STANFORD, Calif. — Josh Nunes bailed out Stanford’s defense for a change and started to erase doubts about whether he’s the right man to replace Andrew Luck after all.
Nunes threw for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three more scores, rallying No. 18 Stanford from a two-touchdown deficit to stun Arizona 54-48 in overtime Saturday.
Chase Thomas intercepted a tipped pass by Matt Scott in the extra period and Stepfan Taylor ran for a 21-yard touchdown two plays later to end a week of second-guessing Nunes with a wild celebration in the Cardinal (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) side of the north end zone.
“This is the kind of game that we needed,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “We needed to fight. We needed to battle. We needed to be into it in the fourth quarter. We needed to be down. We needed to fight back, just to test our character. We believe that we have that kind of character to be able to fight back even when we’re down, but it’s great when you get tested and respond to that challenge.”
Maybe for nobody more than Nunes.
The offense failed to find the end zone in a 17-13 loss at Washington last week. Nunes underthrew several passes or misfired completely, and critics began to mount enough for Shaw to open his weekly news conference defending his new quarterback and boldly calling any question about a change “asinine.”
Nunes followed his coach’s words with his most solid game of the season. He completed 21 of 34 passes, scrambled for first downs and — most importantly — offset Scott’s record-setting performance.
Scott completed 45 of 69 passes — both school records — for 491 yards and three touchdowns until Henry Anderson tipped his final pass in overtime that Thomas intercepted. Arizona (3-3, 0-3) amassed 617 total yards — same as Stanford — but lost for the third straight game and is still winless in conference play.
“It’s depressing not to win, but that’s football,” Scott said.
For most of the afternoon, the Wildcats scored at will and looked more like the team that beat Oklahoma State to start 3-0 than the one that lost to Oregon and Oregon State the previous two weeks. Facing its third straight ranked opponent, Arizona’s aerial attack shredded Stanford’s defense in a way few have the past few seasons.
The Wildcats became the first team to eclipse 400 yards passing against the Cardinal since Oklahoma in the 2009 Sun Bowl. The Sooners threw for 418 yards in that 31-27 win over the Cardinal.
Arizona’s defense couldn’t hold up when it counted.
Nunes ran his second short touchdown to trim Arizona’s lead to 48-41 with 6:34 remaining. The Cardinal held the Wildcats to only their third three-and-out on the next possession, and Nunes led a drive that will help ease concerns about Luck’s successor.
The redshirt junior ran for 16 yards on third-and-7 from midfield, threw 17 yards to tight end Zach Ertz on fourth-and-9 from Arizona’s 20 and ran for the tying touchdown with 45 seconds left in regulation.
“I made a lot of throws this week that I didn’t make last week,” said Nunes, adding that he worked on improving his velocity. “It’s not like I can’t make these throws.”
This time, Stanford’s offense showed some fight from the start.
Taylor, who finished with 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns, ran for 35 yards on seven carries before Nunes lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ertz in the corner of the end zone to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession.
While the offense finally found its rhythm, Stanford’s defense struggled to slow down Arizona’s up-tempo style.
Ka’Deem Carey ran for 13 yards for the first of his three touchdowns, and John Bonano kicked a 34-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead later in the second quarter.
Nunes stayed steady and sharp, finding Levine Toilolo for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put Stanford back ahead 14-10. Bonano kicked a 33-yard field goal to slice Stanford’s lead to 14-13 at half.
The pace picked up even more following the break.
Scott threaded a 27-yard strike to Terrence Miller inches short of the goal line that set up Carey’s short touchdown run to put Arizona in front 20-14 less than 2 minutes into the third quarter.
Although the Cardinal prefer to play grind-it-out games and control the clock, Arizona simply wouldn’t let them.
The teams traded touchdowns for most of the second half until Jourdon Grandon stripped Ty Montgomery after a 16-yard catch early in the fourth quarter. Arizona recovered and took over at Stanford’s 45.
Scott quickly led the offense down field and hooked up with Miller for a 10-yard completion that gave the Wildcats a 48-34 lead — the biggest either side had all afternoon. Scott nearly set the school passing record set by Willie Tuitama, who threw for a school-record 510 yards in a 48-41 win over Washington on Oct. 27, 2007.
Rodriguez opted to run the clock out with 45 seconds remaining from Arizona’s own 19 with two timeouts and play for overtime, saying he “didn’t want to make a mistake down there.”
“Matt is a stud. He threw the ball well. We just needed to make one more play,” Rodriguez said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Cardinal again showed its ability to bounce back after defeat.
Stanford has won after its last seven losses. The last time the Cardinal dropped consecutive games came in 2009, when it lost to Oregon State on Oct. 10 and Arizona on Oct. 17.
“It’s huge,” Thomas said. “To show that we can face adversity, overcome it and have that 16-round knockout fight really shows that this team’s a high-character team that never gives up and has a never-quit mentality.”
No. 2 OREGON 52, WASHINGTON 21
EUGENE, Ore. — Marcus Mariota threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns, including two TD strikes to tight end Colt Lyerla, for Oregon.
Mariota rebounded from an interception on the Ducks’ opening series to complete 15 of 24 passes and Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) won its ninth straight overall dating back to last season, as well as its ninth straight in the series against the rival Huskies (3-2, 1-1).
Lyerla caught three passes for 71 yards, including touchdowns of 10 and 13 yards.
Kenjon Barner, who went into the game ranked 10th in the nation with an average of 121 yards rushing per game, ran for 122 yards and the Ducks built a 35-7 lead at halftime.
Bishop Sankey ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns for Washington.
NO. 7 KANSAS STATE 56, KANSAS 16
MANHATTAN, Kan. — John Hubert ran for 101 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries, and Collin Klein had two touchdowns running and throwing as Kansas State routed Kansas.
Klein finished with 129 yards passing and 116 yards rushing to help the Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) pile up more than 50 points for the third straight year against their biggest rival. They’ve won four straight against the Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2) since Bill Snyder returned as coach.
The longtime Kansas State coach probably had some choice words for his team at halftime, when a slew of mistakes resulted in a modest 21-14 lead. But the Wildcats scored four touchdowns in the third quarter, three in a span of about 5 minutes, to put the game away.
Kansas’ Dayne Crist threw for 189 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. James Sims had 115 yards rushing and a touchdown for the Jayhawks.
NO. 15 CLEMSON 47, GEORGIA TECH 31
CLEMSON, S.C. — Tajh Boyd threw for a career high 397 yards and DeAndre Hopkins had 173 yards receiving to lead Clemson over Georgia Tech.
The Tigers (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) gained 601 yards, while the Yellow Jackets (2-4, 1-3) gained 483.
Boyd threw for two touchdowns, including a 35-yard touchdown to Hopkins that put Clemson up 38-31 with 10:29 left in the game.
Georgia Tech bobbled the kickoff and started its next possession at the 2 yard line. Tigers linebacker Spencer Shuey sniffed out an option pitch two plays later for a safety that crushed the Yellow Jackets’ chances. It was the first time either team led by more than a touchdown.
Orin Smith gained 117 yards on seven carries for Georgia Tech.
Along with completing 26 of 41 passes, Boyd also ran for a touchdown and caught one pass — a 2-point conversion.
No. 14 OREGON STATE 19, WASHINGTON STATE 6
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Jordan Poyer had three interceptions, Sean Mannion passed for 270 yards and No. 14 Oregon State survived a shaky start.
Markus Wheaton had 95 yards receiving and a touchdown but it was the Beavers defense which kept the Cougars at arm’s length on the day when Mannion, who threw three interceptions, was more down than up.
Oregon State (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has surpassed its win total from all of 2011, but many in the school-record crowd of 46,579 were left shaking their heads at penalties and turnovers as the offense sputtered. Mannion completed 25 of 42 passes and was sacked three times.
Jeff Tuel was 11 of 17 for 126 yards after replacing Connor Halliday, who threw three interceptions in just over one half of action. However, Tuel’s telegraphed pass that led to Poyer’s interception ended the threat for Washington State. Marquess Wilson had four catches for 54 yards to lead the Cougars (2-4, 0-3). Halliday was 9-for-20 passing.
IOWA ST. 37, NO. 15 TCU 23
FORT WORTH, Texas — Jared Barnett threw three touchdowns to Josh Lenz, who later had a scoring toss of his own on a trick play, as Iowa State ended TCU’s FBS-best 12-game win streak.
It was the first Big 12 home game for conference newcomer TCU (4-1, 1-1), which played without suspended quarterback Casey Pachall.
Barnett was 12-of-21 passing for 183 yards and ran nine times for 30 yards in his first start this season for the Cyclones (4-1, 1-1).
The Frogs had won a nation-best 25 conference games in a row, the first 24 while winning the Mountain West championship each of the last three seasons.
Lenz had TD catches of 51 and 74 yards in the first quarter.
Trevone Boykin started for TCU and was 23-of-40 passing for 270 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
NO. 17 OKLAHOMA 41, TEXAS TECH 20
LUBBOCK, Texas — Landry Jones passed for two touchdowns, Blake Bell ran for two more and Oklahoma beat Texas Tech to avenge a home loss to the Red Raiders last season.
The win was crucial for Oklahoma to remain in the conversation for the Big 12 title.
Both of Jones’ touchdown passes went for 13 yards — one each to Justin Brown and Kenny Stills. Bell, in at quarterback, scored his touchdowns from a yard out.
Javon Harris put the game out of reach midway through the third quarter when he returned an interception 46 yards for a TD to put the Sooners (3-1, 1-1) up 38-13.
The Red Raiders had their worst defensive performance this year, giving up 380 total yards after coming in ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Seth Doege was 22 of 36 for 203 yards and had three interceptions for Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1).
No. 20 MISSISSIPPI ST. 27, KENTUCKY 14
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Tyler Russell passed for two touchdowns and Mississippi State held Kentucky to just 228 yards on offense in the victory.
LaDarius Perkins carried 25 times for 110 yards, including a 31-yard score, and Devon Bell kicked field goals of 20 and 37 yards as Mississippi State moved to 5-0 for the first time since 1999. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
Russell was 23 of 39 for 269 yards, hitting Adrian Marcus and Chad Bumphis for touchdowns of 10 and 27 yards, respectively.
Freshmen quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow both led scoring drives for Kentucky (1-5, 0-3), which lost its fourth straight. Whitlow was 10 of 21 for 73 yards, adding 26 rushing yards on eight carries. Towles was 5 of 6 for 71 yards.
The Bulldogs posted their second-fewest yards allowed this season, just 12 more than they allowed in a 28-10 victory over Auburn last month.
No. 22 RUTGERS 19, CONNECTICUT 3
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jawan Jamison ran for 110 yards and Wayne Warren returned an interception 25 yards for a scores as Rutgers suffocated UConn to remain undefeated.
The Scarlet Knights (5-0, 2-0 Big East) are off to their best start since 2007, and they avenged a bitter loss to the Huskies that ended last regular season and kept Rutgers from sharing the conference title.
Jamison ran it 28 times and recorded his sixth straight 100-yard game. Gary Nova hooked up with Mark Harrison on a 14-yard TD pass early in the third quarter, and Warren put it away with 3:44 left in the fourth when he pushed across the goal line with some help from his teammates.
UConn benched leading rusher Lyle McCombs for the first quarter after he was arrested and charged with second-degree breaching the peace on Friday. He finished with 32 yards on 12 carries and the Huskies (3-3, 0-1) were held to their worst scoring output since getting shutout by Louisville in the middle of the 2010 season.
McCombs is accused of yelling, pushing and spitting at his girlfriend during an argument.
PENN ST. 39, NO. 24 NORTHWESTERN 28
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Quarterback Matt McGloin scored on a 5-yard run with 2:37 left and Penn State rallied from 11 points down in fourth quarter to beat Northwestern.
The Nittany Lions scored three times in the final 9:49, starting with McGloin’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson as the receiver dragged along the back line of the end zone. Michael Zordich had a 2-point conversion run to get Penn State within 28-25 before McGloin’s scramble into the end zone sent the homecoming weekend crowd into a frenzy.
Penn State (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) stuffed a last-gasp drive after Trevor Siemian’s pass was tipped away on fourth down.
McGloin finished 35 of 51 passing — setting a school record for completions in a game — for 282 yards and two scores. Zack Zwinak ran for 121 yards and a score on 28 carries.
Things looked so good for Northwestern (5-1, 1-1) after Venric Mark’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown with 50 seconds left in the third quarter demoralized the blue-and-white faithful for a 28-17 lead. Mark also ran for a score.
CALIFORNIA 43, No. 25 UCLA 17
BERKELEY, Calif. — Zach Maynard matched his career high with four touchdown passes and added a fifth on the ground and California took advantage of six turnovers.
Coming off one of the worst games of his career, Maynard threw an interception on the first series of the game and repeatedly picked himself up off the turf at Memorial Stadium after getting drilled by the Bruins defense to help the Golden Bears (2-4, 1-2 Pac-12) end their three-game losing streak.
Johnathan Franklin rushed for 103 yards for UCLA (4-2, 1-2), which lost for the second time in three games and is likely to fall out of the rankings again.