Toston proving a viable alternative for Okla. St.
Toston took more than a few hits as No. 16 Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-0 Big 12) won 36-31 at Texas A&M on Saturday, carrying 26 times for 130 yards in place of the injured Kendall Hunter.
But the smiling Toston said he's more than willing to carry an extra workload, especially with so many of his team's playmakers sidelined.
A few aches and pains are no big deal.
"It's nothing that hurts that much," he said, drawing so many looks of disbelief from those questioning him that he had to clarify.
"Normally after a game, I'm always real sore and kind of banged up, but I have to turn right back around this season and go to work," he said.
Long a backup for Oklahoma State, Toston has started the last three games for the Cowboys after Hunter suffered an ankle injury in a loss to Houston. Toston has thrived, with his 410 yards this season ranking him fifth in the Big 12 and tops in the conference's rugged South Division. He's also become a receiving threat, with eight catches for 114 yards.
"It's hard to get into the game when you've got other guys like Kendall," offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said. "So when you get your chance, you'd better do something with it, and he did."
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said Hunter remains day-to-day but is practicing with the Cowboys, who will host Missouri (4-1, 0-1) this Saturday. But it's evident that the Cowboys have confidence in Toston and his backup, fellow senior Beau Johnson.
Against Texas A&M, the Cowboys needed one more first down to close out the win and Toston delivered, gaining two yards on a fourth-and-1 play with two minutes left.
"It's nice to have a mature player that you can count on to make big plays, at times when you have to have a guy that has got some experience to step up," Gundy said.
"You always hear he's a backup, but he's pretty good," Gundy said. "We consider him a second starter."
Toston can be as effective as Hunter in his own way, starting center Andrew Lewis said.
"They both do a nice job for our team," Lewis said. "Kendall's a little bit shiftier, a little bit smaller, can break through smaller holes, but Keith is more of a power back. He can get a first down, like he did when it was fourth-and-1 at A&M. I have faith in both of them."
Toston had a promising freshman season, rushing for 631 yards and six touchdowns and earning his first career start, against Kansas. He scored two touchdowns in an Independence Bowl win over Alabama.
As a sophomore in 2007, he saw his playing time reduced dramatically after he lost two fumbles in a loss to Troy, so much so that in the next seven games, he had only seven carries. Then, that November, he suffered a major knee injury against Baylor.
After returning for preseason drills, he suffered another injury and eventually needed minor knee surgery. But Toston rebounded last season to finish second on the team in rushing with 686 yards and nine touchdowns, by then a solid No. 2 behind Hunter and his 1,555 yards rushing.
"Your whole college career is going to be a roller coaster ride," Toston said. "Mine was, but you have to learn how to overcome things very quickly and strive toward what you want to be."
Toston said he has learned that it's important to always be prepared.
"I've just trained like I was going to be the starter," Toston said. "That's pretty much for everyone on this team. We all train, hoping that one day, we get a chance. This year, it ended up happening to be me. Kendall went down, and I tried not to let my teammates down and worked to make sure there's no drop-off when I come into the game."