Owusu looks for encore when No. 10 Stanford hosts Washington
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Francis Owusu has generated quite a bit of attention for a backup wide receiver.
That’s what making one of the most spectacular catches in recent memory will do.
Owusu’s week since his no-look, pin the ball on the defender’s back touchdown catch against UCLA has been a whirlwind. There were countless congratulatory texts and Twitter shout outs, an ESPN Sports Science segment and a feature on ESPN’s Big Man on Campus segment.
”It’s surreal,” Owusu said. ”It’s surreal just to see your name up there on ESPN. I’m just taking it all in and enjoying the moment.”
Owusu will get his next chance at an encore Saturday night when the 10th-ranked Cardinal (5-1, 4-0 Pac-12) host Washington (3-3, 1-2).
Owusu celebrated the catch by staying up until about 5 a.m. finishing a paper for a communications class. He got a text message from his big brother, Chris, who starred at Stanford and is now playing in the NFL with the New York Jets. It said simply: ”Excellent catch.”
That doesn’t begin to describe the play. Christian McCaffrey took a direct snap and handed the ball to Bryce Love on a jet sweep. Love the flipped the ball to quarterback Kevin Hogan, who had lined up as a receiver on the play.
Hogan set himself in the backfield and threw deep to Owusu. Despite being interfered with by a face-guarding Jaleel Wadood in the end zone, Owusu still managed to trap the ball against Wadood’s back while not even being able to see it.
”I kind of had an idea of where it was going to land and from there instincts took over,” Owusu said. ”I just put my arms out where I thought it would land and I was able to catch it. Once I caught it, I wasn’t going to let go.”
Owusu held on for the score and coach David Shaw still doesn’t quite understand how it happened.
”I’m still in a state of disbelief,” Shaw said. ”I don’t know how he did it. … It’s just phenomenal.”
As good as the catch was, the player Washington will need to stop is McCaffrey, who leads the nation with 253 all-purpose yards per game and rushed for a school-record 243 yards and four TDs last week.
”That guy, he’s amazing,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. ”They’re going to get the ball in his hands and he’s good.”
Here are a few other things to watch when Washington visits Stanford:
STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH: The Cardinal have averaged 45 points per game over the past five contests. They will face the Pac-12’s top defense in terms of points and yards allowed this week. The Huskies have had success despite losing seven starters from last year, including four players chosen in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
QB UNCERTAINTY: The Huskies head into the game with questions about who will play quarterback after starter Jake Browning left last week’s loss to Oregon with an apparent right shoulder injury. If Browning can’t go, the Huskies would be forced to use either K.J. Carta-Samuels or Jeff Lindquist.
NIGHT OWLS: Stanford is getting the hang of playing late-night games. The 7:30 p.m. PDT start will mark the fourth straight game and fifth out of the past six that has started at 7 p.m. or later. The Cardinal have made the most of it, using the extra time on game day to do a walkthrough at the hotel that has helped reduce mental mistakes.
”I love playing under the lights,” cornerback Ronnie Harris said. ”Being able to go back to back with these night games has gotten us into a rhythm.”
SLOW STARTS: The Huskies have scored only 10 points in the first quarter this season and have often been forced to play from behind. They got a field goal against Utah State and a TD against California but nothing else to Petersen’s dismay.
”I don’t know why there are certain trends that certain teams kind of get into, whether they’re fast-starting teams or halftime teams,” he said. ”We haven’t put our finger on that, but we’ve certainly got to try to do better out of the gate on offense.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.