Nunes needs no luck finding stride
Notebook: Arizona State, Washington State turning up offense
Josh Nunes did not engrave his name on trophies and plaques in the halls at Stanford by defeating Southern Cal Saturday. But it would not be too farfetched to imagine engravers across the state of California readied their chisels and sent in classified ads to the Stanford Daily. While he did not make history, Nunes did make his name known as the face of the Cardinal this season.
Nunes played a decent game against then-No. 2 Southern Cal, plain and simple. He did nothing flashy, nothing spectacular and nothing all too memorable. However, folks will remember his name because he had the story, played to the script and never missed a line.
Nunes completed less than 50 percent of his passes and pitched two interceptions along with two scores. He barely eclipsed 200 yards. Again, he did nothing spectacular.
“I can’t say enough about Josh Nunes,” head coach David Shaw said. “He did not play a perfect game. He’s got to play so much better. He wants to play so much better.”
Nunes won arguably Stanford’s toughest game of the season, serving to successfully move him out of Andrew Luck’s shadow despite winning in such an ordinary fashion. Nunes had to win this game not only for his team but for himself; to prove that he is capable of leading a high caliber group of players.
And he did just that. He won. Nothing more and nothing less. And now, Stanford is officially Nunes’ team. Fans and teammates alike can rally around him as the man who led them in toppling the mighty Trojans. He’s achieved his mark of excellence and it seems now his future is at his fingertips.
No. 22 Arizona (3-0)
• Matt Scott continues to play like an all-conference quarterback. Scott is five passing yards shy of 1,000 on the season after three games. He’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry on the ground to rack up 190 and a pair of touchdowns. Scott is an all-around performer comparable to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Scott has a chance to beat Oregon at its own game: piling points on the board. The Wildcats score an average of nearly four points less than the Ducks, but have held opponents to an average of six points fewer. Week 4’s matchup should be the definition of a shootout.
Next Game: at Oregon Sept. 22
Arizona State (2-1)
• The Sun Devils must push past the heartbreak of Saturday’s 24-20 loss to Missouri to focus on the immediate future. Plenty more top-tier opponents are on the way for Arizona State in the Pac-12 season, but first the team must take a visit to the basement of the conference. The Sun Devils have Utah, Cal and Colorado with an idle week in between, giving them a big chance to regain their swagger before Oregon comes to town Oct. 18.
• Taylor Kelly cannot do it all. The guy has skills at the quarterback position, but he cannot be the only one producing on offense – as was the case against Mizzou when he led the team in passing and rushing yards. Kelly needs help of a supporting cast, including running back Marion Grice, who was held to just 24 yards on six carries last Saturday.
Next Game: vs. Utah Sept. 22
• Cal’s troubles on the offensive line plagued the team against Ohio State and are hindering QB Zach Maynard’s ability. Maynard had 280 yards and a touchdown against the Buckeyes, but was also sacked seven times. Maynard can take advantage of USC’s pass defense in Week 4 if -- and only if -- he gets protection.
• Brendan Bigelow can run the football. Bigelow had four carries for 160 yards and a pair of scores for the Golden Bears against Ohio State. The problem is Cal only gave him four attempts. If the offensive line can’t protect Maynard, but Bigelow is finding holes, perhaps the Bears should look to run more often.
Next Game: at Southern Cal Sept. 22
• Colorado ranks 106th, 108th and 107th of 120 teams in passing yards, rushing yards and points scored, respectively, in the FBS. Although it is still early in the season, if the Buffs continue to struggle on offense, they will not fair any better than their 0-3 start when they reach Pac-12 play.
• It’s hard to expect much better results as Colorado heads into a game with Washington State. The Buffs give up the fifth most points in the FBS with an average of 40.3. The Cougars, on the other hand, are playing confident and their Air Raid offense has a chance to do serious damage against that Colorado defense. The focus for the Buffs must be to bolster the defense if they want a shot at their first win.
Next Game: at Washington State Sept. 22
No. 3 Oregon (3-0)
• Oregon’s three-week vacation is complete. The Ducks had no trouble demolishing Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech to open the season, but now the level of competition increases, so questions arise for Oregon. Then again, that's the same formula most seasons for UO.
• Arizona is Oregon’s first true test. The Ducks have improved their defense with each game, allowing fewer and fewer points every week. But Matt Scott will be a tough stop. The Ducks struggle most with teams that can score at their pace. Arizona could be that team. Just like fans saw a talented Stanford team take down the “sure thing” in USC, Oregon has just as much chance to fall.
Next Game: vs. Arizona Sept. 22
Oregon State (1-0)
• Oregon State is a team that no one can gauge simply because it has only played one game. The Beavers played well against Wisconsin, but only put up 10 points. The obvious question is whether they will be ready for the fast pace of the Pac-12 where every other team has had three weeks to their one to prepare.
Next Game: at UCLA Sept. 22
No. 13 Southern Cal (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12)
• Stanford broke Southern Cal in Week 3. Now, it’s up to Matt Barkley and company to pick up the pieces. The Trojans look to regain their swagger against Cal after smashing Hawaii, stumbling against Syracuse and falling flat against the Cardinal.
• One loss does not spell the end of the season for the Trojans. They can take solace in that LSU and Alabama do play each other on Nov. 3. The focus for USC needs to be regrouping for the remaining nine teams on its schedule. In order to remain in the BCS national title conversation, the Trojans must remind voters why they were there in the first place: for their punishing offensive ability.
Next Game: at California Sept. 22
No. 9 Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
• The Cardinal should revel in the win for a night and then move on. The first big test has passed and they succeeded. But a Week 3 win against USC is not the end. They should not need reminding that they have four ranked opponents left on the slate, including a seemingly revived Notre Dame team Oct. 13. The idle week ahead should allow a chance for excitement to settle and the Cardinal to regain focus for the rest of the season.
• Let us not ignore, however, the magnitude of Saturday’s victory against the Trojans. After a scare in Week 1 against San Jose State, fans were put on edge as to if Stanford deserved to be in the top-25 conversation anymore. Did the successful Cardinal football era go away with the Luck era? Saturday’s win showed fans Stanford will not go away any time soon. The Cardinal are for real.
“For what we’re trying to accomplish, we can’t be surprised by wins,” coach David Shaw said after the game. “We can’t think this win is more special than some other win.”
Next Game: at Washington Sept. 27
No. 19 UCLA (3-0)
• Coach Jim Mora has led the Bruins to their first 3-0 start since 2009 and has built an offense that could be comparable -- at least on initial looks -- to conference foe Oregon. Quarterback Brett Hundley allows UCLA to press its foot on the gas nonstop.
• Johnathan Franklin is climbing Heisman Trophy watch lists and rightfully so. Franklin, after Week 3, has rushing statistics similar to Oregon's Heisman hopefuls De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner -- combined. The Ducks’ tandem has 552 yards compared to Franklin’s 541. While Franklin only has three touchdowns, the direction of UCLA’s offense shows no sign of preventing him from piling up more.
“I don’t think you should ever be satisfied until the end where you’re a champion,” Mora said. “I think our players feel like that.”
Next Game: vs. Oregon State Sept. 22
• Jordan Wynn is a class act and it’s terrible to see him walk away from the game after he struggled so much to succeed. Four shoulder surgeries after his start at Utah, Wynn has been relegated to the sideline, equipped with a headset, a clipboard and a sling. It is great to see the Utes keeping him a part of the team after he tried so hard to carry it on his back for four years. “In the end, it’s just not meant to be,” Wynn said. “For whatever reason, my shoulders just couldn’t hold up.”
• On the field, Utah got a much needed win to reestablish itself after suffering a loss to Utah State in Week 2. After just creeping into the rankings at No. 25, BYU was no easy foe. The fact that the Utes were able to win without running back John White III speaks to their versatility. They’ll need it against a hungry Arizona State team post-loss to Missouri.
Next Game: at Arizona State Sept. 22
• It probably felt relieving for Washington to score and score and score against Portland State just to prove to itself that it can do so. After being held to 3 points against LSU, the Huskies had to be questioning how well they can score. The Huskies reacquainted themselves with the end zone scoring 52 points Saturday.
• An idle week will be good for Washington and quarterback Keith Price. After being picked apart, picking apart another team can do wonders for confidence. Now the Huskies have a week to gather before a tough contest with Stanford.
Next Game: vs. Stanford Sept. 27
Washington State (2-1)
• After a dismal performance in Week 1, the Cougars have bounced back nicely behind Mike Leach’s Air Raid offensive system. Connor Halliday, in his first start for Wazzou this season, aired it out for 379 yards and four touchdowns against UNLV.
• The problem with the Air Raid: Washington State has trouble closing out games with a deficient run game. Up 10 against Eastern Washington in Week 2 and up 15 on UNLV last week, the Cougars allowed both teams to finish within one final possession. “I thought we played hard, did some good things, but then our technique breaks down. We just need to quit entertaining fatigue,” coach Mike Leach said.
• Washington State opens the Pac-12 schedule with Colorado before arguably its biggest test of the season, Oregon. If the Cougars can keep their offense going as-is, they will at least have a shot at keeping up with the Ducks. Coaches must put the pressure on the defense and running game against Colorado in preparation for when the Ducks visit in Week 5.
Next Game: vs. Colorado Sept. 22