DeMarco Murray arrived at Oklahoma with the daunting task of following in Adrian Peterson's fast, powerful footsteps.
Steadily and sometimes spectacularly, he's earning his own place among the best tailbacks ever at one of college football's top rushing programs. Murray could take one of his final steps toward cementing his legacy on Saturday, when the No. 6 Sooners (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) host Iowa State (3-3, 1-1).
Murray needs only two touchdowns to tie the school record of 57 set by 1969 Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens. He's already passed the likes of Joe Washington, Billy Sims and Peterson on that list and has a chance of ending his career with several other school records, too.
"It's just kind of breathtaking just to be mentioned in the same category as those former players," Murray said. "I know what they've done here in the past and the tradition that they left here, and it's just unbelievable."
Murray's hallmark could be as the most versatile back in the history of the school where the wishbone once was king. He is 403 yards shy of Washington's school mark of 5,881 all-purpose yards and he needs 219 yards receiving to break Quentin Griffin's record for the most ever by a Sooners running back.
His current average of 110 yards per game this season is below the pace he'd need to pass Sims, the 1978 Heisman Trophy winner, and become Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher. He is 1,096 yards short right now.
"He's been very consistent and an excellent player for us for a long period of time here, obviously when you look at breaking that record with all of the great players we've had here and great running backs," coach Bob Stoops said. "DeMarco has consistently been a great worker, a big-play guy for us and has had a lot of success."
Murray's career has been marred by oddball injuries — including a dislocated kneecap and a ruptured hamstring tendon — that have kept him mostly out of postseason games. This season marks the first time he's completely healthy since he was a redshirt freshman, starting to fill Peterson's void with a string of highlight-reel runs.
Now, he's an every-down back who is averaging 26 carries per game to lead everyone in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"I think he's leaving a legacy with us outside of stats and where he is on a list," offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. "He's becoming, like a lot of our great players, a great practice player and a great guy behind the scenes and off the field."
On Saturday, he'll face a Cyclones defense that has allowed more than 200 yards rushing per game and a Big 12-worst 11 rushing TDs. It's the second straight week Iowa State will face a top 10 team that had the previous week off.
The Cyclones lost 68-27 to then-No. 10 Utah last week.
"I don't think the folks in Norman are worried about us coming in there and creating a shootout," coach Paul Rhoads said. "We're going to come in there and just try to be sound and force them to move the ball up and down the field and not score on big plays, and see if offensively we can't try to find a little success."
Rhoads said his staff's primary job this week was making sure players didn't lose confidence after such a lopsided loss at home. The Cyclones have lost 11 straight games against Oklahoma and next up is a trip to Texas, which has won all seven games in that series.
"We have a tough job of making sure that's the case and we come back and lay it on the line and give it everything we have," Rhoads said.
The Sooners lead the nation with 33 consecutive wins on their home field and want to break a trend of letting opponents keep games close. Four of Oklahoma's games have been decided by eight points or less.
"I want a shutout," defensive captain Travis Lewis said. "We had, I think, three shutouts last year and we haven't gotten close to having one this year. That's the emphasis this week is we want to shut them out.
"We want to prove to everybody how great of a defense we actually are because we don't think we've played up to that level this season yet."