NORMAN — To make sure a tighter-than-expected season opener didn't fall into the loss column, Oklahoma coaches rode DeMarco Murray to a 31-24 win over Utah State.
After compiling career highs for carries (35) and rushing yards (218), Murray says he feels great. But since he's battled injuries much of his career, will OU's staff continue to ask their senior running back to carry such a heavy load?
Yes and no.
Coaches want Murray to get at least "25 to 30 touches" a game, which includes receptions. All 35 of Murray's touches in the opener were rushing attempts, including some physical runs between the tackles. This week some touches will be receptions.
Mossis Madu, returning from a one-game suspension, will lighten Murray's workload. Fullback Trey Millard could get three to six carries a game. Other backs eventually might take a series here or there.
But make no mistake about it: the plan is to hand the ball to Murray time and time again.
"It will come down to how DeMarco is feeling, how things are working," said coach Bob Stoops. "I don't know how it will go because game to game it will be different because of how they're playing us and what's working. But we need to get the ball in his hands. He's a guy who can make things happen."
Murray is confident he can withstand the weekly pounding. He spent a couple weeks in May back home working with a mixed martial arts instructor. He does yoga to stay limber. He plans to sit in the ice tub before and after every practice.
"Obviously you don't think you'll ever get 35 carries but I'm definitely not complaining," Murray said. "I was a little sore Sunday but I've practiced (every day this week). I just have to stay fresh and go as hard as I can."
Murray said he rarely "got in the 20s" at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School. His previous high at OU was 26 carries two years ago against Baylor.
The risk-reward to loading up Murray is the Sooners need him to stay healthy. He suffered a dislocated kneecap on special teams three years ago, a hamstring injury in the 2008 Big 12 title game and sat out the Kansas game last season with an ankle injury.
Most rushing attempts in a season:
Carries: Player (Year)
393: Steve Owens (1968)
358: Steve Owens (1969)
339: Adrian Peterson (2004)
287: Quentin Griffin (2002)
256: Billy Sims (1978)
248: Billy Sims (1979)
241: Mike Gaddis (1991)
225: Kejuan Jones (2003)
223: Jack Mildren (1971)
220: Adrian Peterson (2005)