NORMAN, Okla. — A “slight muscle pull” will cause Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine to miss significant time. Head coach Bob Stoops announced the junior will at least two games due to the injury.
“That’s going to be ongoing,” Stoops said. “A running back with a slight pull, we’ve just got to make sure that it heals probably. That will be here for a couple of weeks, for sure.”
The injury means the 16th-ranked Sooners (4-2, 3-0 Big 12) will be without one of their best offensive players for Saturday’s game at Texas Tech and the Oct. 29 meeting with Kansas.
Over the first five games, Perine has rushed for 475 yards and six touchdowns on 88 carries. He’s shared the rushing load with sophomore Joe Mixon, who has rushed for 476 yards over the same span.
But Perine’s absence means Mixon’s workload is likely to expand at least until the end of October. OU is down to two scholarship running backs due to the injury. True freshman Abdul Adams had six carries for 11 yards in last Saturday’s 38-17 victory over Kansas State. Those were the first rushing attempts Adams received since the Sept. 10 game against Louisiana-Monroe.
Stoops admitted running back depth will likely affect the options offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has for running the ball.
“It influences everything,” Stoops said. “Joe and Samaje together are a great team in keeping each other fresh. They're both so reliable, you (can) really interchange plays where you don't care which ones in there. Obviously, Joe will have more of a workload and knowing him he'll like that. We'll have to be smart and Coach Riley is a very bright guy in how we manage them both.”
Using fullback Dimitri Flowers as a running back is also a possibility. Flowers, a junior, doesn’t have a rushing attempt in 26 career games.
“You just go with who you have. We’ve got good backs here. Samaje is not the only one,” Riley said. “We’ll have to be smart in the way we replace his carries and his touches, but we’ve got some guys who are up to the task and most importantly, we’re playing well up front.”
But Perine has provided a bruising element to OU’s offense that will be hard to replicate. He has been dominant in previous games against Texas Tech and Kansas. Perine has rushed for 3,537 yards over the last three season. Roughly 26 percent of those yards (931) came in the 2014 and 2015 games against the Red Raiders and Jayhawks. Perine rushed for over 200 yards in the last two OU-Texas Tech games. He set the NCAA record for rushing yards in a game with 427 against Kansas in 2014.
It seemed likely at the beginning of the season that Perine would claim the Sooners’ record for career rushing yards. He needs 582 to pass former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims’ mark of 4,118.
Missing games against two of the worst defenses at the FBS level makes it even tougher. Texas Tech allows 204.8 rushing yards a game. Kansas’ opponents averaged 197.2.
It could mean Mixon has the opportunity for career games the next two weeks. His career high for rushing attempts is 19 last week against Kansas State. The Sooners typically throw the ball to him three to five times, too.
Perine carried the ball 35 times in OU’s victory over Texas Oct. 8.
Adams’ career-high for rushing attempts is 18 against Louisiana-Monroe.
“He is improving,” Riley said of Adams. “Again, the thing with him is just going to be confidence, game reps, just getting settled in where he can quit thinking about the scheme and just go run and let your natural instincts take over. He’s making the right cuts, but I think we’ll see as we go on that he’ll have more of the big runs that come around with that.”
John Shinn writes for The Norman Transcript.