NORMAN, Okla. – The NCAA FBS single game rushing record of 406 yards by former TCU great LaDainian Tomlinson stood for 5,466 days.
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon replaced that mark with 408 yards, but his total couldn’t even last a whole week. Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine just became a household name by setting the record once again with 427 rushing yards in OU’s 44-7 victory against Kansas on Saturday afternoon.
Perine, who at this time last year was closing out his high school career, put on a performance for the ages against the Jayhawks. It started with his first run, a 49-yard touchdown where he went untouched and concluded with his final run, the record-setting 42-yard carry with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
When you add it all up, Perine finished with 34 carries for 427 yards and five touchdowns. In his last six quarters, Perine has rushed for 610 yards on 50 attempts with seven touchdowns.
Not too shabby.
“I really can’t (put my feelings into words) right now,” Perine said. “It’s still surreal, and I still feel like we just played a great game. I’m not feeling special in any type of way. I just look at it as doing what I have to do under certain conditions to just help my team win.”
The talk going into the game was about how this was arguably the least anticipated OU home game in the tenure of Bob Stoops. All the preseason expectations had been wiped away by a season full of frustration and inconsistency.
Mother Nature seemed to pile it on as well as the game was delayed 90 minutes because of rain and lightning in the area. Those that came and those that stayed saw something they won’t forget.
And a record his running backs coach thought was unbreakable.
“It hasn’t really set in yet,” OU running backs coach Cale Gundy said. “I thought last week that Gordon’s record wouldn’t be broken. I said that on the bus. He’s just a special player.”
Perine has endeared himself to his teammates and his coaches with his humble attitude. When he rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia in September, he impressed everybody by buying the offensive line pizza the following day.
He duplicated that routine last week with more pizza after rushing for 213 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Red Raiders.
So what do you get for the offensive line and senior fullback Aaron Ripkowski after they helped pave the way to the 427-yard outing? Perine had the answer.
“Anything they want,” Perine said.
Perine has made his mark this season for wearing down opponents. For picking up the majority of his yards after contact and for bouncing off one would-be tackler after another.
At first, it was surprising and a pleasant sight to see. Now OU fans don’t even flinch when the bowling ball keeps going down the lane. The bigger shock is when he is brought down.
Saturday, though, was something completely different. Maybe not an NCAA record, but there was a sense there was something a-brewin’ in Norman for the 21st-ranked Sooners who are now 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big 12.
Perine had 18 carries for 222 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The record, laughable after the first quarter, was in reach after a 14-carry, 156-yard third quarter.
But it wasn’t the record that kept Perine going. He didn’t need it, but his teammates and his coaches felt he deserved it.
“The guy is just so exceptional in everything he does,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “It just got to that point where we were thinking about resting him and then someone said he only needs 38 more yards. That’s too close not to do it, and there is still way too much time left in the game.
“Samaje overheard somebody say that and he told Coach Gundy, ‘coach that doesn’t matter to me.’ That’s how special he is. He went in there and ripped off another long run and fortunately we were able to get him out.”
The numbers kept getting closer. First it was an eight-yard carry in the third quarter to break Greg Pruitt’s mark at OU for a single game of 294 yards, a record that stood for 43 years.
And with all the fans that were left who braved the game-long downpour chanting his name in the fourth quarter, Perine delivered the finishing touch.
But if you think Perine is going to bask in the glory, you just don’t know the freshman from Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson very well. He has no plans on taking the spotlight or see what people are saying about his performance.
“I’m probably going to watch some cartoons,” Perine said. “I really like Tom and Jerry but if Scooby Doo is on, I’ll watch that, too.”
And OU fans will continue to watch Perine.