Had a chance to talk with fourth-year junior Josh Nunes, whose first road game as the starting quarterback of the Stanford Cardinal comes Thursday night against Washington. Nunes has been solid for Stanford: six touchdowns, three picks and 53.4 percent completion rate. But, he remains the person opposing defenses want to force to beat them.
Nunes was up-and-down in the USC game. He threw two touchdown passes, though was also intercepted twice. Here's our talk with him and a little more on Nunes from Stanford coach David Shaw:
(What did you learn your years behind Andrew Luck?) "The biggest thing would be his preparation going into each week. Both from the mental and physical side, how he was able to take what he was able to learn from a lot of hours of film study and apply that to practice each day. That was probably the biggest thing."
(How do you think the offense is different under coach Shaw if it is?) "I would say the mentality hasn’t changed all that much. We’re still a coming at you, being able to run the ball type of offense. Coach Shaw was the coordinator under Harbaugh, offensively. I would say we’re the same mentality."
(When so many people transfer, why stick it out at Stanford?) "There’s a bunch of reasons. I can’t think of any place, to one, sit behind a person, than Stanford, if you were going to have to. Two, to be able to learn from Andrew Luck, there’s no better opportunity in college football. He’s such a great guy. A good guy to be around and learn from. It really wasn’t that bad."
(Did you hear from Andrew after beating USC?) "Yeah. We’ve been in contact. We keep in touch. He said congrats."
(What’s important for you to do to exploit your advantage of big tight ends?) "It’s a great benefit to have those types of guys out there who are so versatile and provide so many different kinds of looks for the defense and put them in the backfield and split them out to wide receiver. For me, it’s really just managing the plays to make sure I get the protections set, all the runs set to where I get them the ball efficiently. They do a good job route running and getting open, so I just have to get them the ball."
(How would you assess your first three weeks as the starter?) "It’s definitely been a learning experience. I’ve done a lot of learning on the fly. Coach has done a real good job of helping me notice things I need to know. By no means perfect, far from perfect in the first three. Definitely things I need to work on."
(What can be better?) "Hitting the throws I know I can hit. Being more crisp with game management, I think that can always get better each week. Being more efficient with my reads."
(Though they switched defenses, can you take anything from last year’s game film of Washington?) "You can take a few things away."
(What do you see from their new 3-4, hybrid nickel looks?) "They’re very versatile defense. They do a good job , I’d say they look pretty comfortable in what they’re doing."
(You feel comfortable when you think about your first road game as a starter?) "It’s definitely going to be different playing in a road game. For me, I’m not the kind of guy who gets nervous or excited about much. There will be a few butterflies, I think there always will be for a new experience like that, but I think they’ll go away pretty quick."
Stanford coach David Shaw on Nunes: (You concerned about this being the first road start for Nunes?) "We haven’t made a big deal out of it, he hasn’t made a big deal about it. It’s about execution. We’ve talked a lot about handling the noise, and I think he’s prepared for that. We don’t want him to do anything he hasn’t shown us he can do in practice, which is to just orchestrate the offense and find the open receiver."
(How would you assess his first three games?) "I think there’s been steady improvement in each game. We were very conservative with him at the beginning, the first game of the year. Second game, there were some opportunities to make some big plays down the field passing, he did that very well. Third game, our first hint of trouble and he bounced back great. Showed the fact he doesn’t dwell on good plays or bad plays. Came back and made some great plays for us in the second half of the USC game. For us, right now, we’re getting to get to the point where we want to see if he can play a complete game at that high level, which we know he’s capable of. This is only game four for him but we wants to see steady improvement. He’s practiced great, too."
(Did his responses in the USC game prove to you he can handle big moments, if you were unsure of that prior?) "I didn’t have a question about it. He’s an even-keeled guy. You never see him get overly emotional. He’s never too high, he’s never too low. We all figured he’d handle it very well."