Michael Thomas, Associated Press
STILLWATER, Okla. — Jeremy Smith is shattering his reputation as the short-yardage specialist for No. 6 Oklahoma State.
After scoring on runs of 74 and 30 yards in a victory against Texas on Saturday, Smith now has the three longest rushes of the season for the Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12).
Smith is using his powerful, downhill running style to thrive as the backup to starter Joseph Randle. The Cowboys usually start out games with Randle, then bring in Smith once the defense starts to show fatigue.
"With Jeremy, it's like, 'Bang!' It's like the first play of the game, he's in there and he's excited and 'I've got to make the most of my carries,'" offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Monday. "I think that shows."
The two long scoring runs helped propel Smith to a season-high 140 yards rushing on only seven carries. His first score came on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter, and he added the 74-yarder — Oklahoma State's longest since 2005 — to help put the game away late in the third quarter.
"All the credit to the offensive line because they're the one that opened up that big hole and got me down the field," said Smith, who repeatedly turned questions about his performance into opportunities to praise his blockers.
Smith has lived largely in the shadows since coach Mike Gundy burned his redshirt midway through the 2009 season. Smith set the school record for a freshman's debut with 160 yards rushing against Grambling State, when he was added to the game plan while starter Kendall Hunter nursed a sprained ankle.
After that performance, he was immediately relegated to the bench and didn't play the rest of the season. He got stuck behind Hunter, an All-American last season, and Randle but has picked up carries whenever he could. The Cowboys plugged him into their three-back set last season, offering him an occasional chance to carry the ball, and he eventually emerged as the best at scoring in goal line situations.
Heading into Saturday's game at Missouri (3-3, 1-2), Smith has scored a touchdown in 10 straight games. That's the longest such streak at OSU since Barry Sanders scored in 15 in a row in 1987 and '88, his Heisman Trophy season.
"Pretty much whatever the coaches want me to do, I'll do," Smith said. "Just whatever to get the W."
Bit by bit, Smith is showing his value outside of goal line situations. All seven of his rushing touchdowns last season were from 7 yards or less, and only one of his 57 rushes went for more than 13 yards.
He started out this season with scores from 6 yards out or less in the first three games of the season, but added TD runs of 13 and 38 yards before Saturday's big outing.
"The line's just always doing a great job," Smith said. "They're just opening up seams where you have to score, just the way they make it.
"If you don't score, then they're mad — and we don't want that."
Gundy praised Smith for accepting the reserve role, where he doesn't get the same acclaim as Randle, quarterback Brandon Weeden or All-America receiver Justin Blackmon but he can play just as critical of a role.
"The guys that can come in behind them can make plays and they have to be unselfish. If you're going to be a good football team, you can't play any other way because there's not enough footballs to go around," Gundy said.
"There's not enough plays in a game to go around to keep everybody happy statistically to put themselves in position for national attention, and he's done a great job with that. He's worked hard, he's never said a word, he's been tough."
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