OU line takes pride in big day

Offensive front leads true freshman running back to FBS record

The Oklahoma offensive line stood together Saturday, arm in arm after true freshman running back Samaje Perine broke the FBS single-game rushing record.

Center Ty Darlington’s eye black was still dripping down his face. Senior Nila Kasitati had an arm wrapped around both Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. Rounding the group, Adam Shead addressed the media through his thin-rimmed glasses.

Although, it wasn’t hard to see just how much pride the much-hyped group took in giving Perine a chance to put his name atop the record book. As a unit, they were more excited than Perine was about the young back’s accomplishment.

“Yes,” the five said in unison when asked if they considered it to be their record, too.

“You need to put an asterisk by his name and have all our names listed,” Thompson said.

Perine felt the same way, and in his normally humble way, he gave credit to the other 10 players on the field: His offensive line and fullback Aaron Ripkowski most specifically.

“They always do a phenomenal job up front, those guys and Rip and my receivers on the perimeter, they did a great job today at blocking and holding their blocks so I could get past them,” the true freshman running back said. “They always do a great job week in and week out in preparation. I just try to give them guys all the credit because they deserve it.”

Oklahoma’s front line had paved the way for some impressive performances this season, including a 500-yard output earlier this season against Iowa State and more than a five-yard per carry average for this season.

With four seniors on the line, the Sooners’ offensive front was supposed to do all of that. On Saturday, the offensive line etched its running backs named atop a historic list. Perine averaged 12.6 yards per carry on 24 rushes for 427 yards, breaking the single-game record set by Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon just a week earlier.

“We weren’t coming off the field until we got it,” Shead said.

The weather itself set up a special day for the offensive line.

“This is run-the-ball kind of weather, man.” Williams said. “If you throw the ball, it’s slippery and there’s no telling what will happen. It’s important to dominate in the run game.”

As he was being taped up before the delayed game, Thompson told the trainers that Oklahoma was going to run the ball all day. In the hard-driving rain and with the dominant play of the offensive line, there was no reason to put the ball in the air.

For the past six quarters, there hasn’t been a question of what Oklahoma would do. That hasn’t swayed the confidence of the front line.

“They knew we were going to give it to Samaje over and over and over again,” Darlington said. “We take a lot of pride in that. A lot of times, they knew exactly what was going.”

Oklahoma threw the ball just 13 times Saturday and completed only three passes.

“Put as many guys in the box as you want,” Darlington said.

“There’s no greater feeling than moving another man against his will,” said Thompson, who is still surprised that Perine is a true freshman. “That’s what the run game is all about. . . . That is as exciting as it gets.”

Coming out as a group for post-game interviews was Williams’ idea. He’s the captain of the group that swarmed Perine when he broke the record.

Darlington ran 40 yards at Perine full speed, he said it was faster than he’d ever run. As Perine came off the field, Thompson raised him up above his teammates, the few fans that stayed to witness history chanting Pe-Rine. They could have been chanting O-Line as well.

The Sooners’ rushing offense would have been chanting each other’s names.

“We love blocking for him, seeing him go as hard as he does and not worry about anything makes us want to go hard and not worry about anything else but our job,” Kasitati said. “He doesn’t have to say anything. You see the work that he does. And then you see everybody else that talks about him.” Perine has made a habit of buying his offensive line dinner after every game. His two biggest games this season before Saturday, he bought pizza.

He said they could have whatever they want this time, and although the offensive line took suggestions from gathered media, they seemed settled on fried chicken.

After a performance like Saturday, when three of Perine’s five touchdown runs came without so much as a hand on him, they deserved it.

“We have so much pride in ourselves as an offensive line that we can run the ball no matter what,” Thompson said. “If you have 10 people in the box and you only have six blocking, we believe in our running backs and we believe in ourselves enough that we can make something happen out of that situation. That’s what it is. We have that much pride in ourselves.”

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