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August 31, 2014

OU running backs stand out in season opener

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No. 4 ​Oklahoma handled business in its season-opener against La. Tech at Memorial Stadium, and the running backs led the way.

The Sooners dropped the Bulldogs 48-16 on Saturday night to continue where they left off after winning the Sugar Bowl last January. While OU defensive performance was impressive, the Sooners' running game might have been more so.

Running backs Keith Ford, Samaje Perine and Alex Ross each scored at least one touchdown while rushing for at least 36 yards each. OU's rush attack ended the night with 183 yards on the ground on 40 attempts against ULT coach Skip Holtz's Bulldogs.


The young and largely inexperienced running back corps came out of the gate roaring with sophomores Ross and Ford trading carries. Later the true freshman, Perine, got into the act and helped the Sooners establish a 31-3 halftime lead over ULT by halftime.

"I was really proud of the running backs -- all new guys, all took care of the football," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "They ran hard, ran physical, picked up a lot of tough yards and ran the football well."

OU rushed for 128 yards on 28 carries in just the first two quarters. With the running game doing its job, and the defense having the offense's back, the Sooners ate 18:03 of the total 30 minutes in the first half.

While Ross showed strength and resilience between the tackles, Ford and Perine each showed they could nip, tuck and truck their way through the Bulldog defense. For Ford, that's nothing new. For Perine, it's a public showing of what's been doing since he arrived on campus.

OU defensive end Charles Tapper once told a story about the strength of Perine. One day Perine was trying to get to an elevator before the doors closed, but they were shutting in front of him.

Other folks would have had to wait until the elevator stopped at their floor again. Not Perine.

He halted the doors with his two bare hands and forced them back open. Such is the strength of the 5-foot-11, 243-pound tailback.

Perine looked game ready from the moment he jogged into the game. He was poised, picked up his blocking assignments and ran the ball with authority.

He led the Sooners in rushing with 77 yards on 13 attempts.

"It's great. I can't really explain it right now," said Perine of his performance. "It's still processing in my mind, but it's great. I have to give a big shout out to my O-line. They did great tonight.

Ford demonstrated he is still the powerful back he showed himself to be last season and, with his first touchdown run of the night, that he can accelerate in a hurry if sees daylight.

When he was handed the ball, he tried to get north and south as quickly as possible and made the defense pay for trying to arm tackle him. Since preseason camp began, Ford has spoken of how the running backs have had to stick together through their summer of growth together.

​"We are all very talented, and we all contribute," Ford said. "Me and Alex [Ross] had two​ touchdowns, and Samaje [Perine] had one, so it just shows that we can work in a group and be talented."

There isn't a single upperclassmen among the running backs, so Ford has seen himself elevated into a leader in the group just one year after being the pup in one of the most experienced backfields in the Big 12.

For him, the running backs' collective performance against La. Tech further vindicates their hard work throughout the offseason. He understands there's a long season ahead, but having such a good outing for himself and his teammates has only served to bolster his confidence.

Heading into tonight's contest, how the running backs would play was one of the larger questions that needed to be answered. They answered, and then some.

Oklahoma NEWS


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