Perine’s record-breaking game a bright spot of dim OU season

NORMAN, Okla. – Saturday started a lot like the 2014 season has felt for Oklahoma.

It was dreary and rainy. Cloudy and cool. 

Three losses have ruined a lot of the spirit around here for a team that started the season ranked among the nation’s elite. A blowout loss to Baylor dampened a lot of the pride, too.

So, when the Sooners took the field against lowly Kansas, with nothing tangible to play for, in a game delayed 90 minutes because of rain and lightning, it seemed to be a metaphor for 2014.

But sometimes Saturday happens and dark gives way to light and clouds turn to sun.

Samaje Perine ran for an NCAA single-game record 427 yards and a lost season has some direction now.

OU is not playing for a playoff spot or a major bowl game, but it got so much out of Saturday from a freshman who acted and reacted like he wanted nothing to do with the history he had just made.

Sometimes you go to the ballpark, the stadium or a basketball game and you get to see something you’ve never seen before. 

In the span of two home games, Sooner fans went from directionless on offense to gaining a noticeable identity. From booing the product on the field to chanting Perine’s name. Hard to remember when either of those situations has happened in the past.

Perine didn’t even play for two of the first three series of the game. He didn’t play the last 9 minutes of the game, either, but in between the freshman ran it 34 times, averaged 12.6 yards per carry and scored five times. 

A game like this – 44–7 over Kansas – doesn’t move the meter, but a performance like Perine’s changes the conversation because the kind of offense OU excelled at Saturday is a repeatable one. It didn’t seem fluke-ish or fancy. It seemed like the kind of game the Sooners could use to rebuild an image that has taken a hit this year.

Anytime you’re winning it’s a positive," coach Bob Stoops said. We’re just going to keep trying to get better."

That appears attainable, not only because of Perine’s performance, but because the Sooners ran the ball and were dedicated to it from the beginning with a runner who started the season as a third-stringer and didn’t start the game against Kansas.

"We didn’t see it coming," defensive tackle Jordan Phillips said of Perine’s ascension this season. "Joe (Mixon) was the big talk."

Mixon was suspended for the season and Keith Ford took over, splitting time with Perine and Alex Ross. All will be back next year.

So many great college running backs didn’t do what Perine did against the Jayhawks. Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin held the record for less than seven days, and at Oklahoma, which has a running back history longer than a CVS receipt, Perine passed some phenomenal names.

Adrian Peterson and Billy Sims. DeMarco Murray and Greg Pruitt. Even Joe Washington, who was on the field to greet Perine after the game didn’t do what Perine did.

"It hasn’t set in, but you think about all the great running backs in college football, when you set a record like that it’s special," running backs coach Cale Gundy said.

Perine said he went to Gundy in the fourth quarter and told him it would be fine if Gundy wanted to put someone else in the game, but the Oklahoma offensive line overruled Perine. He would have to go back out there.

But what Perine’s not going to do is watch highlights of himself or celebrate in any way. He said his parents are in town and that’s enough. "If someone says, ‘Great game,’ I’ll say, ‘Thank you,’ and keep on walking."

Desperate for good news in a season gone bad – now 8-3 with one regular-season game to go – Perine provided it, but did it without flair or flaunting. The Sooners did call a timeout after his 42-yard run broke the record in the fourth quarter to allow for some recognition for a guy who didn’t want any part of it. But that was the extent of it. 

"I just went out there and played the next play and just so happened I came out with the record. I just did what I had to do to help my team. I’m not really feeling special in any type of way."

Perhaps he should. Maybe instead of going back to his room and watching cartoons, like he said he was going to do, Perine could think about what he’s done for the program.

He didn’t just set an NCAA record, he provided a bright spot in a season that went dim.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK

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