OU falls apart after Perine injury

Sooners have no answer on offense without star running back

Oklahoma had its horse, and the Sooners had ridden him for the latter half of the season.

Freshman running back Samaje Perine had been as consistent as humanly possible and was on the way to shattering the Oklahoma three-game record for rushing yards – just one game after setting the new FBS record for single-game yardage.

Midway through the third quarter, Perine took a hand-off to the right before running into a handful of Oklahoma State defenders. He lost the first fumble of his collegiate career, and Oklahoma lost its top running back, its offensive hammer and a big part of its heart limped to the training table with a left ankle sprain.

Everything changed.

“Any time your horses go down like that, it’s kind of rough to rally from that,” Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski said.

Back-up running back Keith Ford left the game on the fourth series of the fourth quarter as Oklahoma drove to take a 14-point lead. The momentum swing wasn’t immediate, but by the end of the game, its was pervasive.

After Perine left the game, Oklahoma (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) had eight series to end the game. They picked up a first down on only one of them. A team that had been averaging 6.3 yards per carry was suddenly slowed to a 4-yard average.

Take away Ford’s breakaway 56-yard run, and the Sooners’ averaged after Perine left the game and walked under his own power to the sideline was 1.4.

“They’re gonna load the box in some of the four-minute situations and trying to find something to give you some angles to pick up some yards and we obviously didn’t do a good job of that,” co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said.

Still, Oklahoma had more than a chance when Zack Sanchez hauled in a what appeared to be a game-sealing interception with 3:16 to go and the Sooners ahead by seven points.

Any bad residue of the recent offensive failures were gone.

Everybody on the Sooners’ sideline thought they were going to win.

Oklahoma needed one first down – literally one. Ten yards and Oklahoma would walk away with a its 11th Bedlam win in 12 years. Instead, Oklahoma lost three home conference games for the first time since 1997 – two years before Bob Stoops’ first year in Norman.

“We just haven’t had a lot of answers,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “That certainly falls on me and our responsibility to get players and try to get the best players we can in position to make plays.”

After Sanchez’s interception, Alex Ross rushed for a loss, and Cody Thomas was brought down behind the line of scrimmage. Ross picked up two yards on a 3rd-and-16 to bring up a punt.

The first punt would have given Oklahoma State the ball on its own 15-yard line – 85 yards, no timeouts and less than a minute. It would have been a perfect situation. A lapse in judgment, maybe brought on by a shattered team psyche, and Bob Stoops accepted a penalty that gave Oklahoma State punt returner Tyreek Hill a second chance.

One of the best playmakers in the country had a second chance, and he made the most of it.

“That’s one you probably wish you had back,” Mike Stoops said.

Oklahoma lost to Oklahoma State in Norman for only the fourth time since 1976 after kicker Michael Hunnicutt, who missed just nine kicks in the previous two years combined, missed his sixth kick of the season in overtime after three straight pass plays – and one sack.

One of the best rushing teams in the country relied on a freshman quarterback in overtime against a surging rival. Thomas attempted three straight passes in overtime. With Perine in the game, the extra period would have been much different.

Then again, Oklahoma probably wouldn’t have been there in the first place.

“Losing a powerhouse guy like that obviously hurts,” Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez said. “It would hurt anybody's offense.”

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