After three hours baking in the sun on the turf at Boone Pickens Stadium, Darius Anderson carried the ball for the 26th time, and looked fresher than anyone on the field.
TCU’s 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back burst past the line of scrimmage.
Oklahoma State defenders rushed toward him but missed.
He was gone.
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His final play in the 90-degree heat of Stillwater, Okla., on Sept. 23 was a 42-yard touchdown sprint. It wrapped up a 44-31 victory for the Horned Frogs in which the sophomore from Rosenberg ran 26 times for 160 yards and caught four passes for 41 yards.
“It was hot out there,” coach Gary Patterson said. “And it takes a lot for me to say it’s hot.”
But Anderson looked like he could have carried it 26 more times.
“I felt good,” he said after the game. “We work hard in practice, so I know physicality-wise, we’ll be good.”
The Frogs tested Anderson’s limits with a career-high 30 touches. He has the most carries in the Big 12, and he leads No. 9 TCU with 422 yards rushing, which ranks third in the conference. His performance at Oklahoma State only inspired more confidence that he can carry the load while Kyle Hicks recovers from injury.
“Without him, we probably wouldn’t be where we’re sitting right now,” Patterson said.
TCU declined a request to interview Anderson this week.
Hicks is expected back in time for TCU’s next game, Oct. 7 against No. 23 West Virginia. The Frogs also like the production of backs Sewo Olonilua (145 rushing yards, three TDs) and Kenedy Snell (146 combined yards, three TDs).
But Anderson, emerging as one of the Big 12’s best backs, will keep getting work. Maybe the bulk of the work, judging from his recent performances. He has three 100-yard performances (all on the road against Power 5 opponents), seven touchdowns and a 7.1-yard-per-carry average in his last seven games.
He’s passing the eye test and the numbers test.
“When he sees that hole, he hits it and he’s gone,” quarterback Kenny Hill said. “If someone’s going to get in his way, it doesn’t matter to him. He’ll run somebody over. He has one thing on his mind. He’s trying to get to the end zone every time.”
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Whatever plans TCU has for Anderson, he can handle it, says Ricky Tullos, the coach at George Ranch High School in Richmond, where Anderson was the lead back for an undefeated state championship team in 2015.
“We really push our kids and try to put them in adverse situations. You learn to deal with it, and that’s what you’re used to,” Tullos said. “I think that’s probably helped him at the college level. He had to go in and work, and it wasn’t new to him because we were tough on him. Because that is life. We really tried to teach him how to work and earn everything he’s given.”
As a senior at George Ranch, Anderson rushed for 2,274 yards and 30 touchdowns in a 16-0 season. He had 246 yards rushing and a 41-yard touchdown reception in the state title game against Mansfield Lake Ridge.
“What he’s doing for TCU, he did for us,” Tullos said. “He can get his maximum speed so quick. His feet are very quick. Has tremendous burst. And he’s strong. His squat and bench max are crazy good. That’s the way he is. Very quick and powerful. It’s showing right now.”
TCU knew what it was getting in Anderson, a four-star recruit. Patterson saw a winning edge.
“It’s one of the things we liked about him at George Ranch,” Patterson said. “You get out here, like a lot of freshman, you’re a little bit lost. You’re in a big sea instead of a small pond. He’s grown up, and every week he’s gotten better at some part of his game. He’s a lot better at everything from pass protection to how to make the cut and what to do every week. Only being a sophomore, we see him only getting better.”
The Horned Frogs thrust themselves into the Big 12 and national scene with a 44-31 victory in Stillwater, where they had not won since 1991. Carlos Mendezcmendez@star-telegram.com
No. 9 TCU vs. No. 23 West Virginia
2:30 p.m. Oct. 7, FS1