Beavers hope Owusu has few happy returns.
CORVALLIS - As much as Oregon State would like to often be kicking off today against Stanford, the Beavers know the perils associated with doing that.
On the receiving end of any kickoffs to the Cardinal is likely to be Chris Owusu, who leads the nation in returns with an average of 55.6 yards, including three of his seven returns taken all the way for touchdowns.
"A very explosive guy," OSU senior Tim Clark said of Owusu. "He's something special."
Owusu is already tied for the Pac-10 season record with his three kickoff returns for touchdowns, and only two away from the NCAA record. And that's with seven games left in the season.
Twice this season, Stanford games have opened with Owusu returning the kickoff for a touchdown and an immediate lead. That's been a definite factor in the Cardinal (4-1 overall, 3-0 in the Pac-10) trailing for only four minutes and 42 seconds of the 300 minutes Stanford has played.
"Stanford is one of the best (kickoff) return teams we've seen in a long time, maybe forever," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "They block it so well and they are coached well and (Owusu) is very, very good."
The Beavers (3-2, 1-1) might have the counter to that in their kickoff coverage unit. OSU ranks second in the nation in covering kickoffs, allowing returns for an average of 15.1 yards.
Cincinnati came to Corvallis last month with a deserved reputation for being dangerous on kickoff returns, then was held to an average of less than 21 yards on three returns against the Beavers.
Arizona fared no better, with a long return of 24 yards.
Then came last week at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils offered a kickoff return unit that was statistically among the nation's best. Against the Beavers, ASU had kickoff returns of 11, 20, 18, 14 and 10 yards, and its best field position out of those five returns was its own 23-yard line.
"We have a savage coverage unit," OSU freshman Jordan Poyer said. "We all take pride in every tackle we get."
Riley said "the thing we have done well is make good choices and we have played physically, and that's what kickoff coverage is all about.
"You can't run around blocks and take bad angles and open up (running) lanes."
Leave a crease for Owusu, and he's probably gone.
"They've got a real good return team," Clark said. "We've just got to attack it, plain and simple."
Riley said the OSU plan is to rely on its coverage against Owusu, but "we've also talked about some curveballs," which might mean kickoffs sent bouncing along the ground to throw off the timing of Stanford's return team, or even risking kickoffs that go out of bounds, which would allow Stanford to start a drive at its 40-yard line.
"Hopefully we'll have ample opportunity to use some curveballs (on kickoffs) in this game," Riley said, which would mean "kicking off enough that it's a factor."
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|Title Annotation:||Football College|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 10, 2009|
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