STILLWATER — Please don't misunderstand. Please.
I'm not saying Kendall Hunter is the second coming of Barry Sanders, although you could get the majority of Wazzu Cougars to endorse such a proposal.
Hunter is not Sanders, primarily because no human ever has been or will be. But Hunter is the closest thing to Sanders the Cowboys have had since that magic year of 1988.
The stop-and-start engine. The now-you-have-me-now-you-don't moves. The deceptive speed, which seems fast only if you're the one chasing.
Of all the great Oklahoma State tailbacks since Sanders, Hunter comes closest to a match. And Hunter never has looked more like Sanders than he did Saturday night.
Hunter carved up Washington State with 257 yards on 21 carries, playing only two quarters plus one possession of OSU's 65-17 rout at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Give Hunter just the rest of the third quarter, and he obliterates Sanders' school record of 332 rushing yards in a game.
OSU coach Mike Gundy took pity on WSU and went into protection mode — looking out for Hunter's health and his old tailback's record.
"I am protecting him a little bit," Gundy cracked of Sanders. "See if he'll buy a club-level suite."
This game was supposed to be the launch of the Dana Holgorsen era. Instead, it became a Hunter revival.
The senior tailback looked like the first-team all-American from 2008, not the injury-frustrated junior from 2009. Only better.
Hunter scooted 17 yards on his first carry and never slowed. He had six carries of at least 17 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Yes, Washington State stinks. But this still was a Pac-10 team; this is what a great tailback should do to an overmatched defense. And make no mistake, Hunter is a great tailback.
"I ain't never seen anything like that," Holgorsen said. "That was pretty special."
Holgorsen said he's made only one promise in his eight months in Stillwater: if something's working, don't stop doing it.
So don't expect the Cowboys to lighten the load on Hunter, even though we've been crowing about Holgorsen's new-age offense.
Yes, the Cowboys will spread the field like a Zumba convention and throw the ball all over the field, but they also will hand it all night to little No. 24 and watch him run.
"I got caught watching him a couple of times, when I was supposed to be watching Coach Holgorsen," quarterback Brandon Weeden said.
That's how fast-paced this OSU offense is designed. Once the ball's out of Weeden's hands and the play is almost over, his job is to find Holgorsen for a new play.
But "it's never done with 24," Weeden said. "He's awesome."
Gundy said great players, "the ones that have something to 'em ... come back hungry" after disappointing seasons. "He was really excited.
"He looked like he was really fast. He's always been elusive. But when he'd see a hole, he'd hit it fast."
Hunter said, "I just love to play football. I forget all that other stuff."
Hunter is no home-run quote, but he is a home-run hitter. OSU took over on its 20-yard line with 1:19 left in the half, leading 31-10. Seemed like a good time to play conservative and be happy with a huge lead.
Except with Hunter, you can play it safe and swing for the fence. First down, Hunter for 20 yards. After an incompletion, Hunter for 18 yards.
Six plays later, on the final snap of the half, Hunter made his most impressive run. He bulled over a Cougar defender for a two-yard TD run, not the kind of physicality we expect out of the 197-pounder, but just one more reason to get extra-thrilled about the new and improved Hunter.
He is not Barry Sanders. But Kendall Hunter is the closest thing we're likely to see for a long while.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.