The results were disastrous in the first half. The second half was an old formula for the Sooners, and one they’ve been successful at before and were once again in a 42-30 come-from-behind victory against the Red Raiders.
The plan was to run the ball, according to Heupel and head coach Bob Stoops. But circumstances dictated otherwise. Facing one of the worst run defenses in the country, OU ran the ball 18 times in the first half and threw 17 times. Three of those were intercepted.
The second half play distribution? OU with 33 runs compared to three passes. The result? A 14-7 deficit was erased emphatically as OU rushed for 316 yards in the second half to keep this once promising season from going totally off the rails.
And the anchor of that was once again freshman running back Samaje Perine. Perine had nine carries for 31 yards with a touchdown in the first half. He finished the game with 25 carries for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s just so mature for a guy his age mentally and everything that he does,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “Disciplined in his life, he’s really a sharp, sharp guy.”
What Thomas was unable to accomplish in the passing game, he did in the running game. Thomas rushed for 103 yards on eight attempts and a touchdown. He also threw for his first career touchdown in the second half to wide receiver Durron Neal.
The Red Raiders drove right down the field and needed just 1:25 to score on the first drive of the second half and take a 21-7 lead. Visions of what happened last week against Baylor were flashing through everybody’s minds.
Enter Perine. OU was confident that it was eventually going to break one and break one big. Perine did with a 64-yard touchdown with 12:04 left in the third quarter.
“That’s our best way of playing,” Perine said. “We like to dominate in the run game and get the one-on-ones on the perimeter, and we did a great job with that in the second half.
“We started off kind of slow, but once we got going, they couldn’t stop us.”
Perine’s effort gives him 1,001 rushing yards this season, the first OU running back to accomplish that feat since DeMarco Murray in 2010 and the first freshman since a guy named Adrian Peterson in 2004.
It was reminiscent of when OU let Perine take it home in September against West Virginia. The freshman came through on that night as well in a 45-33 road victory.
For the game, Thomas finished 10 of 20 for 133 yards but what definitely stood out what how the zone read might work better for Thomas than any other OU quarterback on its roster.
“Yeah, he’s really natural with it, and you would expect that, being the athlete that he is,” Stoops said. “Cody’s got a lot of athleticism to him for sure.”
The Sooners were far from perfect, but it does put OU at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in conference play heading into the final two home games of the season at home.
Wasn’t pretty, but the running formula got the job done for OU once again.
“You’re going to face adversity in every football game,” Cody Thomas said. “Today we faced a lot in the first half. We turned the ball over a lot and just had to keep pressing forward. Again, it goes back to our character and just persevere and all those guys just having my back.”