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OU football: T.J. Pledger's big game against Texas like seeing light in a 'dark tunnel'
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OU football: T.J. Pledger's big game against Texas like seeing light in a 'dark tunnel'

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T.J. Pledger shared a special moment with his family following Oklahoma’s four-overtime triumph against Texas on Saturday.

The running back is now among a storied history of 100-yard rushers in the Red River rivalry game. Pledger set a career high with 131 yards and added a pair of touchdown runs in the 53-45 victory.

Consider this: At this point last year, the junior was fourth on the running backs depth chart behind Kennedy Brooks, Trey Sermon and Rhamondre Stevenson.

After the win, Pledger shared a hug with his mom and took pictures with his little sisters. His father and longtime trainer from home also attended the epic contest.

“They were all just congratulating me. It hasn’t been an easy road,” Pledger said during a Tuesday meeting with reporters. “To see some light in something that’s kind of been a dark tunnel for a couple years, it was definitely a blessing and I can’t do nothing but thank the Man above.”

Pledger played in 11 games in 2018. He had 30 carries for 179 yards. A preseason hand injury kept him sidelined early, but he managed to participate in 10 games as a kickoff returner and reserve running back. He had 10 rushes for 65 yards. He did get extended work in the Peach Bowl following Sermon’s injury and Stevenson’s suspension.

Saturday’s game was a reminder of his potential when he left IMG Academy in Florida. He was ranked as the nation’s fifth-best running back as a senior and also was recruited by Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State.

“It was definitely a surreal moment. I was just thankful that I could showcase my talent on a national scale and really the biggest thing was seeing my family’s reaction after the game,” Pledger said. “It was really a reaction I hadn’t seen from them since high school. It really warmed my heart. To see the people from my hometown, proud of me and everything, it was like a 180 and everything. It felt good, honestly. It exceeded my expectations.”

Pledger’s hard work to gain playing time wasn’t lost on his teammates.

“He’s always been a guy that’s been looking for his opportunity and this year is a perfect opportunity for him,” OU offensive guard Tyrese Robinson said. “I feel like he’s been attacking practice and just his mentality of everything, how he approaches everything. He runs hard, he plays hard and he’s a scrappy, scrappy, scrappy running back. That’s the type of person we need running back there.”

The Sooners (2-2 overall, 1-2 in Big 12) are off until heading to TCU for an 11 a.m. game on Oct. 24.

An offense looking for consistency proved its mettle in the four overtimes against Texas. Now it must continue to grow.

“I think we are a work in progress. We are far from our limits, but we are ready to work and we are getting better each and every week,” Pledger said. “We got a long season ahead of us. And I think that this offense can be really one of the special ones to be in OU history.

“I’m just looking forward to how everything is going to unfold and guys getting comfortable ... everybody sort of getting their own swagger, their own confidence about themselves. The sky is the limit for this young offense.”


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