By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford sophomore wide receiver Ty Montgomery might be closer to returning to action and could make an appearance as early as Saturday when the 19th-ranked Cardinal hosts Washington State in a Pac-12 Conference North Division football game. Kickoff is 3:15 p.m.
Even should Montgomery return to the lineup, Stanford coach David Shaw figures to keep Jamal-Rashad Patterson in the loop after impressive performances in Montgomery's place the past two weeks.
"He was our best blocker last game," Shaw said of Patterson. "That's first and foremost the most important thing. He also made a nice catch."
Patterson has caught seven passes for 119 yards, including one for a touchdown. Montgomery is third on the team with 18 receptions and 168 yards but has yet to catch a touchdown pass this season.
Patterson is a senior, while Montgomery still has an upside.
"You see the talent," Shaw said. "He's running by everybody that we've played. He's dropped a couple of balls, but he's made a lot of plays. He's on that cusp of being a really good football player."
Montgomery announced himself to the world when he caught five passes for 87 yards in last year's wild overtime victory over USC. He took over for an injured Chris Owusu and made several key plays, including one in which he had never practiced.
Andrew Luck remembered calling the play, a hook-and-ladder that also involved Jeremy Stewart, and looking over at Montgomery just to be sure they were on the right page.
"Chris has taught me a lot about footwork and accelerating," Montgomery said afterward. "Sometimes he doesn't have to say anything. When you watch him, you can learn a lot."
Montgomery scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 96-yard kickoff return that ended Stanford's 44-14 victory over Washington State last year.
"With Patterson and Montgomery, the combination is solid," Shaw said. "The whole group is developing nicely and we will keep pushing it. Drew Terrell has also been playing well."
The majority of the passing offense continues to go through tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, who have combined for six of the team's 10 touchdown passes. Ertz leads Stanford (3-1, 5-2) with 31 catches and 505 yards.
Stepfan Taylor, who needs 123 yards for his third consecutive season of at least 1,000 rushing yards, has 21 catches, second on the team.
Even as Taylor continues to climb Stanford's all-time rushing lists, he remains unknown to many people.
"The people that talk about him the most are the NFL scouts," Shaw said. "He just gets yards, in a Maurice Jones-Drew type of a way where you say, he's not as fast as this guy, or not as big as this guy, and you look at the production, all the ways he gets production, there's not a whole lot of spread runs."
Taylor is coming off a career best 189 yards in last week's 21-3 victory over California in the 115th annual Big Game. When he gave Stanford the early lead, even Shaw was a little impressed.
"On his touchdown run, we didn't even block the backside defensive lineman," Shaw said. "He made him miss, and made the linebacker miss and ran for a touchdown."
Taylor has 3,616 career rushing yards, second most in school history. He needs 417 yards and seven carries to match Darrin Nelson for the top spot in each category.
"What I really love about him, is there's no one thing that he does well; he does everything well: draw, zone, gap schemes, powers, counters, it doesn't matter," Shaw said. "Pass blocking. I think he's the best pass blocking running back in our conference. It's also the unassuming way he goes about his work that adds to how special he is."
Fullback Ryan Hewitt said Taylor doesn't need much to find a hole.
"It's great, because I know if I can get my guy out of his way, and give him an extra yard on the edge, he'll make something special happen," Hewitt said. "It's happened time and time again."
Cardinal quarterback Josh Nunes offered his thoughts on another aspect of Taylor's talent; his durability.
"The guy is a workhorse," Nunes said. "We know we can rely on him any point in the game. He always gives everything he's got. It's a testament to the work he does in camp and summer workouts. He's a guy who always spends extra time in the weight room."
NOTES: Senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy was was named a semifinalist for the 2012 Collegiate Butkus Award, which annually honors the top linebackers in the nation at the professional, collegiate and high school levels . . . Stanford is 4-0 at home this season and is riding a six-game win streak in Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal has won at home in 17 of its past 18 games . . . Stanford has won four straight over WSU (0-4, 2-5) by an average margin of 31 points . . . Stanford comes into the game with the Pac-12's top-ranked rushing defense (No. 4 in the NCAA) with an average of just 77 rushing yards allowed each game. The Cougars, meanwhile, have the conference's worst running game, averaging just 40.6 yards an outing. WSU throws the ball more than 71 percent of the time.n