Wizards

Nunes, No. 17 Stanford still a mystery

201210061600576128671-p2.jpeg

Nunes, No. 17 Stanford still a mystery

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) No quarterback in the country has had to manage expectations the way Josh Nunes has had to this season succeeding the NFL's No. 1 overall pick.

In the last three weeks alone, the redshirt junior quarterback outplayed Heisman Trophy hopeful Matt Barkley to upset Southern California, shouldered the blame of a stunning loss at Washington and rallied No. 17 Stanford (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) from a two-touchdown deficit for a thrilling 54-48 overtime win against Arizona that quieted questions about Andrew Luck's successor

``It's not that we learned,'' Cardinal coach David Shaw said. ``It's maybe that other people learned he's a tough kid. He bounces back, he doesn't listen to the noise. He's steady.''

Nobody said filling Andrew Luck's shoes would be easy.

Fair or not, Stanford's streakiness this season has been tied directly to its new quarterback. Both are still somewhat of an unknown heading to seventh-ranked Notre Dame (5-0) on Saturday, with the exception of one undeniable fact.

As Nunes has gone so far, so has Stanford.

Nunes overcame a pair of first-half interceptions to throw for 215 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win against USC, including a 37-yard strike to tight end Zach Ertz for the winning score, vaulting the Cardinal to as high as No. 8 in The Associated Press college football poll.

He followed that by completing 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards and an interception in Stanford's 17-13 loss at Washington, often underthrowing receivers on short routes or misfiring completely. The offense converted 5 of 18 third downs, never scored a touchdown and looked lost for the first time since Luck left.

Fans and media began to criticize Nunes enough for Shaw to open his weekly news conference defending his quarterback. Nunes rewarded his coach's loyalty with his best performance yet, throwing for 360 yards and two touchdowns and running for 33 yards and three more scores against Arizona on Saturday.

``I definitely have confidence now,'' Nunes said. ``The guys up front did what they needed to do as well as the guys downfield. I definitely used last week (at Washington) as a stepping stone forward and learned a lot of things to work on. I feel like I did a better job this week, but there are a lot more things we need to correct.''

Notably, consistency.

Coaches and teammates have insisted that, more than anything, Nunes needs time and experience to adjust to the starter's role. After all, he went almost four years since his last start at Upland High School in the Los Angeles area until beating out Brett Nottingham and Kevin Hogan this season.

Nunes has shown flashes of Luck-like ability to in big moments.

He scrambled for a pair of key first downs against the Trojans. On the final drive of regulation against Arizona, he ran for 16 yards on third-and-7 from midfield, threw 17 yards to Ertz on fourth-and-9 from Arizona's 20 and ran for the tying touchdown on a read option with 45 seconds remaining.

``If you told me a year ago that we'd call multiple run plays for Josh Nunes, I'd laugh at you,'' Shaw said. ``The bottom line is he's a tough kid. He's not afraid of it. He doesn't back down from challenges.''

The road ahead will not ease up any.

While Stanford has beaten Notre Dame by at least two touchdowns the last three seasons, this appears to be a more a difficult trip to South Bend. Not to mention matchups at No. 2 Oregon and a home date against No. 10 Oregon State later this season.

The Fighting Irish improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2002 with a 41-3 romp over Miami on Saturday. Notre Dame's 587 yards of offense was a season high, and its 376 yards rushing was its most since Nov. 11, 2000.

Asked if Nunes' turnaround performance against the Wildcats will do enough to quiet critics before Notre Dame, Shaw shook his head and smiled.

``Probably not,'' he said. ``And once again, I don't care. He doesn't care. We're a team. We're tight in our locker room. We support him through everything, and he understands that. We hold him accountability for what his job is. But at the same time, we know he's more than capable. And I think he showed that.''

---

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

Quick Links

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

The Wizards will catch a break on Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors in the second game of their regular season, as Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is being held out due to rest.

Leonard, who has been dominant so far for the 2-0 Raptors, is being limited in back-to-backs after he missed 73 games last season due to a quadriceps injury. The Raptors played the night before against the Celtics.

With Leonard out, the Raptors will likely rely on C.J. Miles and O.G. Anunoby at the small forward position. Shooting guard Delon Wright is also out with a shoulder injury.

Though Leonard and Wright are out of the mix, Toronto still has plenty of talent including All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is averaging 21 points, seven assists and 3.5 rebounds through two games. 

Serge Ibaka has been their third-leading scorer with 15 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. They also acquired Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to a strong start with 12.5 points and five rebounds per game.

Leonard's absence may be noticed more on the defensive end, as he is one of the best in the NBA on the perimeter. That could make things a bit easier for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

The Wizards and Raptors next play on Nov. 23. That game is in Toronto.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

More Redskins news