Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 12, 2012

It's just another big test

Unbeaten Notre Dame provides a challenge for Cardinal on Saturday

by Rick Eymer

Senior receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson will be in the starting lineup when No. 17 Stanford (4-1) travels to meet No. 7 Notre Dame (5-0) on Saturday in a nationally televised nonconference football game with a scheduled 12:30 p.m. (PT) kickoff.

Patterson gets the start because of a knee injury to sophomore Ty Montgomery, sustained during Stanford's wild 54-48 overtime victory over visiting Arizona last week.

Just don't get Cardinal coach David Shaw started on the difference between starting and playing a significant portion of the contest.

Starting is a state of mind and a statistic best left off the final tabulations, he said.

"Counting starts is useless," Shaw said. "A waste of time."

Example: Stanford opens the game in its Wildcat formation. "Then Stepfan Taylor would be the starting quarterback," said Shaw.

Patterson has four receptions on the season, but is one of five receivers with at least 100 yards. He's the one with the 25 yards per-catch average, which would lead the team if such stats were important.

(Remound Wright is technically the leader with his one catch for 35 yards but let's not get caught up in details).

More important is that Patterson is one of five receivers with a touchdown catch. That means points and that's a statistic about which Shaw feels strongly.

Touchdowns both rushing and passing, were big for quarterback Josh Nunes, who rushed for his first three collegiate scores against the Wildcats. He also threw for a pair of scores and finished with a career-high 360 passing yards. That was easily enough for Nunes to earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

"It's a nice honor to get but it's more for the guys up front and the guys down field," Nunes said. "They were the ones making plays."

That's all well and good, but Shaw had a different view of Nunes' performance.

"Whatever we needed him to get done, he did it," Shaw said.

The big test is how Nunes will perform in his second road game of the season.

"That's going to be the big test," Shaw said. "That's our gauntlet. Can we play our best game on the road?"

Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo have been important targets for Nunes during the season, but Patterson and freshman receiver Kodi Whitfield (no catches) will also be important to the cause.

"They can do everything we need them to do in our game plan," Nunes said.

Meanwhile, when redshirt sophomore Henry Anderson was named Stanford's Defensive Player of the Game during a team meeting for his efforts against Arizona over the weekend, he was greeted by calls of "Goooooose! Gooooose!" and his teammates began flapping their arms like geese.

Anderson was all smiles.

"I've had a lot of nicknames but that one has stuck," Anderson said Tuesday. "I don't like the nickname because the story behind it is kind of embarrassing."

He's been embarrassing offensive linemen and frustrating quarterbacks all season. It was Anderson who tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage that Chase Thomas turned into an interception in overtime last Saturday and led to Stanford's win over Arizona.

"When I tipped it, I saw three Stanford guys jump for it," Anderson said. "I thought it might fall to the ground. Luckily, Chase out-jumped everybody for it."

Anderson, one of several players from the state of Georgia, wasn't even aware he was on Stanford's radar while at Woodward Academy in Atlanta.

"It was out of the blue when they offered," Anderson said. "We had not talked that much. But their combination of academics and athletics stood out. Of the schools in the southeast that offered, I took a hard look at Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Those are schools with good academics but I wasn't sure about their football potential."

As for that nickname?

"A bunch of us play Madden football and it just seems like when I play the game I can't score a point," Anderson said. "They shut me out."

Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner couldn't remember who gave Anderson the nickname "but I was one of the first to jump on board with it," he said.

Cardinal linebacker A.J. Tarpley claims to be the best at Madden football, according to Gardner.

"But he plays with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos," Gardner said. "No one can beat that."

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