past.
"My whole mindset coming into the game was to pound it," said Morency when asked about that drive. "It's going to come to me and I'm just going to be patient. I knew my line was going to do a great job and they did."
Morency's performance lifted the Cowboy spirits. It was defenders Greg Richmond and Antonio Smith that rushed out to greet Morency after he carried for his first score. Everybody picked up the performance.
"We just love watching him run," said defensive end Greg Richmond. "We have great backs on this team. He's a sophomore grown man. He's like 24 years old. He runs so hard, and I just want to tip my hat to him."
"As a player you like that because you fight week in and week out on the practice field and you know the players respect you," said Morency. "As a football player you love that."
Morency was showing plenty of emotion himself, after several runs he looked up in the stands and screamed. It had to feel good for the oldest of the Cowboy players to be out there carrying the ball under the lights rather than on the scout team or in a backup role in practice. Morency showe much less emotion after the game than he did on his biggest run of the night, a 68 yard burst up the middle that saw him turn on the afterburners after breaking the line of scrimmage.
"Just watching film, I knew what the guy in the middle of the field was going to do," explained Morency. "I kind of hopped over somebody, and like I said the line did a great job."
Morency had help as quarterback Jsoh Fields hit D'Juan Woods for an 18-yard touchdown connection, and Darrent Williams sent the OSU Sports Information staff scrambling after he apparently became the first Cowboy to return two punts for touchdowns going 78 and 59 yards. Those were great highlights, but Morency was the guy that generated the emotion that makes the Cowboys play better.
"I prepare myself week in and week out as if I'm the starter," said Morency. "I was just glad to get the opportunity."
"Vernand Morency had a heckuva a day," said head coach Les Miles. "Morency had a great week of practice. He really was pointing towards an opportunity and that opportunity was given to him and he made the most of it. There was no reason to take him out."
Eventually there was as the Coboys had tucked the game away, but not before the former Colorado Rockies minor leaguer had rushed carried 18 times for 189 yards and the two touchdowns. Morency averaged a whopping 10.5-yards per carry. Tatum Bell will still be the starter, but I'm guessing that we won't have to wait so long before we see Morency again.