Iowa State hopes to contain OU return star
AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State's Lane Danielsen takes his duties covering punts as seriously as his more glamorous job of catching passes.
Good thing, too, because the Cyclones will need Danielsen and the rest of the punt team to be at their best when No. 1 Oklahoma visits on Saturday night.
The last time Oklahoma (4-0) played, the Sooners' Antonio Perkins set an NCAA record by returning three punts for touchdowns in a 59-24 victory over UCLA.
With the way OU plays defense -- the Sooners are fifth nationally in yards allowed -- Iowa State might have to punt often on Saturday. And Perkins will be patiently waiting for the ball.
"If he happens to return one for a touchdown against us, I promise you we won't be kicking to him again," Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. "We may not try to kick it to him the first time."
That brings risks of its own. Aim a punt for the sideline and there's a chance of shanking one for 10 or 20 yards. Then the Cyclones (2-2) will have given great field position to a team that's averaging 42 points and 414 yards a game.
So Perkins likely will get a chance to field some kicks, and that's where Danielsen comes in.
One of the Cyclones' fastest players, Danielsen is a "stinger" on the punt team. He lines up wide like he does as a receiver and sprints toward the return man, trying to ward off the blocker who's assigned to him.
Danielsen, Iowa State's career leader in receiving yards, has made five tackles on punt returns this year and rarely misses one. But he hasn't seen anyone like Perkins yet.
"I think it's gotten me a little more juiced up in our punt practices this week," Danielsen said. "He's a great returner, one of the best in the country. The way I look at it, it's a great opportunity for me. I look at is a challenge."
The key, Danielsen said, is to keep Perkins from running straight ahead.
"We try to make the ball go sideways," he said. "All his returns, he tries to take it up the middle. If he's not moving north and south, it gives the rest of the team time to get down there and help."
Iowa State will have regular punter Tony Yelk back and that should help. Yelk has missed the last two games, both losses, because of a knee injury.
He'll have strict instructions: kick it to Perkins' left or kick it to his right. Just don't kick it down the middle of the field.
"To kick it right down the middle against a guy like that, we'd be crazy to do that," McCarney said. "So we will try to control it, try to do all we can to limit the places that he can run because he is so explosive and so good."
Perkins was rather ordinary early in the season, managing just 80 yards on his first 13 returns, a 5-yard average. His average now is 17.9 -- 357 yards on 20 returns.
"We looked at the Big 12 stats and saw that we were dead last in every category," Perkins said. "We had to go out and deliver because we'd been lacking and eventually it was going to get us beat."
Perkins, a junior, has returned six punts for touchdowns in his career, one short of the NCAA record. To put that in perspective, this is McCarney's ninth year at Iowa State and the Cyclones have returned three punts for touchdowns during his entire tenure.
"It's going to be important for us to get down there and disrupt him and hopefully get to him before he gets started," McCarney said. "Because he's got that extra gear, he's got elusiveness, he's got great feet. He'll run away from anybody you put on the field."
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index