WVU emphasizes slowing RB Perine is key to beating Oklahoma

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine rattles teeth, opens eyes and invokes bad memories in would-be tacklers who are left to adjust their helmets and soothe aching muscles.

Perine did all that a year ago, when the 243-pound tank ran for 242 yards and scored four touchdowns in a win over the Mountaineers.

West Virginia defenders are expecting more of the same punishment while hoping to limit Perine’s output when the 23rd-ranked Mountaineers and 15th-ranked Sooners meet Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.

Nick Kwiatkoski remembers some of the gift-wrapped hits Perine put on him.

”You feel it when you meet him in the hole,” the West Virginia linebacker said. ”He’s tough to bring down. The biggest thing that stands out to me, he runs hard. Every play.”

Known around Oklahoma as a weight-room freak, Perine was the Sooners’ third back entering the 2014 season. He got his big chance against West Virginia because Keith Ford missed the game with an injury.

Perine took full advantage, getting the bulk of the carries and becoming the first Sooner in four seasons to surpass 200 rushing yards.

It was that day that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops learned he could depend on Perine as a workhorse.

”That’s when you really first saw it to that extent,” Stoops said. ”For a guy who’s that big and powerful, he has such a unique ability to slide and to skip into holes and out of holes, and out of tackles, and then to absorb the hits that he does as well and give out the hits that he does. That was a big night for him.”

Against West Virginia, Oklahoma offensive lineman Nila Kasatati said he saw Perine’s ”fight and how much he wanted it and how much he wanted to do for the team as well.

”Even after the game, and the amazing game that he had that day, he wasn’t one to talk a lot,” Kasatati said. ”He was all about the team. He showed us he had a great attitude.”

West Virginia certainly had company in its misery. Later that season, Perine ran for 213 yards against Texas Tech and set a Bowl Subdivision record with 427 yards against Kansas.

This year, with a revamped offensive line, the sophomore is coming off a 152-yard effort against Tulsa two weeks ago.

Oklahoma graduated four offensive linemen last season, including two that were selected in the NFL draft. Perine has seen his production dip to 88 yards per game, although the Sooners have flourished in the passing game behind Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield.

West Virginia has yet to face Mayfield, who sat out Texas Tech’s win in Morgantown in 2013 with a twisted knee. Kwiatkoski said it’s important to find balance in paying attention both to Mayfield, who’s averaging 354 yards per game, while swarming to Perine when he has the ball.

”He definitely got the best of us last year,” Kwiatkoski said of Perine. ”He’s one of those guys who has the potential to break any run for a long gain.”

It’s why West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is stressing getting more than one defender on Perine.

”He ran through some tackles last year,” Holgorsen said. ”There’s no doubt he was the difference in the game.

”We’ve got our hands full, no doubt.”