STANFORD, Calif. - One of the big questions prior to the season was how long it would take Stanford’s mostly untested wide receivers and tight ends to step up in the offense. Based on Saturday night’s strong showing against San Jose State, they’re off to a fast start.
Junior wide receivers Ty Montgomery and Devon Cajuste combined for seven receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-13 season-opening victory at Stanford Stadium. Additionally, tight ends Charlie Hopkins and Luke Kaumatule each caught their first career passes, as did wide receiver Jeff Trojan.
“We’re finally getting trust as a receiving core,” said the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Cajuste, who caught a 40-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Kevin Hogan on Stanford’s first possession to give the Cardinal a lead it would never relinquish. “We’re making a statement that we can throw the ball. Not only can we run but we can throw. So it’s really awesome to see everybody else get a piece of the ball.”
Cajuste said it’s imperative to keep opposing defenses honest.
“You can just run, run, run, but then all they have to do is stack the box, so you gotta keep them guessing,” he said. “We have so much depth and so much talent, that we can throw, run, run. You never know what’s coming.”
Last year, Cajuste caught one pass for seven yards. Saturday night, he finished with three catches for 62 yards.
“We’ve been practicing it,” said Cajuste of the touchdown. “We actually ran it last year in my first game against Oregon State. So when we called it again, Hogan and I knew we were going to make that play happen, so it was even more special when we connected.”
When the play was called in the huddle, Cajuste said he kept his cool and stayed focused.
“I stayed calm and relaxed,” he said. “I looked at it just like practice. You can’t get over-excited or else you might over-think it.”
Montgomery, hampered by a knee injury much of last season, looked like his old, explosive self. In the third quarter, he wouldn’t be denied on a 17-yard scoring toss from Hogan, bulling over Spartan cornerback Jimmy Pruitt at the 9-yard-line. Montgomery also had a 36-yard kickoff return.
“I don’t play this game for myself; I play this game for the rest of my teammates,” said Montgomery. “So I want to lay it all on the line for all those guys.”
Montgomery played in all 13 games as a freshman and caught 24 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned 27 kickoffs for 680 yards (25.2 yards per return) and one touchdown.
Last year, he hauled in 26 passes for 213 yards, but didn’t score. His mantra for 2013 is simple:
“Be aggressive, physical, fast and quick, but not in a hurry,” he said.
It showed on his touchdown Saturday night. Montgomery wouldn’t be denied.
“I tell myself if I get that close to the end zone, nobody is stopping me from crossing the goal line,” he said. “I caught the ball and had the will to get in there.”
Montgomery said he wasn’t nervous before the game, but wanted to show he is someone to contend with this year. All four catches came in the second half, including a 42-yarder on third down in the fourth quarter.
“Not really nerves, just anxiety to get started,” he said. “I knew what we could do as a team tonight, and I wanted to be able to put that on tape.”
To punctate his fresh start his year, Montgomery changed jersey numbers from 88 to 7.
“It really is just my mindset,” said Montgomery. “I have more confidence. I don’t have any worries, no fear about anything. I just go out there and play the game. I’ve got my teammates’ back and I know they have mine.”
Thanks to a fourth-quarter interception by junior free safety Ed Reynolds, Stanford extended its string of forcing a takeaway in a BCS-best 25-consecutive games.
“I didn’t know that,” said Reynolds. “That’s a great thing to know.
“As a defense as a whole, we come out every week, even in practice, trying to cause turnovers, whether it’s forcing a fumble or getting an interception. Today, from our preparation, I felt I knew (David) Fales’ tendencies a little better than I did last year and I took advantage of it.”
Inside linebacker Shayne Skov aided Reynols by blasting Fales just as he released the ball.
“I heard about it from Shayne afterward,” said a smiling Reynolds. “It was almost like a freebie.”
Much is expected of the defense this year, which returned eight starters. Reynolds, who pilfered a team-high six interceptions last year, viewed Saturday night’s game as a step in the right direction.
“We did what we always say: the first thing we focus on is stopping the run, which I think we did a very good job of,” said Reynolds, who made a team-high 12 tackles, nine unassisted. “I don’t know what their total yardage was, but it was under our goal. We didn’t give up any explosive plays, which is huge for this defense. That’s how we live.
“Just to show how hungry this defense is, we gave up 13 points and guys are upset. We definitely know there is so much more we can do and grow to become the elite defense we think we can be.”
Reynolds admitted it was tough starting the season a week later than almost team in the country.
“Watching all those games last weekend made this week so slow,” said Reynolds. “Guys were just chomping at the bit saying, ‘Let’s get to this game, let’s get to this game.’ Now we’re on a little run and hopefully we keep the momentum and keep improving.”
• Placekicker Jordan Williamson had a strong game, converting two-of-three field goals, the longest from 48 yards. He also had three touchbacks.
• Stanford did not punt in the game.
• Reserve quarterback Dallas Lloyd was in for two plays. He ran once for seven yards and fumbled a snap on the other, resulting in the only Cadinal turnover.
• Redshirt freshman running back Barry J. Sanders got his first collegiate carry late in the fourth quarter and gained two yards, drawing a big roar from the crowd.
• Ken Oliver and Angela Nomellini served as Stanford’s honorary captains.
• Just before kickoff, Stanford unveiled its new ribbon boards, which circle the inside of the stadium and provide up to date scores and statistics. By all accounts, they were a big hit.
• Quote of the game: “Big plays happened and there’s nothing really like it. It’s like a rager in the end zone.” - Stanford running back Tyler Gaffeny, who ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns after missing last season to play professional baseball.
-- #GoStanford --