We know how good Andrew Luck has been this season. The more interesting question might be how good he could have been. Sure, his numbers would have been drastically inflated had he played in a spread offense, but that's not the change I'm thinking of. If things had gone differently in Palo Alto, Luck's record-setting season might have been even better than it was.
The bigger loss, obviously, was wide receiver Chris Owusu. As the fastest horse in the stable, Owusu was the big play threat who would stretch the field, opening up space in the middle of the defense for the tight ends and possession receivers like Ryan Whalen. Expectations were high, but Owusu's season resembled a pleasure cruise through the Bermuda Triangle. He missed the first two games with a suspected knee injury, was knocked out of the fifth game at Oregon, missed the seventh game against Washington State, then watched the final three games on crutches with an undisclosed injury.
Ryan Whalen, the starter on the opposite side of the field, also missed two games with an elbow injury. Even though Doug Baldwin emerged to become the team's most dependable wide receiver, it's impossible not to wonder what Luck might have accomplished if he had been playing with his full complement of weapons.
We got a glimpse of what might've been on the first Saturday of November when the Cardinal played what could've been its most important game of the season, a nationally-televised clash with the 7-1 Arizona Wildcats. With all of his receivers healthy, Luck put on a clinic. He completed 23 passes to nine different receivers, but the numbers that jumped out were Owusu's -- nine catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. Facing a team that had entered the game with the top defensive unit in the conference and one of the best in the nation, the Stanford offense tallied 42 points in a blowout victory and seemed poised to get even better.
Unfortunately, that was the last we've seen of Chris Owusu on the playing field. There was never an official report of his injury, and I haven't heard if we can expect to see him playing in the Orange Bowl. Either way, though, Andrew Luck will be there, and I'm sure that will be enough.
|Sac State||316/4 TDs||52||Owusu|
|ND||238/1 TD||37||R. Whalen|
|Oregon||341/2 TDs||31||R. Whalen, Owusu|
[Photo Credit: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated]