Kennedy Brooks didn’t know he made history.
Not long after No. 13 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) defeated Iowa State (6-5, 4-4) 28-21 on Saturday, the redshirt junior running back sat down for the Sooners’ press conference. There, media informed him that with his 115-yard rushing performance, he became the 11th player in program history to rush for over 3,000 career yards.
“Honestly, I didn’t know about that,” Brooks said in a surprised tone. Among the 10 others Brooks joins are Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine, Tennessee Titans running back Adrian Peterson, 1969 Heisman winner Steve Owens, 1978 Heisman winner Billy Sims and current OU running backs coach DeMarco Murray.
Brooks is amazed his name will now live next to those in Sooners rushing lore.
“I give all the credit to the offensive line that I have and the coaches giving me the opportunity,” Brooks said. “I don’t really go into games thinking about that, I just try to just go out there have fun and play with my team. That's what I wanted to do today.”
The Mansfield, Texas, native’s performance didn’t just etch him into the Sooners’ record books. His heroics saved an otherwise lackluster OU offense from dropping its second game in a row, and in turn kept intact Oklahoma’s chances at claiming a seventh straight Big 12 title. Through it all, however, Brooks is quick to praise others for his accolades.
Against the Cyclones, which ranked 10th nationally in total defense entering the contest, Brooks recorded his 12th career 100-yard rushing game on 15 carries. He also had one reception for nine yards. Oklahoma’s offense totaled 305 yards, up from its 182 in a loss to No. 11 Baylor a week ago.
Brooks — now with 972 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season — said OU’s improvement was a direct result of its offensive line play.
“On Monday, they just came to work,” Brooks said of his linemen. “They knew that we had to win this game (and) we had to run the ball. So, they put their head down and just grinded. … It paid off at the end of the day, man. I'm so thankful for them.”
Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams didn’t live up to his Superman nickname through the air — he finished just 8-of-18 for 87 yards, a touchdown and an interception — but he was able to contribute in the Sooners’ rushing attack. The Washington, D.C., native darted through the Iowa State defense for a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His ground game was shaky from there, though, as he ended the day with 12 carries for 67 yards.
Additionally, junior running back and Tennessee transfer Eric Gray had four carries for 23 yards and a score. In total, Oklahoma had 209 rushing yards, the most it has produced since its win over Kansas.
“Past two weeks, we haven't been rushing the ball as well,” said redshirt senior Tyrese Robinson. “(In practice last week), we focused on being physical and finishing plays. I feel like we did a good job of that today and it showed.”
The Sooners had 34 rushing attempts against the Cyclones, tied for the fifth most OU has attempted all season. After performances like Saturday, where Brooks averaged nearly seven yards a carry, many have questioned head coach Lincoln Riley’s hesitancy to run the ball more. After his team’s win, Riley didn’t shy away from the difference OU’s rushing attack made.
“The guys played pretty physical, and we had movement the majority of the day,” Riley said. “We got the big run from Caleb right off the top, which was an important play to get us off to a good start. The backs ran hard and saw things pretty well. That's a good group to run on, too. (Iowa State doesn’t) make the run game very easy. They're very unique with their fits and they have a lot of really good players up there.”
Although Brooks didn’t participate in the Sooners’ pregame senior day festivities Saturday, shortly after thanking his teammates for helping him reach the 3,000 rushing yard mark, he mentioned possibly having played his last game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“If it is (my last home game), then I'm thankful for it,” Brooks said. “And I have no regrets.”