STILLWATER — Jeremy Smith took a fourth-quarter handoff from Brandon Weeden inside the 10-yard line against Arizona and charged through the left side of the Oklahoma State offensive line.
He spun. He broke five tackles. He kept his balance. He dove. He scored.
“You pretty much just got to lower your pads and go get it,” Smith said.
That's become a common theme for the sophomore. Even though Smith is not OSU's featured running back, he has found the end zone in six consecutive games and has become the power option to complement the versatility of Joseph Randle.
He's the back that uses his strength to blow through defensive ends on a run to the outside. The one that can turn a fourth-and-1 play into a 6-yard gain. The one that the Cowboys count on in crucial goal-line and short-yardage situations.
“When I turn to hand the ball to him, you can tell the difference,” OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “He clamps down (on the ball), he snatches it out of my hand and goes. That's when he runs through guys, and he'll get an extra yard.”
But there was a time when it looked like Smith might never get to this point. In the spring of 2010, he considered leaving OSU.
Smith still shies away from opening up about his emotions that spring.
“It was just old stuff,” Smith said.
But OSU coach Mike Gundy remembers the numerous meetings he and Smith had in his office to discuss Smith's future. Sometimes, they were alone. Sometimes, it was them and former running backs coach Robert Gillespie. Sometimes, it was them and Jeremy's mom, Terra Smith-Hughes.
“He's a good kid that was just having a hard time,” Gundy said. “We all go through it. It's part of life.”
Smith occasionally missed practice that spring. But he ultimately decided he wanted to stay in Stillwater.
The choice to stick around is paying off.
The OSU coaching staff never officially declared Smith the Cowboys' short-yardage and third-down back — at least not to him. It just happened naturally, Smith said. And he embraces the responsibility.