Perine nears Billy Sims' Oklahoma career rushing record

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Samaje Perine is set to surpass all the great Oklahoma running backs and claim the school's career rushing mark.

Billy Sims' record of 4,118 yards has stood since 1979. Perine ranks fifth in Oklahoma history behind Sims, Joe Washington, Adrian Peterson and Steve Owens, but he needs just 83 yards to reach the top. Sims won the Heisman in 1978, Washington and Peterson were All-Americans who finished high in the Heisman voting and Owens won the Heisman in 1969. Perine already has passed Quentin Griffin, DeMarco Murray, 1952 Heisman winner Billy Vessels and Greg Pruitt, among others.

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley wants to see Perine break the record when the seventh-ranked Sooners face No. 17 Auburn in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 .

''It would mean something,'' Riley said. ''It's not why we do it and it's not why we're going there, but he's (Perine) such a special guy - a special guy to me. It's obviously a very historic record.''

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westbrook were Heisman finalists this year, but no one did more damage the final three games than Perine, a 235-pound bruiser with breakaway speed. After his 37-carry, 239-yard performance against Oklahoma State that clinched the Big 12 for the Sooners put him within striking distance of Sims, he said the record wasn't a concern.

''I haven't thought about that since we started the season,'' Perine said. ''That's really not what I play for. I just go out and do whatever I can to help my team win.''

Perine burst onto the scene with 1,713 yards rushing his freshman year, the sixth-best total in school history, and 21 touchdowns. He ran for a FBS-record 427 yards against Kansas that season, a record that still stands. As a sophomore, he added 1,349 yards and 16 touchdowns.

He has rushed for 974 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, despite missing two games and most of a third with an injury.

This season, Perine ran for 214 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Texas and was among the Big 12's top rushers before pulling a muscle in his right leg the next week against Kansas State. He missed the next two games, against Texas Tech and Iowa State. He returned against Baylor to run for 100 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-24 victory . He followed with 31 carries for 160 yards against West Virginia in a 56-28 win , then finished the regular season with the outburst against Oklahoma State.

Perine could have added a late touchdown against Oklahoma State, but he took a knee near the goal line to help the clock run out in Oklahoma's 38-20 win.

''I mean, what's the point of scoring?'' Perine said. ''We're already up by two touchdowns. There's only a few seconds left, so there's really no need to run up the score, so I just did what I thought was the right thing to do.''

He's done all this damage while splitting time with Joe Mixon, a strong NFL prospect, the past two years. Typically, Perine punishes opponents most late in the season and late in games. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said Perine's damage has helped him.

''He's helped our defense more than anybody, probably,'' he said. ''The ability to run the football and run games out, for us, was huge. We didn't have a defense that was built to stay on the field long periods of time.''

Stoops is glad Perine is on his side.

''To see somebody run - that's disheartening to any defense when a guy, you know he's going to run it, and they still run it,'' he said. ''The whole fourth quarter of the game (against Oklahoma State), I mean, he just ran it and ran it and ran it, and there's nothing they can do. ''

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .

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