Stanford's Nunes doing 'great job' in place of Luck
Stanford's Josh Nunes passes under pressure from Southern California's Hayes Pullard (10) in the third quarter at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, California, on Saturday, September 15, 2012. Stanford knocked off USC, 21-14. (Jim Gensheimer/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)
Before this season, the last time Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes attempted a pass in live-game action was almost two years ago. He entered a game against Cal with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter while the Cardinal led 48-7.
He handed the ball off twice, then attempted his one and only pass of the game.
It was incomplete.
For 650 days Nunes had to live with that incompletion, and his only completed pass was 63 days before that, against Wake Forest.
“I remember that, I had one completion,” Nunes said. “It was to my buddy [former Stanford receiver Sam Knapp]. It was a long time ago.”
The last time Nunes even attempted more than one pass in a game was during high school in Upland, Calif. — 1,358 days ago.
One completion, two attempts, seven yards.
In those 1,358 days, Andrew Luck attempted 1,064 passes for Stanford, completing 713 of them for 9,430 yards.
So when Nunes finally attempted his first pass as Stanford’s starting quarterback against San Jose State in week one, it was a long time coming for the senior.
“It was great,” said Nunes of his first pass, a 9-yard completion. “It was nice to really just throw and get it out of the way, and get a completion, get the jitters out and get ready to play the game.”
Four weeks later, Nunes has attempted 125 passes in the Cardinal’s first year post-Luck. Replacing one of Stanford’s greatest quarterbacks, at a school that produced John Elway and Jim Plunkett, is a tall task.
But, so far so good. Well, at least before last week’s game against Washington.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s been very impressive,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He sat behind one of the best players in college football.
“It’s not like he’s a true freshman out there. He’s been around the program a long time. He knows what they wanna get done.”
Nunes had no choice but to watch as Luck shined for the Cardinal. The No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts was Stanford’s all-time leader in total offense (with 10,387 yards), wins and winning percentage with a career record of 31-7, and he holds the Pac-12 records for career completion percentage at 67 percent and efficiency rating of 162.8.
To say Nunes has big shoes to fill would be an understatement.
“He’s done a great job,” said starting offensive lineman David Yankey. “We always emphasize that we’re not trying to replace [Luck], we’re just trying to come out and win every game. That’s our goal.”
Sam Schwartzstein, Stanford’s starting center, is more familiar with Nunes’ capabilities than most, as he snapped the ball to him on the scout team in practice every day for two seasons before becoming the starting center in 2011. He described Luck as a hands-on, in-your-face quarterback, which contrasts with Nunes’ tendency to let things happen naturally.
“Josh is a poised QB that’s able to make the plays that he’s asked to,” Schwartzstein said. “Andrew was more stern, trying to make sure all details are correct. Josh is one of those guys that lets people do the right thing. Once people step out of line, he’ll get them back in line.”
In four games, Nunes has completed 52 percent of his passes for 785 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Against the Huskies, Nunes had his worst game of the season, going 18-of-37 with 171 yards and one interception in the No. 18-ranked Cardinal’s first loss.
Still, Stanford head coach David Shaw is sticking with the senior quarterback.
“He progressed in the first three weeks. He’s progressed every week,” Shaw said.
“Whatever response people have [to the Washington game], I could care less. Josh has done a good job up to this point; he took a step backwards in that game. He did some really good things, but I expect him to bounce back and play better this week.”