OU Football Point After: Sooners’ Relentless Run Game Rips Red Raiders


Through the first half of the 2015 season, the OU football playbook had featured a heavy dose of aerial power, but the ground forces had experienced trouble finding much traction.

That all changed on Saturday as the Sooners unleashed a relentless ground attack, the likes of which had been mostly dormant in the Oklahoma offense through the first six games.

OU running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon teamed up to form a two-headed monster that blew through the Texas Tech defense with such force and elusiveness that the Red Raider defenders were rendered virtually helpless to stop it.

Oct 24, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) stiffarms Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Jah

Perine and Mixon combined for 355 of OU’s season-high 405 rushing yards as the Sooners literally ran all over, around and through the Red Raiders to the delight of the sellout homecoming crowd in a 63-27 Oklahoma victory.

The Sooners, who had exceeded 200 yards on the ground only once all season (gaining 232 net yards a week ago at Kansas State), came into the game with visiting Texas Tech averaging just 158 yards a game on the ground. The OU run game, which was the best in the Big 12 a year ago, had somewhat taken a back seat to a revived passing attack in the new Air Raid offense installed by new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, and Riley and head coach Bob Stoops have been trying since the start of the season to get the running game going and establish its identity within the new offense.

Going up against a Texas Tech rush defense that is the worst in the Big 12 and the fifth worst in the nation among the 127 FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams, the matchup was ideal for the Sooners to revitalize its struggling ground attack. Perine punished the Red Raiders for 201 net yards on the ground and four touchdowns, and Mixon added another 154 yards of his own, including two rushing touchdowns.

Perine and Mixon personally accounted for 36 of the Sooners’ 63 points in the game, which was nine more points than the Red Raiders put on the scoreboard as a team.

In the press conference that followed the game, Stoops praised the strong performance by the Sooners’ top two running backs:

"“Samaje makes (rushing) look easy, but he’s running hard I promise you.” the OU head coach said. “He has a lot of energy, (and) he plays hard all the time. This was a perfect day to show how they (Perine and Mixon) complement each other and why, when you have two like them, it works really well."

“Because (Joe’s) so big and powerful, you get to see that a lot on finishing the runs. But you saw him make some people miss him in holes and in space. The little subtleties of just a side step or a little head move and all of a sudden you have a 230-pound guy side-stepping you. He does a good job to make people miss him too.”

Oct 24, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon (25) runs through a tackle attempt by Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Justis Nelson (31) for a touchdown during the second quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Stoops has made it clear from the beginning of the season that on certain days he wanted the Sooners to be able to run the ball as well as throw, and Saturday’s game was perhaps the season’s best example of that. Perine and Mixon obviously were primed and ready for the opportunity the porous Red Raider defensive front afforded them.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield had a little extra incentive going for him in facing his former team (he started seven games at quarterback for the Red Raiders as a walk-on his freshman season in 2013). When you stop to think about it, an opportunity like that is extremely rare for a college player.

Mayfield had an efficient game throwing the ball. he completed 15 of 22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but he handed the ball off two and a half more times than he put it in the air. The Sooners actually ran a dozen more running plays than Texas Tech pass attempts, which speaks to the frequency with which Oklahoma went with the run in this game. Mayfield got into the act as well, rushing for 16 yards.

"“Running the ball makes my job easy,” Mayfield said after the game. “When you have two horses like that in the backfield (Perine and Mixon), and you get your offensive line going, it’s good for me.”"

While the explosive offensive display took center stage in the Sooners’ victory, the defense made an impressive contribution as well, holding the high-scoring, high-yardage Texas Tech Air Attack, ranked No. 2 in the country coming into the game, to 253 passing yards, 175 below its season average. And it did so without the services of All-Big 12 defensive back Zack Sanchez, who left the game after sustaining an ankle injury on the very first play from scrimmage.

Oklahoma improved its season record to 6-1 and 3-1 in the Big 12. The Sooners have games coming up at winless Kansas and at home against Iowa State before finishing up the regular season against the three teams that sit above them in the standings: Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State.