Stanford's Taylor continues to be reliable

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Stepfan Taylor is a game-changer. It's just that he changes games so incrementally over the course of 60 minutes that you never realize he's been the deciding factor until well after the final whistle.

It's that steady, understated performance that the Stanford coaching staff is counting on as they prepare for Saturday's game against Oregon.

"He's been our bell cow each week this season and I don't see it being any different this week," said offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. "We're going to find ways to get him the football and absolutely give him a chance to run between the tackles and let him do what he does best, which is get positive yards and make good plays."

Positive yards -- therein lies the secret to Taylor's success this season. Of the 903 yards he's gained, he's netted 891. He has just one negative rushing play in his past five games. If he's going to get the ball 15-20 times, as expected this week, that's going to be critical against a team like Oregon, which averages more than 7.5 tackles for a loss per game.

Over the past four games, Taylor is averaging 108 yards per game and 6.8 yards per carry. He has three rushing touchdowns to go with a 27-yard touchdown reception. Right now, as it has been all season, things are clicking for Taylor chunks at a time.

"It's the game plan and the offensive line," said Taylor. "They are blocking it. I trust in them that the holes are going to be there and they are. It's the same thing I've been doing all season."

But it's not just Taylor. It's a complement of running backs that includes Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, Jeremy Stewart and fullbacks Ryan Hewitt and Geoff Meinken.

"We're going to play all of our backs like we usually do," said head coach David Shaw. "He's our steady guy that does it all right. Running the ball, pass protection, he does everything right. But we're going to utilize all of our personnel. The backs are going to be huge in this game both as runners and pass protectors. They are going to have a big say in whether we win or lose."

Taylor has also seen an uptick in his receiving production the past four games. In the first five games of the season, quarterback Andrew Luck targeted Taylor eight times for eight catches, 53 yards and no touchdowns. In the past four, Luck has looked to Taylor 11 times and he has 10 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Heading into Saturday, Taylor said he likes Stanford's chances because of what they went through two weeks ago against USC.

"We needed that game -- especially the three overtimes and then being able to come back," he said. "Oregon has fast defensive linemen and linebackers like USC, so we learned a lot from that game. The coaches will have a good game plan in place and they will stick to what got us here."

Meaning, give it Taylor and let him change the game one play at a time.