Oklahoma St. freshman RB Justice Hill shines despite fumbles
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) So much went right for Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill against Baylor.
And yet, so much went wrong.
The true freshman ran for 122 yards and a touchdown in his first career start last Saturday and was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week. It was the most yards rushing for an Oklahoma State freshman since 2009.
His fumbles were costly, especially his second one. With Baylor holding onto a 28-24 lead in the fourth quarter, he lost the ball at the Baylor 2-yard line, and the Bears took over with 9:12 to play. Baylor went on to win 35-24.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Hill's talent and approach to the game have earned him another chance, starting with Saturday's game against No. 22 Texas.
''He made enough plays for us to justify letting him carry the ball,'' Gundy said. ''If you're asking me because he fumbled, what are we going to do, we're going to give him the ball and let him run again.''
That doesn't mean Hill escaped criticism.
''I'm a big Justice Hill fan, but he has to take care of the football,'' Gundy said. ''They don't stop and say, `You're a true freshman, we're going to give you that one back.' They all count.''
On his first fumble, Hill lost the ball near midfield in the second quarter, and Baylor recovered with the score tied at 14.
''I understand he's a true freshman, and we want him carrying the ball,'' Gundy said. ''The first fumble he had, I have to give credit to Baylor's defender because he was in there deep and reached hard and pulled and was very good in whatever they've coached him to do. The second time, he's fighting for extra yards. Those are learning experiences for him.''
Hill, at just 171 pounds, has emerged from a crowded group as the main back. Rennie Childs has six touchdowns this season and is second on the team in carries and yards. Jeff Carr, Chris Carson and Barry J. Sanders all get carries, too.
Hill got 20 carries against Baylor after getting 24 the first three games combined. He showed his burst when he got to the corner on a 38-yard run the play before his fourth-quarter fumble. He's quick and can absorb contact, despite his relatively small frame.
Texas allows 150.7 yards rushing per game, fourth in the Big 12, and 3.6 yards per carry. The Longhorns have just one fumble recovery this season.
Gundy doesn't see the fumbles as an issue going forward, and he doesn't believe they will shake Hill's confidence.
''He's an intelligent young man,'' Gundy said. ''He comes from a good home. He's been raised the right way, so constructive criticism isn't something he's going to shy away from.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP