Paul Perkins on Las Vegas’ early shortlist of Heisman favorites

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins (24) runs during a 38-20 win over USC at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. Perkins finished the game with 93 yards and a touchdown. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA tailback Paul Perkins (24) runs during a 38-20 win over USC at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. Perkins finished the game with 93 yards and a touchdown.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Despite becoming the Pac-12′s leading rusher, UCLA’s Paul Perkins settled for an all-conference honorable mention — shut out of the first and second teams in favor of four other tailbacks.

He might not stay under the radar much longer. Online sportsbook Bovada released some way-too-early Heisman Trophy odds this week, and the Bruins’ soon-to-be redshirt junior was given the fifth-best shot at college football’s preeminent award. The star tailback was listed with a 12-to-1 shot, tied with USC quarterback Cody Kessler and Georgia running back Nick Chubb.

The trio trailed Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (6/1), Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (7/1), LSU’s Leonard Fournette (7/1), and TCU’s Trevone Boykin (15/2).

Perkins figures to be the centerpiece of UCLA’s offense in 2015, as the Bruins to find a replacement for three-year starting quarterback Brett Hundley. The 5-foot-11, 198-pound back finished his first season as a starter with 1,575 yards, the second-highest single-season rushing total in school history.

See the full list of Heisman odds below, courtesy of Bovada: Continue reading

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Alamo Bowl notes: UCLA ends 10-win season with new milestones

» With its 40-35 win over Kansas State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, UCLA has now reached 10 wins for the ninth time in school history. The Bruins are now riding just their third-ever streak of back-to-back 10-win seasons, with the first two coming in 1997-98 and 1987-88.

Including K-State, UCLA played 10 teams that earned bowl berths, tying them for second-most in the country. The only exceptions were Virginia, Cal and Colorado.

» In his career finale, quarterback Brett Hundley didn’t have his best passing game, finishing 12 of 24 for 136 yards and a touchdown. He started the game 10-of-12 before a run of seven straight incompletions. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said afterward that Hundley’s right hand was still a bit sore from the finger injury that forced him out of UCLA’s loss to Stanford in November.

But Hundley did plenty of damage with his legs, running 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The Bruins followed the blueprint that TCU used to beat K-State, 41-20, on Nov. 8. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin also only threw for one touchdown, but ran for three scores and 123 yards. Boykin’s proficiency on the ground also helped open up lanes for tailback Aaron Green, who had 171 yards.

“Brett went to town with his legs, for sure,” said receiver Jordan Payton.

Hundley improved his UCLA career records to 75 touchdown passes and 11,713 total offensive yards.

» Paul Perkins ran for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries, including a 67-yard scoring run with 2:20 left in the game that gave UCLA a 40-28 lead. His rushing total was the third-most in Alamo Bowl history, and earned him the game’s offensive MVP award. Continue reading

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UCLA 40, Kansas State 35: Jim Mora, Bruins talk after Alamo Bowl

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the Bruins spoke to the media following a 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, one that clinched a second straight 10-win season. During the press conference, Mora grew testy when asked about the team’s inability to close out games — as well as when asked about what appeared to be a handshake snub with K-State coach Bill Snyder.

Also on the podium were quarterback Brett Hundley, linebacker Eric Kendricks, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and running back Paul Perkins.

Kendricks and Perkins were named Alamo Bowl MVPs on their respective sides of the ball.

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What to watch in Alamo Bowl: No. 14 UCLA vs. No. 11 Kansas State

This is it. The final game of UCLA’s season has arrived, with the Bruins set to close their third campaign under Jim Mora by hitting 10 wins for the second straight year. The Alamo Bowl matchup against Kansas State will pit Mora against Bill Snyder, who has led a very different career arc, and also be a goodbye tour for quarterback Brett Hundley, and seniors such as linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

A few things to watch for in today’s 3:45 p.m. PT kickoff at the Alamodome:

Can UCLA limit Jake Waters as a running threat? It’s no secret that the Bruin defense has been stretched a bit this season when faced with dual-threat quarterbacks, but the team will probably be better prepared given the month-long layoff since it last played.

Waters is a bit of a different runner than most Pac-12 runners. He’s not as physically imposing at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and he readily admitted that this week. But he runs tough and deliberate, though those scampers are usually more built into K-State’s offensive playcalling rather than pure, freelance scrambling.

The Wildcats are undefeated this season when Waters runs for at least one score, although he’s found the end zone with his legs just once in his last six games. UCLA’s defense will need to be careful not to overpursue to keep that number down.

Will any K-State skill players not named Tyler Lockett stand out? The 5-foot-11 wideout is the Wildcats’ all-time leading receiver and arguably its best pro prospect, but even big games by the All-American don’t necessarily guarantee wins for his team. Continue reading

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Paul Perkins finishes regular season as Pac-12′s rushing leader

UCLA's Paul Perkins ran for 116 yards in a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, 2014.  (Will Lester/Staff)

UCLA’s Paul Perkins ran for 116 yards in a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Nov. 28, 2014. (Will Lester/Staff)

Paul Perkins wasn’t UCLA’s starting running back to start the year, but he has ended the regular season as the Pac-12′s leading rusher.

The redshirt sophomore has run for 1,381 yards in 12 games, putting him on top of the conference’s tightest rushing race in years. However, the Pac-12′s record book also factors in postseason games, including the Pac-12 Championship this Friday.

Where the league’s top backs currently stand: Continue reading

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Paul Perkins comfortable with increased workload in UCLA’s backfield

Paul Perkins has lived up to any and all expectations in his first full season as UCLA’s starting running back, becoming the program’s 13th 1,000-yard rusher and ranking third in the Pac-12 with 117.2 yards per game.

Along the way, the redshirt sophomore has had to adjust to a much heavier workload. Last season, he only took double-digit carries five times, and finished the year with 130. This season, he has taken at least 14 carries in every game, and has a total of 190.

“It’s good to have a bye,” Perkins said. “That’s pretty much all I can say.”

Head coach Jim Mora hasn’t noticed a difference in the 5-foot-11 tailback’s performance.

“He hasn’t really shown any indication of being worn out or worn down at all,” he said. “Even on a Tuesday, he bounces back. I guess that’s the good thing about being 19 or 20 years old.” Continue reading

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UCLA freshman Nate Starks credits Paul Perkins for guidance

UCLA is not a team accustomed to using true freshmen in the backfield.

Last year, linebacker Myles Jack pulled double duty and rushed for 267 yards and seven touchdowns in just four games. But before that, the last Bruin tailback to play without needing redshirt year was Malcolm Jones in 2010.

This fall, UCLA has deployed another newbie in Nathan Starks, who has touched the ball 21 times for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It isn’t much, but as the only full-time back on the roster listed above 200 pounds — 5-foot-11, 205 — the Colorado native gives position coach Kennedy Polamalu a different type of prospect to mold.

That process has involved a guiding hand from redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins, who recently became the 13th Bruin to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

“Paul is actually one of the first running backs I got close and talked to when I got here,” Starks said. Continue reading

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Paul Perkins thanks offensive line after becoming 1,000-yard rusher

As Paul Perkins walked out of the UCLA locker room this week, a reporter joked to him: “You can’t say the words, ‘offensive line.’”

Perkins chirped back: “You can’t say ’1,000 yards.’”

Like many running backs, the Bruins’ redshirt sophomore has made a habit of thanking the big fellas in front of him for anything he does. During UCLA’s 17-7 win against then-No. 14 Arizona this past Saturday, Perkins became the 13th player in school history to cross 1,000 yards in one season.

He stuck true to form: “They do a great job of blocking up front. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”

Perkins needed just two carries against the Wildcats to reach his big moment, and finished with 21 for 78 yards. He now sits second in the Pac-12 with 1,074 yards on the season.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know I got off the sideline and someone told me I got to 1,000,” he said.

Naturally, it was an offensive lineman who broke the news.

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UCLA relies on defense in close win over No. 14 Arizona

UCLA’s defense swallows up Arizona receiver Austin Hill in a 17-7 win at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

» UCLA’s defense put together its best showing yet in a 17-7 win over No. 14 Arizona. The Bruins will need more of that to stay in the Pac-12 South race.
» What was billed as a shootout turned into a gritty game, one that saw quarterback Brett Hundley run the ball 24 times.
» Notebook on Paul Perkins joining the 1,000-yard club, the Bruins’ first red-zone miss, and bowl representatives.

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