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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 25, 2004

Warriors' Owens owns UAB

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Alabama at Birmingham punter Parker Mullins learned in dramatic fashion that it's best to keep punts away from Hawai'i returner Chad Owens.

UH's Chad Owens surveys the field after catching a long pass from Tim Chang in the first quarter. The reception set up a touchdown.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mullins got an on-field glimpse of Owens when the senior All-American returned his punt for a 59-yard touchdown in Hawai'i's 59-40 victory in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl yesterday at Aloha Stadium.

Owens finished with three touchdowns, including scoring receptions of 13 and 15 yards from quarterback Tim Chang.

"I don't think we've ever faced someone that dangerous," Mullins said. "His feet are so quick. He can cut on a dime. He's a great all-around player. I'll be looking forward to seeing him at the next level."

Sparked by Owens, Hawai'i won its final four games, including its last three regular-season games to earn an invitation to yesterday's bowl game. It was the first time Hawai'i finished a season with a four-game winning streak under coach June Jones.

In his final three games, Owens caught 30 passes for 552 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also scored on two punt returns during that span. He finished yesterday with eight catches for 114 yards, and five punt returns for 90 yards.

"It's been a blessing," Owens said of the season. "I can't ask for anything more."

"Chad has been unbelievable these last three games," Jones said. "He's really a hard worker. He's a very talented player. He'll go to the NFL and everybody will think he's too small again, and he'll have to fight through it again. But he'll play."

Yesterday, Mullins became the fifth punter to be victimized by Owens this season. In the third quarter, Owens fielded Mullins' 47-yard punt at the Hawai'i 41, raced to the left sideline, slipped a tackle and scored for a 42-26 Hawai'i lead.

On his next attempt, Mullins purposely booted a 30-yard punt that sailed out of bounds at the Hawai'i 45. The kick was greeted by a chorus of boos from the UH crowd.

"That was intentional," Mullins said of the out-of-bounds punt. "After we saw what he could do, we didn't want him to touch the ball the rest of the night. We should have been doing that all night."

In the second quarter, Owens highlighted a six-play, 75-yard drive by catching three consecutive passes — including a 13-yard touchdown grab — for a 28-16 Hawai'i lead.

"Chad is awesome," Chang said. "He got zone coverage. He really (juked) the defender really hard, and he hit that post. He was wide open."

In the third quarter, Owens caught a 15-yard touchdown pass for a 35-26 Hawai'i lead. On the play, Chang rolled right and found Owens open against man-to-man coverage in the right corner of the end zone.

"He had to wind it back outside and he did another great job of going over the top and making another great play," Chang said.

"I did what I could to help my team win," Owens said. "Everyone did their job. I'm happy to be a part of it. I appreciate everything coach Jones has done for me, as well as the other coaches. It's been an unbelievable experience. I'll never forget it."

Owens, a former walk-on, will leave Hawai'i with a slew of single-season school records, including most points (132), receptions (102), touchdowns (22), punts returned for touchdowns (5) and punt return yards (531).

As for UH career records, he's tops in all-purpose yardage (5,461), receptions (239), punt return yardage (1,014) and punts returned for touchdowns (6). His 38 career touchdowns tied the record.

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2458.