Kansas-Oklahoma Preview

BY foxsports • November 18, 2014

Injuries are piling up for Oklahoma, but another strong rushing performance against a struggling opponent should prevent that from being an issue.

With quarterback Trevor Knight out again, the No. 23 Sooners look to continue their dominance of Kansas on Saturday in order to avoid their first three-game home skid in 17 years.

Oklahoma (7-3, 4-3 in Big 12) will be without Knight for a second straight game due to a neck injury sustained in the fourth quarter of a 48-14 loss to then-No. 10 Baylor on Nov. 8.

It's unclear when the sophomore - 11-3 as a starter and the MVP of the Sugar Bowl - will be back, leaving freshman Cody Thomas as the starter.

Thomas completed 10 of 20 passes for 133 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in a 42-30 win at Texas Tech last weekend. However, he added 103 yards and a TD on eight carries as the Sooners rolled up 384 yards on the ground and returned to the Top 25 after a one-week absence.

"I feel confident he'll even make a bigger jump this week, having been out there that whole game and having the experience of it," coach Bob Stoops said. "I knew he could run but as you said, in that live situation can he make a guy miss? He really did and did it well. I say 'pleasantly surprised' because I know he is a good athlete."

Stoops, though, will need others to do the same since linebacker Geneo Grisson is out with an MCL sprain, while cornerback Julian Wilson's broken thumb has him sidelined for a second game.

Top receiver Sterling Shepard, however, may be back from a groin injury that's hampered him for three games. A semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, Shepard is third in the Big 12 with 957 yards on 50 catches with five TDs, but the injury forced him to exit early last weekend.

"It's well," Shepard said. "I thought I could give it a go Saturday, and it was feeling pretty good, and I just didn't want to hurt it any worse. I felt it pull up a little bit, but no further damage."

The Sooners are looking to continue doing damage behind running back Samaje Perine, the Big 12's leading rusher with 1,001 yards on an average per carry of 5.6 with 14 TDs. The freshman scored three times against the Red Raiders, racing for 213 yards on 25 carries.

"You could have any average running back and put them behind our line and they could do a phenomenal job," Perine said. "That is basically it. I didn't have to do that much. I just have to find the hole and run."

Perine may be busy again since the Jayhawks (3-7, 1-6) give up an average of 282.8 rushing yards while losing all four of their road games. They're also bad against the pass, giving up 278.3 per game over that stretch while also surrendering 168 points.

Oklahoma had 235 rushing yards in a 34-19 win at Kansas last year, extending its winning streak in the all-time series to nine games. It hasn't lost three in a row at home since Oct. 25-Nov. 15, 1997.

Kansas, though, put a scare in No. 5 TCU last Saturday, but blew a 10-point second-half lead in a 34-30 defeat.

"The bottom line is that we lost the game, and that has to be the story is that we lost," coach Clint Bowen said. "A loss is never acceptable, and that's not what you go to do. We have talked about that our expectations are that we're Big 12 football players playing in the Big 12 Conference, and when you step on the field, you expect to win. You do everything possible in your power to win."

Bowen may be encouraged by the play of Michael Cummings, who completed 19 of 37 passes for a career-high 332 yards with two touchdowns and one pick while rushing for another score.

The junior has rushed for a TD in four of five games, and he's tossed seven TDs compared to two picks in the past four contests.

Cummings is also finding success linking up with Nigel King and Jimmy Mundine, who combined for 12 receptions, 265 yards and two touchdowns last weekend. King has consecutive 100-yard games after failing to reach the mark in his first 22.

Cummings will attempt to exploit a Sooners defense that has allowed 789 passing yards and five TDs the last two games.