Still More Notes & Quotes: UW @ Stanford

With the somewhat surprising surge from UW, Saturday's match-up has attracted more than the usual amount of interest from the local media. The Bootleg's Scott Cooley was on the scene at Tuesday's jam-packed weekly press lunch and has another batch of comments from Coach Harbaugh, QB Andrew Luck, OT Allen Smith, and RB Toby Gerhart.

Notes and Quotes: Washington @ Stanford


Best of the Bay?


Heisman hype surrounds Cal's Jahvid Best, and rightfully so. If the Bears don't have this all-world playmaker, the team loses to mediocre Big 10 opponent Minnesota last Saturday. Much like what DeSean Jackson was to the team when he roamed Berkeley, this squad's success hinges on the performance of Best.


However, there may be a new Bay Area candidate creeping up the Heisman watch list. Stanford sophomore sensation Chris Owusu has recovered from a right MCL tear, suffered right before the start of the 2008 season, without missing a step. #81 has been simply electric in the first three games and has accounted for one-third of the Cardinal's offensive touchdowns this season.


Comparing the two players, Best ranks No. 15 in the nation in all-purpose yardage at 163.0 per game while Owusu is close behind, ranking No. 17 with 161.0 ypg. Best has registered five more touchdowns than Owusu, but Owusu has touched the ball 41 fewer times than Best.


It appears Best will be exclusively used in the running and passing game, while Owusu adds a third dimension to his repertoire by returning kickoffs. The former high school sprint star, who has run a "Best-esque" 10.3 100 meters, is currently No. 1 in the country in kickoff return average, posting 52.8 yards a clip.


"It's all due to my coaching staff and credit also goes to my blockers who are doing a great job opening holes for me," said Owusu. "Those guys work their butts off every time Coach Durkin tells them to. They even go into extra film study time to go through what their assignments are and it is helping us a lot."


Coach Harbaugh has also been impressed with Owusu's growth as a person and player over the past year. But he is quick to say there are improvements to be made and that Owusu has not "arrived" just yet.


"As far as his maturation, he's had a tremendous stride since the season ended last year until now," Harbaugh stated. "He's put himself in a position to be that kind of explosive player. He's tougher, stronger and more durable. Callous, built up to go across the middle, break tackles and run through arm contact. He's a more physical player than he was a year ago. He does give us an element that we haven't had around here in three years."


Locker Talk


Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh was gushing over Washington quarterback Jake Locker during the team's Tuesday press conference. When prompted for a comparison, he likened Locker to Vince Young when he was at Texas (a comparison with which this Bootleg writer doesn't wholeheartedly agree).


In three games, Locker has completed 63-of-105 pass attempts for 811 yards and five TDs. He has only thrown one interception and has also rushed for a pair of scores.


"Their quarterback Jake Locker, I've always been a huge fan of his," Harbaugh said. "His competitiveness and athletic ability, and he's taken it to a higher notch this year. He's played much more under control, getting the ball to the playmakers that they've developed at the receiver position and at running back."


INT Rewind


Coach Harbaugh mentioned on Tuesday that if he could do it over again, he would have called a different play than the one that resulted in Andrew Luck's fourth interception of the season.


"I really would have loved to have that one back as a play-caller," he said. "I didn't feel like that was a good call and then he forced the ball, but man that was a heck of a tackle. Picture-perfect form, some of the defensive coaches were asking for him on that side of the ball next week (sarcasm)."


Luck admitted that he was comfortable with the play call, but rather just did a bad job of managing the ball. He was also impressed with the tackle.


"I wish I wouldn't have had to make it, but I had a little frustration to let out," Luck said. "I just had to get the guy down. Throwing a pick is bad enough, but I couldn't let the guy go 70 yards for a touchdown!"


Coaching Connection


Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian served as the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach during the 2004 season. He took over the job that Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh occupied for the Raiders from 2002-03.


During Harbaugh's tenure in Oakland, he mentored Marques Tuiasosopo who starred at Washington for four years. At the expense of the Cardinal in October of 1999, Tuiasosopo became the only player in NCAA history to throw for more than 300 yards and rush for more than 200 yards in the same game as the Huskies defeated Stanford 35-30 in Seattle.


The Return of Allen Smith


The much-anticipated return of sixth-year offensive tackle Allen Smith came in the Cardinal's home opener on Saturday. The PA announcer blasted his arrival over the loudspeaker during the third quarter and the 6-4, 300-pound lineman entered the game to a raucous reception from the crowd.


Allen estimated that he got in on "10 or 12 plays" in his first action since 2007. He recounted his emotions coming onto the field as well as his first play of the game.


"Honestly, I really don't have the words to describe it," he said. "It was a mix of relief, absolute joy, a little nervousness, but really just elated to finally make it back on the field. Stepping out there was truly special for me.


"The very first play was actually a little disappointing. I was supposed to have the lead block on the defensive end and he dropped into coverage so I had to run after him. Well, Coby Fleener ended up blocking him so I was out there with really no one to block. Then I turned around and saw that we had fumbled the ball so I got to in and make a tackle and that was exciting."


Allen said that his road to recovery has been arduous, but expects to keep increasing his playing time in hopes of being full strength very soon.


"I could potentially be playing as early as next week," Allen stated. "My plan is to keep increasing my participation as much as the coaches feel it is necessary. Coach [Greg] Roman has done an excellent job of making sure that I'm getting my work in without compromising my health. My health has held up and I am feeling very spry, very bouncy."


Respecting the Competition


Huskies defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is one of the premier pass-rushers in the Pac-10. Coach Harbaugh and his players are very cognizant of the talent the senior possesses.


"I don't want to butcher his name, but he shows up on film a lot," said Luck.


"Daniel Te'o will be the best player we've seen this year defensively," Harbaugh said. "He and their two outstanding linebackers have been contributing to the team's very aggressive style of defense."


Memory Loss


In last year's tilt with Washington, stud running back Toby Gerhart was sandwiched by a safety and linebacker after catching a slow-arriving screen pass in the first quarter. The result of the tackle was a concussion and sidelined Gerhart for the remainder of the contest.


Gerhart said it wasn't the first concussion of his career, but it was the first of time he had blacked out for extended period of time.


"That was probably the weirdest thing I've ever been involved with. I didn't remember the play at all and the first thing I remember [from that game] is that it was a couple of minutes before halftime and I was wondering, ‘where did all the time go and where did all the points come from'. Everybody said I was laughing and talking on the sideline, but I don't have any recollection of that."

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