STILLWATER – Todd Monken placed Josh Stewart among elite company Saturday.
After Stewart went off with 13 catches, 172 yards and two touchdowns and added another score on a reverse in OSU's 55-34 win over West Virginia, Monken copped to a game plan tilted on getting the sophomore receiver the football.
“It's like with Justin Blackmon, when you've got a good player, you've got to find ways to get it to him,” Monken said.
Like Blackmon? Has Stewart elevated himself to that level, the level of Blackmon, a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner?
Not so fast, Monken said, calling time out on that thought.
But for this team, in its current state of revolving quarterbacks and wounded receivers, Stewart is the closest thing to a go-to guy in the passing game.
And the Cowboys are going to him. Often.
“We're moving him around. We're trying like hell to get him the ball,” Monken said. “That's pretty obvious. We have certain things triggered for him. When you have a good player, they know it's coming, but you can't stop getting it to him.
“You can't just say, ‘Well, we can't.' No, you have to, because they're the guys who can make plays to help you win.”
Statistically at least, Stewart has elevated himself.
Only three Cowboys – Blackmon, Dez Bryant and Rashaun Woods – have posted better sophomore seasons for receiving yards than Stewart's 838 to date. That's elite company by any definition.
Stewart passed another great, Hart Lee Dykes, on Saturday. And he still has three games plus a bowl yet to play.
“We've got so many receivers down, we need receivers to step up,” Stewart said after matching his career high for catches and setting a personal high for yards. “When my number is called, I've got to make a play. That's motivation.”
Stewart leads the Cowboys in yards, receptions (69) and receiving yards per game (93.1).
Over the past four games, with Tracy Moore lost to injury and Isaiah Anderson rendered inefficient by injury, Stewart has totaled 40 catches for 473 yards.
“He's a good guy to get the ball to,” said Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf, who in his first start found repeated comfort in Stewart. “He was open a lot so I kept throwing the ball to him.”
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds and working out of the slot, Stewart hardly fits the prototype mold of a go-to guy. He takes some punishment, yet always manages to pop up and make another play.
“I would've thought by now he'd have broken down,” Monken said, “as much as we try to utilize him. He's a tough son of a gun.”
Twice in the last four games Stewart has hauled in 13 receptions in a game, even with defenses targeting him as the Cowboys' clear primary playmaker in the offense.
“It's all about the fight in you. It's not about the size,” Stewart said. “I've been about that all my life. And I think I'm doing a good job of proving that.”
Blackmon, on hand Saturday after playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, would surely agree.
Stewart said he got going Saturday on his touchdown run, a 46-yard scamper on OSU's first possession, taking a reverse around right end and down the sideline for the score.
“When something happens like that, I get real confident,” Stewart said. “Then when stuff comes my way, I tend to make plays. I was pretty pumped up after that play.”
And the Cowboys kept feeding him the ball.
And they'll keep feeding him the ball.
That, Monken said, is what you do with playmakers.
“So what if they know it,” Monken said of enemy defenses. “Does that mean we're not going to throw it to him? We're not going to hand it to him? The team that plays us, we're going to run a reverse to him. I don't give a crap if they know it, at some point we're going to run it. And we're going to run a tunnel screen to him. And we're going to throw a bubble screen out there to him. Because that's what we're supposed to do.
“They still have to tackle him.”