Peterson made it back

CNHI News Service SAN DIEGO, Calif.— It’s been a strange season for Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. After rushing for 1,024 yards and 14 touchdowns he was a consensus All-Big 12 performer and the lightning rod for OU’s offense. However, when those numbers come on the heels of dazzling the college football world by rushing for 1,925 yards as a freshman, anything less was going to be a disappointment.
Call it the sophomore jinx if you want, but the injury-plagued 2005 season has been a trying one for Peterson. Just not one he couldn’t fight his way through. “You just have to take things in stride,” Peterson said. “My dad always told me life was like a light switch. Things cut on and cut off and what matters is how you handle it. But it was frustrating at times. Especially with how I like to compete.”

An Oct. 1 ankle injury left him as a shell of the player who galloped all over the college football world last season. The injury kept him off the field for the better part of four games, but Peterson still rushed for more yards than any Big 12 running back. Even before Peterson limped off the field against Kansas State, it was obvious the Sooners were going to go through a transition season.

Quarterback Rhett Bomar was seeing his first collegiate action and was surrounded by inexperienced receivers and linemen. It was hoped Peterson’s talents would be enough to steady the ship until the newcomers found their course. Instead, OU had to forge an identity without him.
Slowly but surely, they did.

After falling to No. 2 Texas, OU scraped together tough wins over Kansas and Baylor with Peterson carrying the ball just a combined five times for minus-4 yards.
When he healed up enough to start against Nebraska Oct. 29 it was the jolt OU needed to make a late-season surge.

“Once he regained the strength in his ankle this year, he was right back to running with power and making the same kind of cuts before he was injured,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He really came on once he was over the injury and he has been sensational in every game since.”

Peterson rushed for 146 yards and found the end zone twice in the Sooners’ 31-24 victory over the Huskers. He followed it up with 135 yards against Texas A&M and 108 at Texas Tech.

He saved his best for last with a dazzling performance in the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State. He galloped for 237 yards (his fourth 200-yard performance at OU) and served notice he still has the ability to dominate.

The Sooners hope that dominance will be on display at 7 p.m. Thursday when OU (7-4) faces No. 6 Oregon (10-1) in the Holiday Bowl.

Ducks coach Mike Bellotti had a good look at Peterson last season when he brought Oregon to Owen Field Sept. 18, 2004. Peterson rushed for 183 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“He runs hard, he runs with speed and he has an ability to break tackles,” Bellotti said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all, (after) we saw him, that he went on to have such a great season. I thought, ‘Wow.’ He’s one of those guys you just look at and know he’s one of the class running backs in the nation.”

Over the final four games of the season, Peterson rushed for 626 yards and eight touchdowns. And if he wasn’t quite 100 percent then, he certainly should be now.

For the Ducks, it could be deja vu all over again.

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