The Rodriguez Era got off to a rousing start in the desert, topping Toledo 24-17 in overtime, outscoring Oklahoma State and breezing past South Carolina State 56-0 to jump to No. 22 in the Associated Press college football poll. The Wildcats are still winless in the Pac-12 and have begun to wear down, with injuries sidelining defensive end Dominique Austin (foot) and listing safety Jared Tevis (ankle) and center Kyle Quinn (ankle) questionable for the Stanford game.
The Cardinal seemed to overcome the departure of quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the NFL draft, through the first three weeks — which included a 21-14 upset over then-No. 2 Southern California. The next time out new quarterback Josh Nunes had the worst start of his career, completing 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards and an interception against Washington, often underthrowing receivers or misfiring completely.
The poor passing allowed the Huskies to stack the line of scrimmage and hold Stanford's running game to only 68 yards and never let the offense score a touchdown. While coaches call his struggles mostly mechanical errors, Nunes offered a simpler solution to the problem.
"I just need to throw it better," he said.
Of the many signatures of Stanford's return to prominence in recent seasons, the ability to bounce back from losses has been one of its most consistent qualities.
Stanford has won after its last six losses. The last time the Cardinal dropped consecutive games came in 2009, when it lost to Oregon State on Oct. 10 and then Arizona on Oct. 17.
"We're not a perfect program," Stanford senior defensive tackle Terrence Stephens said. "We've lost before. It just depends on what our mentality is going into this week. This is going to be a great week for us to come back, especially on the defensive side, knowing we're playing a high-powered, high-speed, very technically sound offense. We're going to have to do exactly what we need to do: play our best football to win."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP