- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
This time last week, Josh Nunes was not a popular guy in the Bay Area. And his head coach, David Shaw, has the colorful correspondence to back it up.
"I had some very unfavorable emails," Shaw said. "I keep waiting for people to email me back showing their support after the kid had a heck of a week. But at the same time, who really cares? It's college football. These kids aren't perfect. They are all learning. He's coming off a big week. Now we have to get back on the road and get another big week."
Now, we'll give credit where credit is due. And it's certainly warranted after a gutty performance against Arizona last week, where Nunes accounted for five touchdowns -- two in the air and three on the ground -- earning him Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors. Whether Nunes heard the external noise calling for his ouster after a poor showing the previous week against Washington is irrelevant. He knows he had a bad game against the Huskies and needed a much stronger performance. The only noise he cared about was the voice of his coach and the voice in his head.
But just as flying off the handle after the Washington performance wasn't warranted, neither is heaping too much praise on him. Nunes is still the same thing he was this time last week: a first-year starter leading a team that, in many ways, is still trying to figure out who and what it is.
"Getting the W is the biggest thing, and individual performance doesn't really matter," said Nunes, who was 21-of-34 for 360 yards against the Wildcats. "That's one of the great things about us as a team. We're really a good cohesive unit."
The issue for Nunes this week is getting it done on the road. His only trip away from Palo Alto, Calif., was a disaster. But the No. 17 Cardinal have back-to-back road games, starting this week with a trip to No. 7 Notre Dame, where they will face a defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown in its past three contests.
Not letting the moment get too big -- the tradition, the crowd, the environment of Notre Dame -- will be key.
"I just go out with the mentality that each play needs to be our best play and putting the situation behind us," Nunes said. "If it's second-and-long, get half the yards for a good third down. Whatever ... the butterflies of the game, I've put those behind me."
At home, Nunes has been adequate, with stretches of really good and below average. Last week, the really good far outweighed the below average. He's completing 55 percent of his throws on average with 244 yards and two touchdowns at Stanford Stadium. Since he's only had one road game -- the aforementioned Seattle slip-up -- the numbers aren't good: 18-of-37 for 170 yards with no touchdowns. In other words, Nunes has to do better on the road.
"Our support for him hasn't wavered," Shaw said. "We continue to coach him just like everybody. We'll coach him just as hard this week as we did last week. More than anything else, hopefully some of those outside voices -- which we don't let penetrate us anyway -- will hopefully start to change to a certain degree and the greater community will continue to rally around him."
The voices inside the locker room have been nothing but supportive -- though Nunes probably swayed a couple of detractors by leading the Cardinal back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
"There was never a question in our minds," said offensive lineman David Yankey. "Coach Shaw has always supported him. And once the competition was over, that was it. Josh knows what's expected here and that it's a high standard. We know he can perform for us."
Nunes and Shaw are expecting a hostile environment in South Bend, Ind. Shaw has been there as a coach and player. But he doesn't think it can get any worse than it was in Seattle.
"That was probably the third-loudest place I've ever been in," Shaw said. "No. 2 was Oregon. No. 1 was the Kansas City Chiefs when I visited there as an Oakland Raider. Seattle is in that company."
Still, there will be challenges. And it wasn't just Nunes who played poorly on the road. There was plenty of blame to go around.
"For us, as coaches, we look at that game at Washington and we didn't get us," Shaw said. "We didn't play like us for the whole game. For us as coaches, what can we do now this week to make sure that doesn't happen again? That we show up and play the game we are capable of playing to our abilities? That's what we're going to do this week. Nothing is different from a practice standpoint, necessarily. But as far as a preparation standpoint, mentally, emotionally, we'll focus on that. It will be a hard environment. And last time we were away, we didn't play up to our standards, and now we have to."
2dChantel Jennings and David Lombardi