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Monday, November 21, 2011
Stanford news and notes

By Kevin Gemmell

STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor finds himself in some pretty elite company.

With 1,036 rushing yards this season, he becomes the 10th back in Stanford history to go for more than 1,000 yards. He's also just the third back in school history to go for 1K in consecutive seasons, joining Darrin Nelson (three times) and Toby Gerhart (twice). In total, six backs have accounted for the 10 1,000-yard seasons.

"I think he's been phenomenal," said Stanford head coach David Shaw. "Especially when you take into account that we are rotating backs. He's our leader. He's our starting running back. But we're going to play those other guys. (Tyler) Gaffney has been playing really well. (Anthony) Wilkerson came in (against Cal) and had some great runs.

"We'll keep feeding Stepfan the ball. Through all the rotations, the kid just does everything right in pass protection and does everything right in the running game and does everything when he goes out on routes ... the guy does nothing wrong."

Background noise

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has nothing against loudspeakers -- just what they have to say. Luck heard the announcement in the Stadium Saturday night that USC had beaten Oregon. And he wasn't a fan.

"I hate hearing that stuff during a game," Luck said. "I don't think it has any bearing. I think younger guys might get trapped into thinking not in the correct manner. I think we have a mature enough guys that it doesn't matter. What I think about it? Yeah, I wouldn't want to hear it."

Building a dynasty?

Stanford is 21-3 at home over the last four years (88 percent) which is the best four-year stretch in school history. Winning 30 games in a three-year span is also a school best.

Stanford will go to a bowl game for the third consecutive season -- the Cardinal have done that only once before, going to three-straight Rose Bowls in 1933-1935.

The Gatewood impact

Wide receiver recruit turned defensive back turned wide receiver turned back to defensive back Corey Gatewood is starting to make his presence felt in the secondary.

The fifth-year senior had three tackles and broke up a pass in his most action this season since switching back to the defensive side of the ball midway through the year.

"He's a special athlete that truly can play at the next level," Shaw said. "We thought we needed him on offense, we switched him back over and he did some good things on offense and we needed him back on defense so we flipped him back over. And God bless him, he's been phenomenal for us. Just as far as being able to make the adjustment and come out and be able to perform."

Montgomery rising

Part of Gatewood's move back to defense has been because of the emergence of true freshman wide receiver Ty Montgomery. He's slowly been integrated into the offense, and with Chris Owusu out, he's become a starter. Shaw said the training wheels are off.

"He's drinking through a fire hose right now," Shaw said. "We have to play him. The guy can make some plays. He missed a couple (against Cal) but that's what you live with when you have a young, talented athlete."

Against Cal, Montgomery had 170 all-purpose yards, including three catches for 45 yards and a 34-yard rushing touchdown.

Ertz, maybe?

Tight end Zach Ertz might be back for the regular season finale against Notre Dame. He injured his knee on the opening kickoff against USC and has been out since.

"If this was the NFL, you'd say he's questionable for next week. He's going to get some work next week. He wants to play, bad. Hopefully we get him back next week."

Streaks ending

The Cardinal saw a couple of impressive streaks come to an end against Cal. No longer are they perfect in the red zone after kicker Jordan Williamson missed a field goal in the closing minute of the first half. Nor are they perfect on fourth-down conversions. Entering the game 11-of-11, Taylor couldn't convert on a fourth-and-2 early in the fourth quarter -- and actually ended up losing a yard.

Stanford is now 61-of-62 in the red zone (48 touchdowns) and 11-of-12 on fourth down.

Speaking of fourth down

Shaw was asked about his decision to kick a 35-yard field goal with 3:07 left in the game rather than trying to convert a fourth-and-2 at the Cal 17-yard line. The Williamson kick was true and put the Cardinal up 31-21.

"You gotta have faith in your players, you've got to," Shaw said. "Jordan showed us he was healthy. We missed a kick earlier in the game, but it was the right decision at that time -- to put the game away and make it a two-score game with less than three minutes to go. It's what you have to do. If it was fourth and inches, maybe we might have thought about something else. But in that situation it's the right call."