OU running backs shine in opener

Perine, Ross, Ford combine as three-headed backfield monster

There was a lot for Oklahoma freshman running back Samaje Perine to get used to in his first college football game Saturday against Louisiana Tech.

He had amazed his teammates in the weight room but needed to feel that first hit – that first wake-up call. Once he took it, Perine wound up giving a whole lot more. He and the rest of his backfield mates did much of the same.

Perine, Alex Ross and Keith Ford combined for 340 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns, potentially proving that Oklahoma’s backfield, which had fewer than 200 career yards before Saturday, isn’t such an inexperienced weakness.

“We all have different skill sets,” Ross said. “When we got our chance, we just optimized our opportunity and just did what we could.”

Ross and Ford each scored twice, and Perine scored his first career touchdown on a seven-yard rumble – as were most of his carries – in the fourth quarter.

“They’re all what I’ve been saying all along,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “They’re all powerful, physical guys. They’ve got speed and can run too. I was really happy with what they did.”

Perine in particular showed a knack for running over defenders, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and a team-high 13 carries and 77 yards. The three running backs had no negatives carries.

Ford and Ross combined for 96 receiving yards, and Ford nearly brought a kick-off back for a touchdown. He was stopped after an 80-yard return.

“As a running back group, I think we are one of the strongest, if not the strongest running back group to come through Oklahoma,” Perine said.

Ford provided the hands and a great one-cut ability, while Ross showed great speed in the open field. It was Perine though who was the biggest of the trio of big backs. He’s all too ready for the physicality of college football.

“During the couple of scrimmages that we had, I was running really well,” said Perine, who watches highlights of Adrian Peterson and DeMarcho Murray in his spare time. “If you run well against our defense, you can pretty much run well against anybody. I just had that mentality going in to this game and this season. I think it’s going to carry over pretty well.”

Perine wasn’t surprised by anything, although surprises have become a part of his repertoire. He shocked his teammates by repping 275 pounds 20 times on the bench press.

Basically, he’s known for his power.

“If it’s short yardage and they’re in the way, my mentality is I’m going to go over them,” Perine said. “If we’re in the open field, I’ll do my best to avoid them. If they still get in the way, it’s not my fault.”

But you’d never seek out an opponent in the open field right?

“It depends on how my day’s going,” Perine said with a big smile.

Stoops said that all the running backs were “assignment correct” and took care of the football, something said Perine said is a huge point that running backs coach Cale Gundy has made.

Oklahoma utilized Ford and Ross in the open field, by using flare screens and getting them out in space. Perine didn’t catch a pass, but he did record a tackle. He wants to stay on special teams.

“I love the adrenaline of having the first defensive play of the game or the half,” Perine said. “Whatever it is, it’s just a great feeling to me.”

Saturday also gave Perine a chance to prove that all those rumors about him are true.

He stopped an elevator in the offseason because he didn’t want to wait. He was mistaken as someone else’s father during his official visit.

The next rumor that Perine, Ross and Ford all need to disprove is that Saturday’s performance wasn’t just because the Sooners were facing Louisiana Tech. “Us three guys, we’re great as a team,” Perine said. “We feed off each other. We just do what we have to do for the team.”

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