NORMAN – In his entire career with the Oklahoma Sooners, running back Samaje Perine has never had a smaller two-game carry total than the first two games of this season. He’s never had less than 21 total touches (his total from the first two games) in any two-game span either.
This season has started slow for Perine, as many have in the past, but it’s not his average per carry or touchdown total that has been affected. It’s just his usage as he eyes the Oklahoma all-time rushing yardage record. Perine has more total yards (155) through his first two games this season than he’s had in any other season and twice as many touchdowns. He just has fewer touches and a lighter workload.
Perine’s efficiency has skyrocketed, and it’s because of his backfield mate – Joe Mixon, who has 25 total touches through the first two games and is averaging more than nine yards per touch.
With Mixon playing at his highest level, it’s clearly better for both backs and gives Oklahoma a balanced and potent backfield.
“Both those guys are, obviously, talented,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “Both of them are big enough guys that they can almost act as H-backs or fullbacks. They catch the ball and are smart. We think that provides some big-time advantages for us.”
Perine has improved his pass catching and has five receptions in two games after only 15 receptions all of last season. Always talented in open field, Mixon is becoming a more well-rounded runner and is averaging more than 7.5 yards per carry – a significant jump from last season.
Oklahoma (1-1) started last week’s game against Louisiana-Monroe with both Perine and Mixon in the backfield. It’s a formation that Riley is using more and more to get the most out of his unique tandem. Mixon’s development is allowing for that as both have become solid receiving options and even better lead blockers – or decoys at the very least.
“They complement each other so well and they work together so well,” Riley said. “They make each others’ lives a lot easier. The great thing is both embrace that. They don’t look at it as a negative and it’s not. It just shows what kind of team-first guys that they are.”