A Look Back at Barry Sanders’ Jaw-Dropping Heisman Season at Oklahoma State

We’ve witnessed numerous history-making individual college football seasons that have resulted in Heisman Trophies in recent years. Joe Burrow, Derrick Henry, Tim Tebow, and Reggie Bush just to name a few, but none of those college stars have anything on Barry Sanders and his unfathomable Heisman season in 1988 at Oklahoma State.

Sanders‘ rushing statistics that season were so dominant they seem fabricated. But somehow, they were real, and they’ll never be replicated again in college football.

Barry Sanders’ game-by-game statistics in Heisman-winning season

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If you peruse Barry Sanders’ game-by-game rushing statistics from his 1988 Heisman season, you might think you’re looking at a top high school prospect’s senior year stats. Sanders made Big 8 defenses look like Pop Warner football programs during his record-breaking Heisman campaign.

In Oklahoma State’s first game of the season, Sanders took the opening kick back 100 yards to the house. He never slowed down from there.

Here are the mind-boggling game-by-game stats from Sanders’ historic 1988 season:

  • Sept. 10 vs. Miami (Ohio): 18 carries, 178 yards, two touchdowns, one kickoff return touchdown
  • Sept. 24 vs. Texas A&M: 20 carries, 157 yards, two touchdowns, one punt return touchdown
  • Oct. 1 vs. Tulsa: 33 carries, 304 yards, five touchdowns
  • Oct. 8 at Colorado: 24 carries, 174 yards, four touchdowns
  • Oct. 15 at Nebraska: 35 carries, 189 yards, four touchdowns
  • Oct. 22 vs. Missouri: 25 carries, 154 yards, two touchdowns
  • Oct. 29 at Kansas State: 37 carries, 320 yards, three touchdowns
  • Nov. 5 vs. Oklahoma: 39 carries, 215 yards, two touchdowns
  • Nov. 12 vs. Kansas: 37 rushes, 312 yards, five touchdowns
  • Nov. 19 at Iowa State: 32 carries, 293 yards, four touchdowns
  • Dec. 3 vs. Texas Tech: 44 carries, 332 yards, four touchdowns
  • Holiday Bowl vs. Wyoming: 44 carries, 222 yards, five touchdowns

Add it all up and you get 373 carries, 2,850 rushing yards, 44 total touchdowns, and a Heisman Trophy in his living room.

Barry Sanders broke 34 NCAA records in 1988

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Barry Sanders didn’t just blow away the competition to win the Heisman Trophy in 1988. His incredible rushing season was and still is the most dominant season for a college running back in NCAA history. Sanders broke an absurd 34 NCAA records in 1988.

He still holds a few of those records today, including:

  • Most rushing yards in a season: 2,628 (bowl game stats didn’t count toward season stats in 1988)
  • Most rushing touchdowns in a season: 37
  • Most total touchdowns in a season: 39
  • Most games with over 300 rushing yards in a career: four (Sanders did it in one season)
  • Most points scored in a season: 234

Sanders’ rushing records are considered some of the most untouchable in sports today.

Barry Sanders went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career with the Lions

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Unsurprisingly, Sanders vaulted to the top of NFL draft boards after his historic 1988 season. The RB was selected by the Detroit Lions with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1989 NFL draft, and the rest is history.

Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards and scored 109 touchdowns during his illustrious NFL career. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons as a pro. We’ll never know how many more records Sanders could’ve broken in the NFL because he retired early at age 30.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

All stats courtesy of Sports Reference and SportsRatings