By Mark Soltau
STANFORD, Calif. - This may come as a surprise to most Stanford football fans, but senior quarterback Josh Nunes is a thrill-seeker at heart. You could hardly tell from his demeanor, which is calmer than a watchmaker. But Nunes loves the outdoors, rode motorcycles in high school, and can't get enough of spearfishing.
"Oh yeah, I love being outside and doing that kind of stuff," he said.
Nunes' juices figure to be flowing Saturday, when No. 17 Stanford faces No. 7 Notre Dame in a nationally-televised game at sold-out Notre Dame Stadium. He's been there before, watching as a reserve in 2010 when Andrew Luck and the defense led Stanford to a 37-14 victory.
"I'll try to apply that experience to this game," said Nunes. "They're definitely a good defense. It will be a good challenge for us."
The unit hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past three games, and the Fighting Irish are the only team in the country that has yet to trail in a contest. Conversely, the Cardinal offense erupted for 54 points in last week's overtime win against Arizona. Nunes accounted for five touchdowns - three rushing and two passing - and was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
"The kid played great," said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football.
It was nice bounce-back for Nunes, who admittedly did not play his best the previous game in a 17-13 loss at Washington. Shaw never wavered in his support.
"It means a lot to me that the coaches have confidence in me," Nunes said. "I think it shows a lot for the offense, too."
So much so, that Shaw is now including running plays for Nunes in the game plan. In high school, the only time he ran was out of necessity.
"That's something we have been working on," said Nunes. "If it calls for it, it's nice to know that I can tuck it in and be able to get that first down if need be." Speaking of work, Nunes has almost completed his degree in management science and engineering, and will apply to graduate school shortly.
"I'm focusing on organization, technology and entrepreneurship," he said. "I love taking a lot of business classes with the business school professors here. It's a great opportunity. We have one of the best business schools in the country. That's been a whole lot of fun, especially the entrepreneurship of the Silicon Valley." Nunes said learning to juggle his school work the first three years at Stanford was tougher than learning the extensive offensive playbook.
"That was definitely one of my biggest challenges," said Nunes, who has studied French and can hold his own in conversation. "I kind of struggled a little bit with the engineering core. But I took a heavy load early and that's helped a lot. The last three years, taking 20 units in season, was a big challenge. But I love the fact that I did it because I learned how to balance my time better, and I can take a lighter load during the season."
Now, about his relaxed demeanor. Running back Stepfan Taylor shared the same dormitory when they were freshmen and said he hasn't changed a bit.
"Josh is calm and cool, just like he is in the huddle," said Taylor. "He's a funny guy. I've been around him a lot. It's hard not to like him."
Added offensive lineman Khalil Wilkes, "Nothing really gets him too antsy. That's good to have in a quarterback."
Nunes said certain things get him excited, like business classes. But he seldom loses his composure. That will be crucial Saturday for Stanford to upset Notre Dame. "I just go out there with the mentality that each play can be our best play," he said.