Three's a charm
Perkins' trio of punt returns spark Sooners to rout of Bruins
Posted: Saturday September 20, 2003 8:48PM; Updated: Sunday September 21, 2003 12:34AM
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Antonio Perkins needed just 5 more yards on punt returns to go into the NCAA record book. UCLA was determined not to let him get the ball anymore.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made sure he let Perkins' teammates know it.
"We had a talking to," Stoops said of his huddle with the punt return unit late in the second half. "[Perkins] has an incredible knack, and the guys really hustled for him."
Perkins returned his final punt of the day 65 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, giving him 277 yards and three scores on seven returns to break two NCAA records as No. 1 Oklahoma routed UCLA 59-24 on Saturday.
Perkins, who came into the game with only 80 yards on 13 punt returns, also had returns of 74 and 84 yards to become the first Division I-A player to score on three returns in a game.
Perkins also broke the mark of 219 yards on punt returns set by BYU's Golden Richards against North Texas in 1971.
"It's great to help the team win and it means a great deal to me, too," Perkins said. "Only my name goes down in the record book but I wish that the whole punt return unit could go down in the books also."
Jason White threw two touchdown passes, and Renaldo Works ran for two more scores as Oklahoma (4-0) completed a sweep of its nonconference schedule for the fourth straight season, the first time that's happened in school history. The Sooners have won 18 straight nonconference games.
Late in the first quarter, UCLA (1-2) silenced the school-record crowd of 83,317 when linebacker Spencer Havner intercepted White's pass. Havner ran the ball 72 yards to the Oklahoma 6, and Manuel White scored on an 11-yard run on the next play following a penalty.
The Bruins led 10-7 -- the first time Oklahoma has trailed all season.
But the momentum shifted on Perkins' electrifying 74-yard return for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Perkins caught the ball at the 26, spun away from the first defender, cut up the middle, then outran the punter to the left sideline and sprinted to the end zone.
His second touchdown came after punter Chris Kluwe kicked the ball well ahead of the coverage. Perkins slipped a few tackles and had nothing but open field ahead the last 40 yards.
Perkins did it again late in the fourth quarter, sprinting 65 yards down the right sideline and into the record book.
Kluwe tried kicking away from Perkins after his second touchdown, eliciting a chorus of boos from the crowd. The Bruins also tried other tactics: Mil'Von James hit Perkins as he fielded a punt late in the third quarter, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
"We tried to make adjustments," first-year UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "Our directional kicking wasn't far enough to the sides of the field and we got caught. We made [Perkins] look like a great player today."
The Bruins couldn't make much of a dent in an Oklahoma defense that was missing starters Lance Mitchell and Derrick Strait. Mitchell is out for the season with a knee injury, while Strait had his streak of 43 consecutive starts snapped because of a pulled left thigh muscle.
Sophomore quarterback Drew Olson, making only his third career start for UCLA, stuck mostly to dumpoffs and screens to slow down the Sooners' pass rush. Olson finished 18-of-34 for 144 yards with two interceptions.
"We were messing up our assignments," Manuel White said. "They also made plays to stop us. It was very demoralizing how they controlled the game on defense and special teams."
UCLA was still within striking distance after halftime, down only 28-10.
But on UCLA's first play of the second half, Olson fumbled the ball on a thunderous hit by Oklahoma cornerback Eric Bassey. The ball popped up into the hands of Sooners defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who rumbled 14 yards to the 30.
"I really felt like I was dreaming," Harris said. "I tried to do the best I could have done with it, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to."
Three plays later, White hit reserve tight end Lance Donley for a 22-yard touchdown pass that all but sealed the win.
Later in the third quarter, UCLA freshman Maurice Drew scored on 1-yard touchdown run and a 91-yard kickoff return.
Dorrell's return to Norman as a Bruin went about as well as his last trip in 1986. As a senior receiver at UCLA, Dorrell and the Bruins were held to 155 yards of offense in a 38-3 loss to a No. 1 Oklahoma team coached by Barry Switzer and led by Brian Bosworth.
UCLA still hasn't beaten a top-ranked team since 1976, when the Bruins beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The Bruins are 4-8 overall against No. 1 teams.
Oklahoma ran its home record to 31-0 when ranked No. 1. The Sooners are off next week and don't play in Norman again until Oct. 18 against Missouri.