Healthy Peterson seeks return to freshman form

Thursday, October 5th 2006, 12:55 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Adrian Peterson got out the razor and shaved off the thin layer of hair atop his head, opting for the completely bald look.

Heading into this year's Red River Rivalry game against No. 7 Texas, the Oklahoma tailback wasn't going for the look of Michael Jordan, still his favorite sports icon. He had something else in mind.

``Maybe a flashback from my freshman year,'' Peterson said.

That's when Peterson emerged on a national stage, running for 225 yards in Oklahoma's 12-0 win against Texas in 2004. He picked up 44 yards the second time he touched the ball, and his run to No. 2 in the Heisman voting began in earnest.

Peterson's second go-round wasn't so memorable. An ankle sprain limited him to only three carries for 10 yards, and he had to watch most of Oklahoma's 45-12 loss last year from the sidelines.

``It was a tough week for me just trying to go out there on my ankle, trying to make myself believe that I was there to play,'' Peterson said. ``Really, deep down inside I knew it was going to be kind of hard to go out there and play.''

That's not the case this year. Peterson says he's healthy and ``ready to go down there and get rolling'' for the Sooners (3-1) in their Saturday showdown with Texas.

The Longhorns (4-1, 1-0 Big 12) will be ready and waiting.

``There's no sweet way of putting it,'' defensive end Bryan Robison said. ``He ran all over us (in 2004). We know last year is over and he's going to be going full force.''

Peterson said the main thing he remembered about that 2004 game was that he ran hard and stuck to his assignments.

``I really didn't know I had 225 (yards) until after the game,'' he said.

Peterson didn't get into the end zone that day but still did plenty of damage. His runs helped set up both of Oklahoma's field goals and the game's only touchdown, on a run by Kejuan Jones.

The Longhorns know what to expect. Said defensive tackle Frank Okam, who Peterson first met at a high-school All-American game: ``He still does the same thing he's always done. He lines up nine yards back, runs downhill and doesn't make a move until he crosses the line of scrimmage.''

It's stopping the wrecking ball of a tailback that's the problem. Peterson ranks third in the nation with a 160.8-yard average, and that number was pulled down when Sooners coach Bob Stoops pulled him early in the third quarter of a 59-0 win over Middle Tennessee two weeks ago. He's ahead of his pace from 2004, when he ended up with 1,925 yards _ an NCAA record for a freshman.

``Even when something is not there, he has the ability to bounce outside or run over people. He is the type of back that has the combination of speed and power,'' Robison said. ``You just can't say enough about him. He is one of those threats where if you shut him down, then you have a chance to win. That is what we are going to have to do.''

Longhorns defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, who'll face a healthy Peterson for the first time, put it this way: ``If he doesn't have daylight in front of him, he has no problem making his own.''

Having been there when Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson came through Austin, Texas, coach Mack Brown has an idea of how to deal with those types of physical tailbacks.

``Obviously it's better if you can get somebody in the backfield,'' Brown said. ``Ricky was only stopped when they never let him cross the line of scrimmage, if they could penetrate and get in his legs before he got downhill. Cedric was the same way.

``But he's also a guy that has very few losses. Adrian is not going to run sideways. He's not going to turn and run the other way and lose 20 yards. He's normally going to get downhill and make his yards.''

The Longhorns enter with the No. 2 rush defense in the nation, allowing only 36.6 yards per game, and held Ohio State to 79 yards rushing in a 24-7 loss to the Buckeyes in Austin last month.

``You're not going to stop Adrian Peterson all the time,'' Brown said. ``He's going to make his plays. You've just got to try to do your best to keep him out of the end zone.''