NORMAN, Okla. — Cory Ross couldn't fool the Sooners anymore.

When NU's junior I-back had to be helped off the Owen Field turf midway through the fourth quarter, the OU guys knew he was in some pain.

You know it killed Ross to leave the field, especially when he had been able to snow the Sooners after every previous hit. And he took a ton of them in the rain Saturday night.

"I'm going to jump right back up," he said. "I'm not going to let them think they got me."

When Oklahoma defensive tackle Lynn McGruder finally got Ross, he had already rushed for 130 yards, giving him 1,067 for the year. The Sooner defense had not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

"I told him, to do that (rush for 1,000), you're going to have to play through some pain," said NU running backs coach Randy Jordan.

If the painful left big (turf) toe wasn't enough, now Ross has a sore sternum to contend with.

"I just tried to make a cut," he said, "and I think he just hit me right in the sternum and banged me up a little, but I'm feeling better now."

In a season that gets sadder by the minute, Ross' effort is nothing short of inspirational.

"I don't know what to say," Jordan said. "He's shown me throughout the season the willpower to fight through pain and injuries.

"We always talk about how the wolf is only as strong as the pack, and the pack is only as strong as the wolf. Right now, he's definitely the strong one of the pack, and he leads by example."

Here are just a few of those examples:

Ross runs for 21 yards in the second quarter, a jaunt that ends with him being shoved by Sooner cornerback Marcus Walker into the equipment section of the OU bench.

Ross catches a ball in the third quarter and takes it 21 yards before whaling on Sooner free safety Brodney Pool, who at 6-foot-3 is a whopping 9 inches taller than the Husker.

Ross survives the clothesline treatment by linebacker Lance Mitchell after a fourth-quarter run that helps NU make a rare move deep into Sooner territory.

Every time, Ross jumped back up in a flash.

"After every game," he said, "I just want to make sure I left everything out on the field."

He's taking that a little far, don't you think? OU co-defensive boss Bo Pelini, who benefited from Ross' talent as NU's interim head coach for last year's Alamo Bowl, remains impressed.

"Cory Ross is a heck of a football player." Pelini said. "He did a nice job, and my hat's off to him. He's an excellent football player. It didn't surprise me."

Nor did it surprise the linemen who block for Ross.

"He's just a tough kid," said senior guard Jake Andersen. "He's got a huge heart, and we appreciate it up front, knowing he's back there busting his tail."

It should be noted that Andersen and his buddies up front have had a pretty darn good season themselves. Ross has noticed.

"They did a great job," Ross said, "especially when you see that the defense has nine, 10 people in the box sometimes. They just created some holes, and I ran through them."

But Ross gets the ball and the attention that comes with it. He got 30 carries' worth Saturday.

"He's going to be sore," Jordan said. "But it's nothing new for him."

Now he has almost two weeks to rest up before the Colorado game. You think a Denver guy is going to miss that one?

"That week off, it's going to do me right," Ross said.

Let's hold off on the Marlon Lucky hype for now. The Huskers are lucky to have the guy back there now.