The Stanford Cardinal have been a frustrating team to figure out this season. While there was bound to be some drop off after the departure of Andrew Luck, Stanford still had high hopes for 2012 on the strength of their running game and defense. In four games at home, they’ve lived up to those expectations, going 4-0. On the road, however, it’s been a different story.
After Saturday’s loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, the Cardinal sit at 0-2 on the road and have yet to score an offensive touchdown away from The Farm. In four games at home this season, Stanford averages 176.5 rushing yards, 245 passing yards, 422 total yards and scores four offensive touchdowns per game. In two games on the road, the Cardinal average just 107 yards rushing, 147.5 passing, and 256 total yards to go along with their zero touchdowns.
The obvious culprit and likely scapegoat for their struggles will be their first-year quarterback Josh Nunes. The man unfortunate enough to follow Luck has had his struggles this season. He’s completing just 53.3 percent of his passes on the season, averaging barely over 200 yards passing per game with a yards per attempt of just 6.90 to go along with eight touchdown passes to six interceptions.
In the two road losses, it’s been even worse. September 27 in Seattle against the Washington Huskies, Nunes was just 18-for-37 (48.6%) for 170 yards, no touchdowns, an interception, and quarterback rating of just 81.8. Then on Saturday, Nunes chose the biggest stage for his biggest egg, going 12-for-25 (48.0%) for just 125 yards, with no touchdowns, two incerceptions, and a season-low rating of 74.0.
That isn’t to say that Nunes is completely to blame. The rest of the offense has done him no favors when Stanford dons their road whites. The offensive line has gotten pushed around, which has made things difficult for Stepfan Taylor to get rolling. The receivers aren’t striking fear into anybody, failing to separate from coverage or make the big plays that would loosen up opposing defenses to the running game as well.
In short, the entire offense has disappeared on road trips this season and it’s cost them a pair of wins. With remaining road trips to face the suddenly resurgent Cal Bears, the high flying Oregon Ducks, and the tough UCLA Bruins, the Cardinal need to figure out how to get their offense to travel. If they don’t, they could be looking at three more losses.
The defense has played well enough for the Cardinal to be 6-0 this season, but they can’t carry an anemic offense every time they leave home. David Shaw has thrown his unwavering support behind Nunes despite the offensive struggles. How much longer will he be able to?