No. 18 Stanford, Arizona both look to bounce back
STANFORD, Calif. -- Any doubts Stanford coach David Shaw had about how his team would respond to last week's stunning 17-13 loss at Washington ended 48 hours later.
While coaches held a meeting to discuss recruiting, the short run players do two nights after every game took on a different tone. Word spread back to Shaw that players were particularly "fired up, jacked up, excited about it and got after it."
"We've got a resilient group," Shaw said. "These players are more resilient than the coaches, more resilient than the media, than fans. We dwell, they don't."
The real test of that resolve will come Saturday when No. 18 Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Pac-12) holds its homecoming game against Arizona, a program remodeled under new coach Rich Rodriguez that is facing an equally critical tilt in its season.
The Wildcats (3-2, 0-2) also started with three straight wins, including a 59-38 victory over Oklahoma State, until back-to-back losses against Oregon and Oregon State. Stanford will be the third straight ranked opponent Arizona has played, and how it all shakes out for both will go a long way in determining which direction each season breaks.
"The margin of error is real slim," Arizona offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele said. "No room for mistakes."
Only the annual Oregon-Stanford matchup might feature more contrasting styles within the conference than the Cardinal and Wildcats will showcase at Stanford Stadium.
Arizona's hurry-up offense led by quarterback Matt Scott averages 88 plays per game, behind only Marshall for most in the nation. The pace has been good at keeping opponents off-balance; the Wildcats are 10th nationally with 538 yards per game.
Stanford, on the other hand, plays a power game featuring packages with seven or eight linemen or multiple tight ends -- sometimes even both on the same play. The Cardinal lean on running back Stepfan Taylor to control the clock and the third-best run defense in the nation, which has allowed only 65.2 yards per game.
"Some of the formations and the size of the guys that they have are really unique. For us, being a really small team and way too small defensively is a cause for concern," Rodriguez said. "We have to play bigger than we are if we want a chance to win."
How both teams respond from losses is perhaps the biggest question.
The Rodriguez Era got off to a rousing start in the desert, topping Toledo 24-17 in overtime, outscoring Oklahoma State and breezing past South Carolina State 56-0 to jump to No. 22 in the Associated Press college football poll. The Wildcats are still winless in the Pac-12 and have begun to wear down, with injuries sidelining defensive end Dominique Austin (foot) and listing safety Jared Tevis (ankle) and center Kyle Quinn (ankle) questionable for the Stanford game.
The Cardinal seemed to overcome the departure of quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the NFL draft, through the first three weeks -- which included a 21-14 upset over then-No. 2 Southern California. The next time out new quarterback Josh Nunes had the worst start of his career, completing 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards and an interception against Washington, often underthrowing receivers or misfiring completely.
The poor passing allowed the Huskies to stack the line of scrimmage and hold Stanford's running game to only 68 yards and never let the offense score a touchdown. While coaches call his struggles mostly mechanical errors, Nunes offered a simpler solution to the problem.
"I just need to throw it better," he said.
Of the many signatures of Stanford's return to prominence in recent seasons, the ability to bounce back from losses has been one of its most consistent qualities.
Stanford has won after its last six losses. The last time the Cardinal dropped consecutive games came in 2009, when it lost to Oregon State on Oct. 10 and then Arizona on Oct. 17.
"We're not a perfect program," Stanford senior defensive tackle Terrence Stephens said. "We've lost before. It just depends on what our mentality is going into this week. This is going to be a great week for us to come back, especially on the defensive side, knowing we're playing a high-powered, high-speed, very technically sound offense. We're going to have to do exactly what we need to do: play our best football to win."
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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