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Originally published Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 7:59 PM

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Stanford's Chris Owusu returns opening kickoff for touchdown

Huskies allow dangerous returner to take kick back 91 yards for touchdown on game's first play

Seattle Times staff reporter

Latest from the Husky Football & Basketball blogs


STANFORD, Calif. — When the Washington Huskies opened the season against Louisiana State and its dangerous returner, Trindon Holliday, UW coaches played it safe, kicking the ball away from him.

But Saturday, the Huskies kicked the ball to Cardinal's Chris Owusu, who already had two returns for touchdowns this season and came in leading the nation in kickoff return average at 52.8.

Owusu took the kick at his own 9-yard line, found a seam, and quickly darted through the middle of the field essentially untouched for a touchdown to put Stanford up 7-0 just 10 seconds into the game.

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said the kick was supposed to go to the left but instead went to the right.

"I thought we had a good plan where we were going to kick the ball deep," he said. "Unfortunately, we called a deep left kick and we kicked it to the right and our coverage was running left and he was on the other side.

"So whether that was a miscommunication or not, I'm not sure. I just know our guys were covering one side of the field and we kicked it to the other."

Owusu's third return for a touchdown tied him for the Pac-10 season record with USC's Anthony Davis in 1974 and UCLA's Matthew Slater in 2007.

It also meant that Stanford had scored a TD on its opening possession in all four games this season.

It was also the second straight game that UW won the toss and elected to defer and then saw the opponent score. Last week, USC drove for a TD on its first drive.

The Huskies learned their lesson from there as they kicked it short on their following kickoffs of the first half, not allowing Owusu to get the ball.

Owusu is a sophomore from Oaks Christian High in Southern California, the same school as heralded UW commit Nick Montana, a quarterback who has said he will sign with the Huskies as part of the Class of 2010.

No waiting around

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The Huskies scored a rather strange touchdown late in the first quarter when cornerback Justin Glenn returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown.

He did so with no opposition from the Stanford players, who assumed the play was an incomplete pass. The play unfolded as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck tried to evade pressure and then threw on the run, behind him, to an unsuspecting receiver, tight end Jim Dray.

The ball bounced off Dray and near the sidelines where Glenn picked it up, and after initially hesitating, began running at the insistence of teammate Mason Foster.

"I was guarding someone else and I saw the ball thrown and I was going to go for the interception," he said. "It bounced off and I picked it up and I was honestly going to hand it to the ref and I looked at the ref and he looked at me and I saw, 'Oh, the play wasn't dead' and took off running.

"I looked over and half the guys were standing there, so I was like, 'Hold up, what's going on' and I didn't hear any whistles and kind of kept looking at the ref and Mason said, 'Let's go,' and took off running and there I was."

Glenn's TD tied the score at 7-7.

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh argued that it was a forward pass, not a lateral.

"When he threw it, it felt like it was forward," Harbaugh said. "It caught us all by surprise. It was a gift TD, basically."

Injury report

The Huskies appeared to suffer only one injury as linebacker E.J. Savannah sat out the second half with planter fasciitis in his foot. Sarkisian said he didn't know the severity of the injury.

Cort Dennison filled in for Savannah and finished with eight tackles.

Guard Senio Kelemete also left the game for a little bit in the second half with cramping.

Rankings talk

The Huskies were ranked No. 24 in the AP poll but will certainly fall out now.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, said he thinks the Cardinal deserves to be in.

"Yeah, I do," he said. "When I vote [Sunday], I'll vote Stanford in the top 25."

Roster moves

A Pac-10 road game meant that for the first time this year the Huskies had to pare their roster to the conference limit of 64.

Among those who made the trip were a couple of true freshmen who weren't expected to see action this year — QB Keith Price and safety Nathan Fellner. Price is likely to make every trip as the team's No. 3 quarterback.

Fellner saw his first action on the kickoff team that opened the game. He is one of nine true freshmen to see action for UW this year. Fellner also played on the kickoff return team.

Crichton, Trufant

get starts

Two true freshmen started on defense — end Talia Crichton and cornerback Desmond Trufant. It was the first start for Trufant, who has displaced Vonzell McDowell Jr. Crichton also started last week.

Crichton started again in place of injured Darrion Jones and Kalani Aldrich.

But when Stanford began running at will in the first half the Huskies used Jones and another true frosh, Andru Pulu, to try to stop it.

The moves seemed to have little effect in the first half, however, as Stanford had 194 yards rushing at the break with Toby Gerhart accounting for 156 on 13 carries, which included a 60-yard TD run.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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