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UW-Stanford matches up-and-coming coaches

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Most already see Stanford's Jim Harbaugh as an up-and-coming coach, but consider this bit of coaching genius.

Harbaugh pulled receiver/return man Chris Owusu aside before the Cardinal played San Jose State last Saturday and gave him some simple instructions about what he wanted.

Yet, knowing that coaching instructions can sometimes bog a player down and cause him to think too much, Harbaugh made sure that Owusu's creativity as a playmaker wouldn't be stifled.

"I talked to Chris before the game and I said, 'Chris, we need three explosion plays in this game. You choose them. But we need three,' " Harbaugh said.

Owusu then went out and returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown -- his second score on a kickoff return this season -- caught a 23-yard TD pass and turned a short pass into a 24-yard gain in the Cardinal's 42-17 win.

Brilliant.

But Harbaugh, a perfectionist, thinks he can coach even better.

"Maybe I should ask for more next time," he said.

Speaking of sparkling young coaches, heard anything about this Steve Sarkisian guy lately? How's he doing at Washington?

Count Harbaugh a fan after watching the Huskies 16-13 win over USC last weekend.

"Just really impressed with the job they've done," he said.

Stanford, which plays host to the resurgent Huskies on Saturday, made plays from every angle against San Jose State: Owusu's scores in the return game and through the air; a pair of Toby Gerhart rushing TDs; a 23-yard interception return from Corey Gatewood; and a 48-yard punt return for a TD from Richard Sherman.

While giving up 17 points might not sound impressive, Stanford's defense held the Spartans to just 228 total yards and 24 yards rushing. Cardinal end Thomas Keiser recorded three of the Cardinal's six sacks.

After the second-half defensive struggles at Wake Forest, it was a solid showing.

Now the Cardinal turn their attention to the Huskies, which means slowing down quarterback Jake Locker, who's switched from a spread-option offense to a pro-style scheme without a hitch.

"It's not surprise, but just how much he continues to elevate his game is great for Washington -- a little scary for all of us who've got to play him," Harbaugh said.

Both teams are entertaining bowl hopes and likely see this as a critical game for achieving bowl eligibility. Stanford probably saw this one as close to a gimme during the preseason. No so much now.

As for Washington, it must avoid the proverbial letdown game after a monumental win.

Sarkisian said he immediately broached the topic with his team, and he believes his players got the message.

"I don't think it's been very difficult at all,'' he said. "Our kids understand that was a great win Saturday and I think they loved the feeling after that game of what it felt like to win a tight ball game in the fourth quarter when you keep doing things right and I think they would like to recreate that. The way to recreate it is through a great week of preparation.''

Preparation is important.

But here's a guess Harbaugh also may chat with Owusu again.