It’s time for another update on our Countdown to Kickoff! With today being the eve of August, there are just 32 days between now and the return of Oklahoma Football. For today’s countdown topic, I want to highlight two Oklahoma Sooners who churned out yards like nobody’s business. I’m talking about Mike Gaddis and Samaje Perine.
In 1988, Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma squad featured six different ball carriers who each accounted for at least 300 rushing yards. One of those backs was Mike Gaddis, a Midwest City product who had to fight for carries in a crowded backfield, and boy did he earn himself some carries.
Now Gaddis wasn’t always the fastest player on the field, but he had more than enough speed to turn an average run into a big gainer. What made him such a constant big play threat was how difficult it was for defenders to land a square hit on him. If they didn’t have the angle on him, or take him on just right, he’d break their feeble tackle attempt and make them look silly as he high-stepped into the end zone.
In the 1988 edition of Bedlam, the Oklahoma State Cowboys were led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders. The Sooners had won 11 straight in the series going into that contest, but this time the Cowboys called upon the legendary Sanders to try and change that.
As the story goes, it was just another day at the office for Sanders, who went off for 215 yards and two TDs. It almost got the job done, but fortunately for Switzer and the Sooners, Gaddis also had himself a bit of a coming out party, as he rushed for 213 yards and two scores. Oklahoma would go on to win an instant classic, 31-28.
From 1988 to 1991, Gaddis racked up touchdowns and yardage in bunches. By the end of his Sooner career, Gaddis recorded 2,622 yards and 27 touchdowns. Additionally, he hit the 200-yard mark three times against the Cowboys. He finished with these numbers in spite of suffering an ACL tear as a sophomore — an injury that rendered him much less effective than before. Had it not been for that injury, Gaddis may well have played the game for a good while, and his collegiate numbers would’ve been even more impressive. Mike Gaddis is definitely revered as one of the most talented backs in Oklahoma’s illustrious history at the position.
While Gaddis was ultra talented, his No. 32 counterpart is the one who holds nearly every major Sooner rushing record. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only Samaje Perine.
Even as a true freshman in 2014, the physically mature Perine was often mistaken for being someone’s dad, and his incredible strength in the weight room was captivating to players and coaches alike. As the season wore on, the Pflugerville native gradually became the go-to guy in the Sooners’ backfield. His breakout game came in Week 4 against West Virginia, where he rushed for a whopping 242 yards and four TDs.
As amazing as that game in Morgantown was, it wouldn’t be his best game of the season. In fact, it wouldn’t even come close, because no running back in the history of the FBS has ever rushed for as many yards as Perine did against Kansas in 2014.
After a weather delay pushed the morning kickoff back a bit, with Oklahoma already dealing with QB issues, it was Perine who the coaches called upon. 34 carries and 427 yards later, and Perine would become the owner of the greatest single-game in terms of rushing yards in FBS history.
What’s even more amazing is that the record used to belong to TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson, until Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon broke the 15 year-old record. Then just one week after Gordon’s record outing, Perine snatched it away and hasn’t given it up since.
Perine would go on to be named to the All-Big 12 First Team in 2014, and eventually share a backfield with Joe Mixon. Even while sharing the rock with the talented Mixon, Perine would run his way to the very top of Oklahoma’s all-time career rushing leaders. In just three seasons, Perine accumulated 4,122 rushing yards, surpassing 1978 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims in his final game — the 2017 Sugar Bowl against the Auburn Tigers.
In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected Samaje Perine. Now Perine is showing the fans in D.C. what he’s capable of, something Sooner Nation has already witnessed first-hand.
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