OU football: Oklahoma leaning on defensive end Ronnie Perkins for its pass rush

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins tries to break through the line of scrimmage during the Sooners' game against Iowa State on Nov. 9 at Owen Field. Perkins is the only active Sooner with a sack over the past four games.

Oklahoma defensive end Ronnie Perkins was a problem for Baylor’s offense Saturday, particularly in the second half.

OU dominated time of possession during that span and its defense forced three three-and-outs on four possessions out of intermission, leaving Perkins and his teammates resting for long stretches.

There were clear benefits to that, especially with Perkins having chased Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer around while he completed 22 of 29 passes and ran for 84 yards in the first half.

Brewer’s fast after all, Perkins admitted.

“At one point, me and Jalen Redmond was on the bench like, ‘Dang, there’s five minutes left in the third quarter, we’ve only been on the field for one play,’” Perkins said about the second half. “So it definitely kept us fresh, staying off the field. Then in the fourth quarter, we had a little big more energy, little more juice to finish the game.”

Perkins recorded two of his three sacks in the final period in what amounted to his signature game in an OU uniform. The Sooners came back and beat Baylor 34-31 as its defense returned to early year form.

The Sooners found a way to apply pressure again, and Perkins carried much of that load. He led a pass rush that produced one sack in three games since OU recorded nine sacks against Texas on Oct. 12.

“It definitely put the quarterback in some hard positions, and then for them to know it before the play, he can feel the D-line, he knows we’re coming,” Perkins said. “So just to get inside his mind a little bit and play with his mind, it feels real good. Then we also help our defensive backs out not leaving them out there to cover for a long time, getting the ball out quick.”

Against Baylor, OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch still didn’t witness his standard for a disruptive front — he prefers around five sacks and 10 tackles for loss per game in his system — but Perkins did his part.

He doubled his sack total on the year, with some help. On two of his three sacks, nose guard Neville Gallimore drew a double team leaving Perkins with one-on-one matchups that worked in his favor.

Perkins went around right tackle Blake Bedier twice in the fourth quarter before bear-hugging Brewer to the ground.

In the first quarter, long before Brewer engineered Baylor’s 28-3 lead, Perkins beat left tackle Casey Phillips around the edge and slung the quarterback down.

“Neville’s really gotten a lot of attention inside, and that’s created some opportunities on the edges for a lot of one-on-ones for our guys, and our guys have got to be able to win those,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “Ronnie was able to win his fair share the other night.”

That’s the way Riley hoped things might unfold when signing Perkins out of St. Louis’ Lutheran North High School in 2017. He’s had a presence since playing extensively last season following former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’s dismissal.

“He’s definitely evolved and growing as a player,” Riley said. “He’s becoming, I feel like, starting to take some of those steps where he flashed some as a freshman, did a lot of good things, but he’s starting to become a more consistent player. I think this scheme is really starting to fit him well. But certainly he had some huge ones the other night.”

OU ranks 36th nationally in sacks per game with room for improvement. More performances like Perkins' would go a long way in helping clinch a fifth consecutive Big 12 championship, and maybe get the Sooners into the College Football Playoff.

For now he is the only active Sooner with a sack the past four games.

How’d he change his fortunes?

“Don’t try to play ‘Superman’ football,” Perkins said. “Play your game, play football and it’ll come to you … [‘Superman’ football] is just saying, forget the call and trying to rush the quarterback, or not doing my assignment and not helping my teammates out.”

TCU at OU

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium

Records: CFP No. 10/AP No. 8/Coaches No. 7 OU (9-1, 6-1 Big 12); TCU (5-5, 3-4)

Line: OU (-18.5)

TV: FOX

Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7

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