Miss and Hit for Keyes

Times Staff Writer

Dennis Keyes didn’t let one missed tackle ruin his day.

The UCLA sophomore free safety was in position to bring down Oklahoma receiver Travis Wilson on a reverse early in the first quarter Saturday when things quickly went awry.

Keyes went sprawling to the Rose Bowl turf, leaving Wilson with a clear path to the end zone and a 56-yard touchdown.

“I forgot about that immediately,” Keyes said afterward. “I made a mistake and I didn’t want to keep thinking about it the rest of the day.”


So, like a fearsome slugger who had struck out in his first at-bat, Keyes tried again and connected twice to help propel the Bruins to a 41-24 victory over the No. 21 Sooners.

Keyes forced two momentum-shifting fumbles that led to 10 points for UCLA, which scored 17 points off three Oklahoma turnovers. The Sooners also fumbled a punt return.

Keyes’ first big play came late in the first quarter when he popped the ball out of Sooner tailback Adrian Peterson’s hands. Defensive end William Snead recovered at the Oklahoma 34-yard line, and UCLA drove for a field goal that gave it a 10-7 lead.

“I was just looking to wrap him up,” Keyes said. “I wasn’t looking to get anything big. I put my hat on the ball and caused a fumble.”

Then, with the Sooners backed up deep in their own territory early in the third quarter, Keyes blitzed from the left side and leveled quarterback Rhett Bomar, sending the ball bouncing to the turf. UCLA linebacker Spencer Havner scooped it up and ran 13 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bruins a 20-10 advantage.

“I was just looking to make sure he didn’t get a pass off,” Keyes said. “When I hit him, I knew immediately it was a fumble. It felt great.”

Said Havner, whose touchdown was the fourth of his career: “It gave us the spark we needed. A really big play by Dennis Keyes.”

Keyes was not the only standout on a defense that limited All-American Peterson to 58 yards in 23 carries. Tackle Brigham Harwell made three tackles for loss and tipped several passes at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Justin London had nine tackles. And strong safety Jarrad Page had eight tackles, including a sack.

“We knew they came in here thinking that this is a soft football team, a team that will quit when it gets down,” Page said of Oklahoma. “We’re just the opposite.”

The Bruins’ most impressive stand came late in the second quarter after Oklahoma had attained first and goal at the Bruin three. After a penalty moved the Sooners back 10 yards and Bomar completed a short pass, strong coverage in the secondary forced the quarterback to throw the ball out of the end zone for an incompletion.

Harwell sacked Bomar for an 11-yard loss on third down, forcing Oklahoma to settle for a 37-yard field goal. UCLA still led, 13-10.

Keyes, who moved into the starting lineup when sophomore Chris Horton sustained a wrist injury in preseason camp, kept the defensive momentum going when he knocked the ball out of Bomar’s hands on the Sooners’ opening possession of the second half.

“They were two great plays,” UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said of Keyes’ forced fumbles. “Those are the types of plays you make in a game the caliber of the game like we had today.”