Before Oklahoma State officially honored Thurman Thomas as the initial entrant into its football Ring of Honor, LD Brown first paid homage to the former Cowboys great.
Brown broke out an end zone dance, ala Thomas, after finishing off a 66-yard touchdown romp, breaking a scoreless tie in the second quarter; breaking – for a while – the remaining tightness lingering from last week’s tight Tulsa win; and breaking out some love from Thomas himself via Twitter inside Boone Pickens Stadium.
“It was Thurman day, man,” Brown said. “(I told myself), 'I score today, I’ve got to hit the Cabbage Patch.' I saw it in the (1987) Sun Bowl.”
Brown broke free again in the fourth quarter, not for a cross-country run, but a clutch 18 yards on a third-and-9 from the West Virginia 30, while battling cramps, when the game still hung in the balance, setting up a Chuba Hubbard touchdown run that cemented a 27-13 win.
Dance on, Cowboys, to the top of the Big 12.
On a day when No. 3 Oklahoma absorbed a hard conference takedown and No. 8 Texas was extended to a wild overtime, the Cowboys managed another grinding win, 27-13, seemingly staking a claim to the best defense in the Big 12, if not the best team.
The best running back, duo, too.
Brown ran for 103 yards and Hubbard 101, giving OSU its first pair of 100-yard runners in a Big 12 game since 2016.
And they were much needed in support of what’s becoming a dominant defense, which posted one touchdown, but can’t really be counted on to carry all of the scoring load. The offense scuffled again, with freshman Shane Illingworth making his first career start in place of injured Spencer Sanders, who suited and reportedly could have played, but didn’t in nursing his sprained ankle.
So the Cowboys leaned on the running game, running 41 times for 229 yards, with the Mountaineers aggressively determined to pressure Illingworth.
With neither team even threatening a score into the second quarter, Brown changed the flow of the game, taking a handoff left, bursting into the secondary and racing to the end zone.
And he was only getting started once there, shimmying in his version of the Cabbage Patch dance move.
It’s a move Thomas made famous as OSU’s all-time leading rusher, and Brown may have added a little more flair. Either way, the former Cowboys great, on hand for the unveiling of his Ring of Honor celebration, was soon tweeting his admiration with flames burning.
Teammates approved, too.
“I loved it,” said Tylan Wallace. “I didn’t really know what it was at first. I was like, ‘That’s cool I guess.’ Then I saw it on the video board and saw it was a nod to Thurman Thomas and thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’”
Thomas had met with the team on Friday, and took some time to show them the dance, which, of course, came a bit before their time.
Still, the current Cowboys soaked up everything they could from a college and pro Hall of Famer. Then they performed in front of him on a glorious day honoring the fitting first player inducted into the new Ring of Honor. The only thing missing was more fans, another 45,000 or so, to fully salute Thomas.
The moment wasn't lost on those allowed to be in attendance, or OSU's players and coaches.
“It makes it real special,” Brown said. “We got a chance to meet him yesterday, take pictures with him and everything. He shared some knowledge. We were wearing the Sun Bowl jersey and got a W.
“It was a real honor.”
Brown is enjoying a career revival as a redshirt senior. Inconsistent during his previous three seasons, Brown ran for 63 yards on just nine carries against Tulsa, and got a career-high 11 carries against West Virginia, producing the most meaningful runs of the day.
Through two games, Brown is averaging 8.3 yards per carry.
“He went back-to-back with high-level performances for us,” said OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn. “I could not be happier for that young man. He deserves it with the way he’s attacked the season.”
The Cowboys stand 2-0, albeit with two uncomfortable wins.
Much of the struggle can be attributed to the missing Sanders, who went out on the third series against Tulsa. But here’s a hidden positive from Saturday: Sanders could have played, if necessary, but with the Cowboys never trailing, they stuck with Illingworth, who will likely get the call to start again next week at Kansas. Then there’s an off week. So it’s conceivable that the schedule will buy Sanders time to fully heal, before the team hits the heart of the schedule.
And if the defense continues to play like this, OSU could finally find its full gear by mid-October.
So it is in 2020.
“It’s like trying to explain the virus,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “It’s a very unusual season. The conditioning of the teams is unusual. The makeup and focus is different than it ever has been. I have not been involved in anything like this in just watching what happens during the week and on the field. You just have to find a way to win somehow, and it’s not pretty.
“I’ve been here 16 years as a coach, and that’s not how you draw it up. It’s just an unusual year that is different than it ever has been, so the guys have to find a way to win the football game and make enough plays. We have to keep coaching simplicity with high reps and put the players in a position to win football games.”
And keep putting the right players in position, including LD Brown.