STANFORD — The challenge for Stanford's struggling offense just got a little more difficult this week.
The Cardinal will be without top playmaker Ty Montgomery for the regular-season finale at No. 9 UCLA on Friday. Cardinal coach David Shaw said Montgomery will sit out with a right shoulder injury but is hopeful to return for the team's bowl game.
The wide receiver and All-American kick returner was injured in the first quarter of Stanford's 38-17 win at California last Saturday when he was tackled hard by two defenders after a 14-yard catch. It's the second time in the last year that an injury to Montgomery's right shoulder has sidelined him.
The NFL prospect had surgery on his shoulder in February after playing with the injury part of last season. The recovery process sidelined him in the spring and limited him for most of summer workouts, leaving his status in doubt until about two weeks before the season opener against UC Davis.
Shaw said Tuesday that it's a different injury in the same shoulder. He did not elaborate.
Montgomery will certainly be missed against the Bruins (9-2, 6-2), who are trying to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game out of the South Division and keep their renewed national championship hopes alive. Stanford has the lowest scoring offense in the conference, averaging just 25.2 points, and Montgomery has been the unit's biggest bright spot.
The senior leads the Cardinal (6-5, 4-4) with 61 catches for 604 yards and three touchdowns. He has run for 144 yards and a score on 23 carries, and he has returned two punts for TDs.
Montgomery also is averaging 25.2 yards returning kickoffs and has taken snaps as a wildcat quarterback in most games.
“I think he covers more ground than anybody in college football between punt return, kickoff return, running and receiving,” Shaw said, adding that the staff has aggressively monitored Montgomery's minutes. “I was actually asked by a scout going through the offensive film that he didn't technically start the game. But I said, 'A lot of times it's after kickoff return and he just got hit by three guys. So we take him out and make sure he's OK.'”
Shaw said Francis Owusu and Jordan Pratt will receive more playing time in Montgomery's absence alongside regulars Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector. Kelsey Young and Christian McCaffrey will return kickoffs, and Barry Sanders and McCaffrey will field punts against UCLA.
What the absence means for Montgomery beyond the finale is unclear. Shaw stressed that Montgomery should be able to play in a December bowl game, but he also won't risk his outgoing playmaker's future for one game.
Montgomery is projected to be as high as a second-round pick in the NFL draft.
Stanford center Graham Shuler said Montgomery seemed to be dealing more with the mental anguish of being sidelined than any physical pain when he walked up to him during Monday's practice.
“He was like, 'I just don't know what to do with myself.' He's like, 'I want to be out there making a play and I want to be out there doing something,'” Shuler said. “I was like, 'Ty, one thing that's really cool, man, you can look at this as a blessing or not, but you've got some forced time here to leave a strong impact on a lot of the young guys and a lot of the guys who are going to have to step in for you next year and are going to have to take on a role for you.'
“We talked about that a little bit, how he can really take advantage of some of this time to pour into those guys study habits and training habits and stuff like that. Ty's going to do whatever he can to impact this game.”