Dismiss Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery's physicality at your own peril. Montgomery may lead the Pac-12 with a whopping 32.5 yards per kick-return average, but he is no mere speedster.
"He is a tough guy, a heavy runner in the return game," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said. "A lot of those guys that are as dynamic as him you can maybe arm tackle, but that's not the case with him."
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Montgomery leads the team with 39 receptions for 619 yards and five touchdowns, more catches and yards than the next two Stanford receivers combined. Montgomery has been especially effective in the open field on screens and quickly developing routes that allow him to use his size and speed to break tackles and pick up yards after the catch.
In one memorable sequence in the season opener against San Jose State, Montgomery caught an 8-yard corner route, turned it up the field and broke through a tackle to score a 17-yard touchdown, knocking off the helmet of Spartans cornerback Jimmy Pruitt in the process.
Because of those attributes and the uncertain status of Stanford's No. 2 wide receiver Devon Cajuste because of a knee injury, Montgomery is likely to see plenty of top Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 185) on Thursday. Ekpre-Olomu plays his own physical brand of football
Ekpre-Olomu had nine tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass breakup in last season's 17-14 loss to Stanford, but he was unable to prevent tight end Zach Ertz from catching the touchdown that sent the game to overtime.
With the struggles of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan in recent weeks, getting Montgomery easy touches is likely to be a main focus for the Cardinal coaching staff. That could mean screens, short passes or reverses, though the occasional shot off play-action could be mixed in.
If Ekpre-Olomu can handle Montgomery by himself, that frees up an extra defender for Oregon to use in defending the run. If Montgomery wins, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti is going to have to take a safety out of the box and drop him back into coverage.
Montgomery is likely to be overshadowed by the matchups pitting the imposing Stanford front seven against the speedy Oregon offense or bruising Cardinal offensive line versus a deep Ducks defense, but he could be the one offensive player most likely to decide the much-anticipated game.