By Pierce Spead, Contributing Writer
The Bison football team had a disappointing year as they finished 2-9, but on offense, Isaiah Mallory ran his way into the record books.
Mallory led the Great American Conference and his team in rushing as he broke the rushing set just two years prior.
Humble and hardworking, Mallory worked his way into a starting position in just his second season under the tutelage of a new running back coach.
Previous coach Gerald Howse left just before the season and was replaced by ex-NFL player Brennan Marion.
With no set depth chart, the position was open for the taking.
Marion changed the steps, placement and alignment from the previous coach.
“It seems different and weird, but he played D-1 and made it to the NFL so he knows what he is talking about,” Mallory said.
The team headed into fall camp eager to practice and compete for positions as they focused on execution and performance.
Throughout fall camp, Mallory showed the most improvement while remaining grounded and eager to get better and work harder.
Competition was fierce as each running back was equally qualified for the position with great speed, vison, catching and pass blocking.
In practice, there was not much contact for a player to show what they can do in a real game situation.
The players got that opportunity on a Saturday scrimmage a week before the first game.
The scrimmage determined the depth chart and travel squad for the road games. Mallory shined in the scrimmage, earning a walk-in touchdown on the goal line, along with four great cut blocks.
The scrimmage performance determine a player’s position on the depth chart and roll on the team.
“Myers, Mallory, Hada and Spead—that’s the depth chart; these guys showed they can play when the lights come on, and that’s who I’m rolling with,” Marion said.
With fall camp in the rear view mirror, the team prepared for Harding as they lost last year with a score of 38-35.
Mallory headed into the first game as the number two back, but rotated and split time with the starter.
During the first game, the Bison rushing attack was held to just 58 yards and Mallory was shut down with 23 yards on 11 carries.
The Bison fell 38-7, starting the season off with offensive and defensive decencies.
“There defense swarmed and filled every gap up front,” offensive coordinator Grant Gower said.
Harding defense was stifling and served as a teaching tool in the transition into week two against Arkansas Tech.
In the second week of practice starter, Dawson Myers broke free in practice then fell, injuring his knee—knocking him out of the next game. Mallory was the next man up.
“I felt bad for Dawson and the way I got the starting job, but that’s just football; injury happens,” Mallory said.
Therefore, the offense focused on continue preparation for Arkansas Tech.
Arkansas Tech was a tough opponent which gave the Bison trouble last year as they were hammered 50-7.
This year would be different as Mallory had a breakout game against the wonder boys.
Mallory rushed for a career best 140 yards with a touchdown to add to his performance. He then helped his team to a victory over Arkansas Tech, where he averaged 4.0 carry.
His performance would earn him Bison of the Week and put him in second place in rushing in the (GAC) Great American Conference.
Mallory and the Bison headed into next week’s game against Southeastern Oklahoma.
The Bison would shoot themselves in the foot against southeastern as they turned the ball five times giving southeastern the ball scoring position.
The offense struggle to put up points in first-half, but was led by a monstrous run game by Mallory. Mallory sparked the offense with a 46-yard touchdown to give his team but three turnovers, which would keep them from a win, losing 42-22.
Mallory would have another career day rushing for 152 yards averaging eight yards a carry.
“I just do my best and run as hard as I can” Mallory said. He battled his way to top of rushing yards in GAC three games into the season.
Mallory was in a groove as silently ran his way into the record books.
“He is humble and never boastful and a very hard worker,” head coach Chris Jensen said.
Coach Marion’s work was on display; his up-tempo drills and change of direction Mallory’s performance. Mallory averaged 20-25 carries a game, while maintaining perfect ball security as he never fumbled.
His record breaking year would continue against the East Central Tigers.
That game started slow as no points were scored until end of the first half, when ECU converted on a 20-yard touchdown pass to make seven to zero.
The Bison offense went into halftime with only three first downs and just 20 rushing yards. The ECU defense harassed and pestered the Bison Backs, containing their longest run to just seven yards.
The second half had a different outcome, as Mallory had another career day, breaking the school single-game rushing record.
Mallory started the second half when he went 86-yards down the sideline, untouched for the walk-in touchdown.
He ripped their defense apart, breaking three and four tackles a play, while racking up yards in bunches.
The offense was clicking on all cylinders, quarterback Dez Stegall was making clutch throws and the O-line opened holes for Mallory to run to daylight.
He ran for another touchdown on the goal line to give the Bison a late lead as they headed into an overtime thriller.
The Bison beat the Tigers in three overtimes, and Mallory was awarded GAC player of the week for his 246-yard performance.
The rushing attack stayed fresh and polished as Mallory lead the charge in dismantling defenses.
After the win at ECU, the Bison dropped their seven games to finish at the bottom of the conference.
Through the seven-game slump, Mallory continued to play well, finishing the season averaging 108 yards a game with nine touchdowns and 1083.
Mallory’s performance earned him first-team all GAC and NCCAA all-American. Mallory set the record for most rushing yards in a game and most rushing in a season by a player in OBU history.