By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Andrew Luck is already near the top of the list as one of Stanford's greatest quarterbacks, right there with Jim Plunkett, John Brodie, Frankie Albert and everyone else inbetween.
The next time Stanford wins a football game when he's the starting quarterback, Luck will become the school's winningest signal caller.
In just the fourth game of his third year as starter, Luck has led the sixth-ranked Cardinal to 24 wins, matching Steve Stenstrom's mark over a four-year period. Luck is 24-5 as Stanford's quarterback.
Win No. 24 arrived as Stepfan Taylor rushed for 112 yards and scored twice, Luck threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns and Stanford took care of business with a 45-19 victory over visiting UCLA in a Pac-12 Conference contest Saturday night.
"I think he's one of the most underrated backs in the nation," Stanford coach David Shaw said of Taylor. "All the guy does is get positive yardage. He's got great vision, great balance and he runs physical."
Coby Fleener caught four passes, two for touchdowns, for 78 yards as the Cardinal (4-0, 2-0) extended the nation's longest current winning streak to 12 games. Stanford will have a chance to match the school record when Colorado visits next Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. conference tilt.
The Cardinal defense took a hit, giving up 141 rushing yards and allowing a season-high in points. Stanford also took too many penalties. The least-penalized team in the Pac-12 entering play, the Cardinal was hit by seven penalties for 90 yards.
Stanford had been called for 11 penalties for 100 yards in its three previous games. In addition, the Cardinal defense had allowed 27 points and 108 total rushing yards before Saturday.
The game attracted 50,360 fans, the fifth sellout in the renovated Stanford Stadium and the first this year.
Stanford needed two plays to take a 24-7 lead in the third quarter, the scoring toss a 51-yard pass from Luck to a wide-open Fleener, who pulled away from his defender.
UCLA answered with its own scoring drive to pull within 24-13, converting a fourth down play. The PAT try sailed wide.
The Bruins forced Stanford to punt on two consecutive possessions but Ty Montgomery made UCLA pay dearly for an ill-advised decision on the second punt.
Bruins' Taylor Embree decided to try and run with the ball even as Montgomery and Jordan Richards were bearing down on him. Montgomery ripped the ball loose, Richards knocked it forward and Montgomery took possession of it.
Four plays later, Tyler Gaffney went 16 yards for the score after taking the snap. That made it 31-13 in the Cardinal favor.
After the Bruins scored to draw within 31-19, they went for a short kick, which only gave Stanford a short field and led to a Taylor 1-yard scamper.
If Shaw was trying to show off Luck's versatility on national television, early enough in the game for Heisman Trophy voters on the East Coast to get a good look, then he certainly accomplished that.
Luck directed a 99-yard scoring drive (119 yards of total offense because of two penalties) that lasted 8:08 of the first quarter in which he made a one-handed 13-yard reception, from Drew Terrell, and somehow remained inbounds. He also lined up as a wide receiver on a play in which Gaffney took the snap.
"There's about five positions the guy can play: receiver, tight end, outside linebacker," Shaw said of Luck. "We kind of like what he does at quarterback. We just put him in a position to make plays and he never disappoints."
The scoring play was an 18-yard toss to Fleener, who made the catch with one hand and, seemingly, swatted away the UCLA defender with the other.
"It's a lot of fun," Luck said. "Our coaches challenge us and we want to make it challenging on ourselves because I think it will play to our advantage."
The Bruins opened the game with an impressive drive of their own that stalled when quarterback Richard Brehaut was stopped a yard of the end zone on a fourth down play by David Parry, James Vaughters and A.J. Tarpley.
"That was a big play," Brehaut said. "If I find a way into the end zone it's a whole different ballgame."
Chase Thomas created another scoring opportunity, forcing a Brehaut fumble early in the second quarter. Stanford turned that into a Taylor three-yard scoring, his 20th career touchdown.
Jordan Williamson added a 23-yard field goal with less than three minutes left in the second quarter to help Stanford take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
NOTES: Taylor recorded his ninth career 100-yard rushing game, tying him for 10th, with Mike Mitchell, on the all-time list . . . Luck has 56 career touchdown passes, third in Stanford history. Only John Elway (77) and Stenstrom (72) have more . . . Shaw became the first coach to start his Stanford career 4-0 since Chuck Taylor in 1951 . . . The Cardinal has won three straight over UCLA for the first time since winning five in a row between 1925 and 1931.