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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - October 5, 2012

A chance to be memorable

Cardinal will celebrate homecoming on a day it has been unbeatable

by Rick Eymer

History shows that October 6 holds special significance for the Stanford football program as the perhaps the most memorable date. The team's 2007 upset of No. 2 ranked USC — now recognized as one of the greatest college football upsets of all time — cemented that date as the most hallowed one on the Stanford football calendar.

In the past 40 years, not only has Stanford won each time it has played a football game on October 6, the nature of each Cardinal win on that date has been truly remarkable.

Stanford hopes to add to that legacy this Saturday in its homecoming game against Arizona in Stanford Stadium at noon.

For No. 18 Stanford (1-1, 3-1) to make it a memorable day again, quarterback Josh Nunes, tight end Levine Toilolo and wide receiver Ty Montgomery will need rebound games. All three are more than capable of responding with huge games.

Stanford, however, will have to be much better than it was in last week's 17-13 Pac-12 Conference loss at Washington, a setback Cardinal coach David Shaw said belonged to everybody.

"It's time we put it all together," Shaw said. "We will go back to work and put guys in position to succeed. We have to throw the ball and we have to catch the ball. It's as simple as that."

Nunes completed less than 50 percent of his passes against the Huskies, though there were several dropped passes, particularly deep throws to Toilolo and Montgomery.

"Every ball he threw down field was perfect, except one," Shaw said. "It's not anything Josh can't do and hasn't done thousand times. It's a two minute conversation. He missed one downfield throw, the last one of the game. He has a 6-8 guy he has a wide range of options there. One thing he can't do is throw it too far down field."

Nunes says its simply a matter of throwing the ball better.

"We're definitely close," he said. "The pass protection was really good in the game. It's just a matter of upping our completion percentage. It is something very fixable. I just need to throw it better. I just have to get settled in early."

The 6-8 Toilolo managed one reception, and also fumbled. Montgomery caught six passes, but for only 39 yards. Both receivers are supposed to be deep threats capable of catching passes in a crowded end zone.

"We can't have as many three and outs as we had (Stanford converted five of 18 third downs against Washington). We want to be a team that can really march down the field," Nunes said. There is a mood of urgency but not to the point we need to rush or overcompensate."

A victory over Arizona would erase any doubts lingering about a team that has BCS bowl game expectations. There's still plenty of time to make a mark.

The Wildcats (0-2, 3-2) are coming off a wild 38-35 loss to Oregon State and have their own history against Stanford. Until Washington held the Cardinal offense to zero touchdowns, it was Arizona, in 2006, which had that distinction. Arizona also held Stanford to its lowest offensive output in school history (52 yards) that year.

It's been a lot different in recent years. The teams combined for over 1,000 yards in Arizona's win three years ago. Stanford dominated the past two years to the tune of a combined 79-27 score. Andrew Luck threw for a combined 618 yards.

While history says October 6 provides memorable games for Stanford, the Cardinal is looking for a victory on Saturday any way it can get it — especially after the disappointing effort in Seattle.

"It's not the end of the world," Stanford senior nose guard Terrence Stephens said. "After a loss you get up and be a man about it. You don't sulk it. There's no room to step backward."

That was a sentiment shared by most of his teammates.

"You come back every single week and you have to play another game. You have to prepare the next week like you did before," Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov said. "We have been a sound team."

And what about this Arizona team? The Wildcats average nearly 35 points a game and 538.2 offensive yards per contest.

"They do a good job keeping the ball between the running back and the quarterback," Skov said. "It's a little annoying when teams are going sideline to sideline. It's like basketball on grass."

Senior tight end Zach Ertz continues to be a shining light after recording a career-high 106 yards on six catches against the Huskies. He's the team leader with 15 receptions (with Montgomery) and 252 reception yards.

There's nothing wrong with Stanford's defense either. It still leads the Pac -12 in rushing defense (65.2) and is second in scoring defense (15.2).

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