Sports

Stanford's Owusu gets his kicks from returning the football

Sophomore wide receiver is the national leader in kickoff returns

Chris Owusu makes little ado about much. He says he just runs through the holes created by his blockers on the kickoff return team. Yeah, and John Elway was just another quarterback.

But to be fair, he'd like to take this opportunity to publicly name -- and praise -- the other 10 members of the return team which enabled him to run two kickoffs back for touchdowns this season and become the current national leader with his average of 52.80 yards per kickoff return.

Junior running back Jeremy Stewart is his receiving partner, and then there's senior defensive end Erik Lorig, senior fullback Josh Catron, senior defensive end Tom McAndrew, junior strong safety Austin Yancy, senior linebacker Will Powers, junior linebacker Chike Amajoyi, junior tight end Coby Fleener, junior linebacker Max Bergen and senior linebacker Nick Macaluso.

They'll be together again when Stanford (1-0, 2-1) hosts Washington (1-0, 2-1) in a duel for first place in the Pac-10 on Saturday at 6 p.m.

"We work a lot on it in practice," Owusu said. "They all do a great job. We work on individual assignment s together and game situations. Those guys work their butts off and they stay fir extra film study. It would be hard for me to believe there's another team that works as hard."

Menlo Park resident D.J. Durkin, who handles the defensive ends as well as coordinates the special teams, takes it as a personal affront if something goes wrong on his watch. Thanks to his efforts and the players whom make up the units, rarely do things run amiss.

"Those guys have an identity there," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said after Saturday's convincing 42-17 victory over San Jose State. "They love playing there."

Doug Baldwin has also returned a lengthy kickoff, going 64 yards against San Jose State in the fourth quarter. Richard Sherman has returned a pair of punts for 59 and 48 yards.

The Cardinal has started drives inside its own 20-yard line just four times, and started in plus territory on six occasions. The Huskies, in contrast, has started inside their own 20 11 times and in plus territory twice.

"That's due to the coaching staff and definitely the blockers," Owusu said. "We expect to put the offense in good field position."

Notes

The UCLA game will kickoff off at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 and will be televised on a regional basis . . . Washington wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty and strength coach Ivan Lewis both worked under Harbaugh for three years at the University of San Diego . . . Stanford fullback Owen Marecic played some on the defensive side of the ball and will continue to do so. "There's something about Owen that when you say he's a football player, it's tough to describe," Harbaugh said. "He has the instincts and ability to recognize what's going on. He recognizes plays as they develop."

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