Nunes career-best came against a bad AZ defense
Josh Nunes played his best collegiate game in Stanford's 54-48 overtime win over Arizona Saturday. His 21-34, 360-yard effort was peppered with three rushing touchdowns that garnered him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Bootleg puts the quarterback's performance to date in perspective.
No, it's not time to bronze Nunes' arm yet. Arizona, statistically
the second-worst NCAA passing defense of 2011, is even thinner now
defensively after the transition to new head coach Rich Rodriguez.
At this time last week, in fact, all talk focused on the fact that
Stanford offensive success was expected because of the Cardinal's
massive physical advantage. Another offensive failure would have
been completely unacceptable, considering just how bad that
Wildcats' D is.
Now that success has indeed come, it must be taken with the
appropriate grain of salt. Stanford's 48 points in regulation might
have exceeded expectations, but more praise should probably heaped
on Nunes' counterpart Matt Scott, who carved up a deep, talented
Stanford defense for the same amount on 491 yards through the
That being said, Nunes did demonstrate marked improvement nine days
after his nightmare in Seattle. He improved his already good touch
on the deep lob pattern, brought back memories of USC by keeping two
drives alive with his feet, and led the Cardinal to a gutsy comeback
in crunch time. There were a handful of forced throws into coverage
and some confused moments in the pocket, but nothing that came back
to significantly hurt Stanford. Plus, that 17-yard fourth down
strike to Zach Ertz with a minute remaining sure was on the money.
In short, Nunes passed a test against a poor defense at home with
flying colors (his offense even put up more yards - 617 - than any
Andrew Luck effort ever did on the Farm). Stanford's running
advantage meant that gargantuan tight ends roamed free downfield.
Nunes did a fine job connecting with them for big gains, and he
settled his lower body adequately to avoid a repeat of his
disastrous throws into the turf.
Marked improvement was obvious, but
since the Cardinal was in a different physical world than Arizona,
it's tough to gauge Nunes' true proficiency: there weren't many
tight windows to throw into, and there wasn't much of a pass rush to
worry about behind another brilliant performance from the hogs up
For what it's worth, Nunes' passer efficiency rating climbed 12
points to 126.1, good for a move out of dead last and up to 10th
place in the conference. Following a handful of statistically poor
games (including USC), Nunes now has a good one under his belt.
That's pushed Washington's Keith Price to the rear instead (111.8),
a rather shocking development a year after he was second to only
Luck in the Pac-12.
The true test date remains unchanged. It's scheduled for this
Saturday, October 13 at Notre Dame Stadium against an Irish defense
that hasn't given up a touchdown in over a month and is surrendering
only 7.8 points per game. Nunes has had one road start to get
acclimated. Now he must prove that he can get the job done in
hostile territory against a physically competitive defense, one
that's bigger and stronger than Stanford killer Washington.
Fittingly, Notre Dame is in a similar situation entering the
match-up behind their quarterback Everett Golson, who has struggled
outside of the recent 41-3 Irish flogging of Miami. Like Arizona,
the Hurricanes are also defensively porous, so Notre Dame's
quarterback is looking at his match-up with the Stanford defense as
an opportunity to truly prove himself.
This all sets up a fascinating mirror image midterm exam for two
potentially elite teams. A moment of truth for Josh Nunes and
Stanford football looms in one of college football's iconic
David Lombardi covers Stanford
sports for The Bootleg and FOX Sports NEXT. He was the Cardinal
football KZSU play-by-play voice for several years. He can also be
heard on San Francisco's 95.7 The Game. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @davidmlombardi.
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