The sudden ease with which the record has fallen shouldn't take anything away from it.
It took 15 years for somebody to break LaDainian Tomlinson's FBS single-game rushing record, set in 1999 for TCU. Last week, the record finally fell, when Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon rushed for 408 yards against Nebraska last Saturday, needing just three quarters to do so.
Gordon's place in the record books lasted only seven days, and 2014 has quickly become a year for running back redemption.
A week after Gordon put up 408, Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine topped him by running for 427 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries in a 44-7 win over Kansas on Saturday. Perine did it in nearly as much time too, setting the record with a 42-yard run on his second and final carry of the fourth quarter, meaning that -- like Gordon -- he earned the record with plenty of time to spare. He did it despite not even starting the game (Keith Ford was on the field first for the Sooners), and he did it in messy conditions in a game delayed an hour and a half by bad weather.
"The guy is just so exceptional in everything that he does," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters after the game. "We were thinking about resting him, and then someone said he only needs 35 more yards, and you know, that's just too close not to do it, and there's too much time left in the game."
Perine, a 5-foot-11, 243-pounder from Pflugerville, Texas, looks nothing like a freshman, with a physical running style in which he's frequently bulldozed would-be tacklers this season despite his youth. And he wasn't even supposed to be Oklahoma's lead back this season: While he was a four-star recruit, he entered the year expected to be buried on the projected depth chart, behind Ford, Alex Ross and five-star freshman Joe Mixon. But Mixon was suspended for the season, and Ford ran into early injury problems, leaving Perine to quickly graduate into the role as Oklahoma's featured runner.
He has not been the consistent force that Gordon is, but he's frequently shined. In his first game as the lead back, he ran 34 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia. Last week, he ran 25 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns against Texas Tech despite the absence of an Oklahoma passing game with Trevor Knight injured. This week, he broke the FBS record with no threat of a passing game around him, as Knight's backup, Cody Thomas, completed 3 of 13 passes for 39 yards. Everything was on Perine's shoulders, and he gashed a Kansas defense that isn't great but hasn't been a total pushover this season.
He opened the game with a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter; he closed the game with a 42-yard run for the record; and in between he broke off long runs of 33, 34 and 66 yards. In total, he had eight carries that gained at least 20 yards in this game alone, matching his total from the first 10 games of the season.
It's inevitable that Gordon and Perine will be compared now. In some ways Gordon's game against Nebraska was better, and in some ways Perine's against Kansas was better. Gordon averaged 16.3 yards per carry to Perine's 12.6. Perine had five touchdowns to Gordon's four. Gordon broke Tomlinson's record on 25 carries in three quarters; Perine broke Gordon's record on 34 carries, with two in the fourth quarter. Perine didn't fumble against Kansas; Gordon lost two fumbles against Nebraska. Gordon faced a Nebraska team that's a lot better than Kansas, in a game with conference title implications. Neither did it with the threat of a passing game.
Ultimately, the record is Perine's, and while you can say it's just Kansas, nobody has ever done what Perine did on Saturday in setting a new standard for single-game rushing. Gordon, clearly, has had the better season and is the legitimate Heisman candidate; he broke the 2,000-yard mark in 11 games after rushing for merely 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries (plus catching four passes for 64 yards) to carry Wisconsin to a 26-24 win over Iowa. Perine, as should be expected of a freshman, has been more hit-or-miss; he barely touched the ball against Baylor and averaged less than four yards per carry in Oklahoma's other two losses, to TCU and Kansas State.
Any criticism of Perine here is nitpicking, though. In a year in which he wasn't expected to start, he now has 1,428 rushing yards on 214 carries (6.67 per carry) with 19 rushing touchdowns in 11 games. For reference, all-world freshman Adrian Peterson ran 339 times for 1,925 yards (5.7 per carry) with 15 rushing touchdowns in 13 games in 2004 for Oklahoma.
Perine is part of a phenomenal crop of freshman running backs that ensure a bright future at a position that has been devalued in an era of running back rotations and prolific passing attacks. And that's not all this year in what has been a Year of the Running Back in some places: Todd Gurley dominated early headlines, Gordon is one of two Heisman frontrunners and David Cobb, Ameer Abdullah and Tevin Coleman have all been outstanding in the Big Ten. The surge of offense over the last decade makes college football records increasingly susceptible to being broken, but what Perine did on Saturday was more old-fashioned: He lined up, and he ran down Kansas' throats, over and over for three hours.
Even as numbers on offense continue to rise, there's still nothing quite like watching what Gordon did last week, and now what Perine did to top him a week later. Perine's record may last another seven days or another 15 years, but either way it will go down as one of the most dominant individual performances in history.
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