By Michael Woo
After picking up two resounding wins on the road, the No. 18 Stanford Cardinal (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) finally return to The Farm this weekend. To complement a red-hot offense that has scored 83 points over its last two games, Stanford Stadium should be rocking Saturday night, as it is the first home game of the season that will feature a full student body.
Another storyline to monitor is this weekend’s opponent, Arizona, whom Stanford has not faced since 2012, when Josh Nunes was the starting quarterback. Thus, a healthy Kevin Hogan will get a crack at the Wildcats for the first time in his Stanford career. Here’s a look at the last three matchups between these two teams.
2010: Stanford asserts its Pac-10 dominance
This matchup possessed every major headline a fan could want: two top-25 ranked teams, two future NFL quarterbacks, Nick Foles and Andrew Luck, and a rematch of Arizona’s dramatic come-from-behind win in 2009, when Stanford surrendered the last 14 points of the game to lose 43-38. However, the actual game never managed to live up to the hype, as the No. 10 Cardinal defeated the No. 13 Wildcats 42-17. Thanks to the help of running back Stepfan Taylor, Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead at the half. Taylor only rushed for 82 yards on the day, but found the back of the endzone four times, twice in the second quarter.
The pounding running game of Stepfan Taylor and Anthony Wilkerson was complemented, as usual, by a dominant performance from Andrew Luck. Luck threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 72 percent of his passes. The first drive of the game yielded a 45-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Owusu, from which Arizona never recovered.
2011: The Cardinal take care of business
The 2011 match signified two programs heading in different directions, as Stanford would go on to earn an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl and Arizona would finish the season 4-8. Initially, Arizona did not back down from the No. 6 Cardinal, and at halftime Stanford was only up 16-10. The Arizona defense had forced Stanford to settle for three field goals, two of which came in the red zone.
In the second half, however, Luck utilized his tight ends to break the game wide open, scoring the final 21 points of the game. In the third quarter Luck completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, and on the first play of the fourth quarter he completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo.
2012: Josh Nunes shines in overtime thriller
Of the last three matchups, the 2012 game was easily the most exciting. Much uncertainty surrounded this young Stanford team, which many had cast off with Andrew Luck having departed for the NFL. However, the tough, bruising reputation the Cardinal had culminated over the years still remained, and the face of that identity was now Stepfan Taylor. Taylor once again feasted on an Arizona defense that he had found much success against throughout his career, rushing for 142 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown came in overtime and resulted in the 54-48 win for Stanford.
While Taylor’s touchdown run ended the game, it was without a doubt Josh Nunes’ performance that won it. Replacing Stanford legend Andrew Luck was no small task, and while Nunes certainly struggled as a starter, in this game he saved the Stanford season. Down 14 points with over six minutes left in the game, Nunes led two touchdown drives, both over 75-yards long, to force overtime; both drives concluded with Nunes running into the end zone for a score. Overall, he threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three more.
Nunes would eventually lose his starting job to Kevin Hogan, but the early season win set Stanford on the path that led them to a Rose Bowl victory.
Contact Michael Woo at mtwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu.