A glance at the names looking up at Samaje Perine in Oklahoma’s record book reveals just how special the performance was:
Billy Sims. Joe Washington. Marcus DuPree. Greg Pruitt. Adrian Peterson.
OU has produced a laundry list of elite running backs, but none of them have been able to match the 427 rushing yards Perine produced in the Sooners 44-7 win against Kansas on Saturday. In fact, nobody has.
Perine broke the week-old FBS single-game rushing record of Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon with his career-high rushing performance. The Sooners running back finished with 34 carries for 427 yards and five touchdowns and added one reception for 19 yards as Oklahoma rolled to victory.
"It’s a very unique moment," running backs coach Cale Gundy said. "As (OU athletic director) Joe Castiglione said earlier, think about all the great running backs that have played this game. We jumped on his back and let him do his thing."
The true freshman got the headlines, even if he didn’t want them, but his teammates wanted the record as much, if not more, than he did.
And they showed it. On and off the field.
On the field, Oklahoma's offensive line, along with fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dimitri Flowers, were happy to pave the way for Perine’s big day. The Sooners imposed their will in the trenches with 341 of Perine’s 427 rushing yards coming between the tackles, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He averaged 12.1 yards per carry and scored four of his five touchdowns on rushes between the tackles.
Off the field, the Sooners blockers were tracking Perine’s progress, with an eye on creating history. Perine was fine with leaving the game to let other Sooners’ running backs shine. Oklahoma's offensive line was not.
"We were just counting down, we were definitely completely aware of what was going on," center Ty Darlington said. "We said 'he’s staying in.' We wanted that thing about as much as he did. We wanted it for him."
Since Day 1 on campus, people have gravitated to the humble Perine. His drive to be great is only topped by his desire to share the spotlight.
"I think it’s a reflection of how much they respect him, of the person that he is," Gundy said. "The day after he rushed for 242 yards at West Virginia, he was in here buying pizzas for the offensive linemen. I’ve never had anyone do that around here."
Perine’s traits have combined to create games like Saturday, which was the third game of at least 200 rushing yards in Perine’s young career, joining his 242 yards against West Virginia and 213 yards against Texas Tech. His teammates love to see him do well, and he loves to do well for them.
"I think it’s a reflection of how close we are as a team," Ripkowski said. "Everyone wants to see everyone do well. Nobody on the team is about (themselves). Everybody pushes for everyone to do their job. Everyone just gets excited when someone excels in their job."
When Perine looks at his 1,428 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns during his first collegiate season, he just shrugs it off as simply doing his job. When Ripkowski and the offensive line look at the same numbers, they are beaming with pride.
"We all feed off it, and that’s what we work for during the week," Ripkowski said. "The offensive line and all these blockers have a sense of pride when we put those numbers up."