Record day for punt returner Dustin Harris
September, 23, 2012
By Sam Khan Jr. | ESPN.com
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTexas A&M's Dustin Harris averaged 30.7 yards per punt return vs. South Carolina State.It was a day that Dustin Harris won't soon forget.
There were several opportunities for big punt returns that Harris had, and took advantage of, steadily working his way to the inevitable: a touchdown.
The first one went 19 yards, the second, 33. The fourth return went for 25, the fifth and six for 35 yards apiece. Often, it seemed as if Harris was just one tackle away from scoring a touchdown on several of those returns.
"I would have to say the other seven (I thought were going to be touchdowns)," Harris said.
Finally, in the third quarter it happened. It might not have been a punt that special teams coordinator Brian Polian would have preferred Harris fielded -- one on a bounce at his own 4-yard line, but with several blocks and his impressive speed to spur him along, Harris was able to turn an 'Oh no,' into an 'Oh yes' and a 96-yard touchdown.
"I knew after catching the ball...that I had to make something happen," Harris said. "I got amazing blocks that set me free, then I had to use my speed. I had great blocks behind me as well. That touchdown goes to the whole special teams."
Last week against SMU, Harris and the punt return unit showed signs that improvements were being made and that big plays were in the making. Harris had six returns for 86 yards that day after opening the season with two returns for -5 yards against Florida. The coaching staff made changes on the punt return team after the first week and so far, it seems to be working.
"We challenged a group of guys after that first week and made some changes in the punt return unit," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "It started getting better a week ago at SMU....When you watch the video from a week ago there were some more opportunities last week. As a returner, you see guys that are working that hard for you and he became more confident too. Dustin gets a lot of credit, and he did a nice job with it, but there's also some guys out there working like crazy to block for him."
Harris averaged a whopping 30.7 yards per punt return on Saturday.
"I am going to remember this for the rest of my life," Harris said. "The punt return guys stepped it up this week. We knew what we had to do and we executed perfectly."