QBs to split more snaps for No. 15 Stanford

The competition to be Andrew Luck’s long-term replacement is not

as settled as it once seemed.

With Josh Nunes struggling to consistently move the offense,

Stanford coach David Shaw said Tuesday that he plans to play backup

quarterback Kevin Hogan more. Hogan will take about 12 to 20 snaps

at Colorado on Saturday, putting pressure on Nunes to improve after

several sloppy starts.

Hogan, a redshirt freshman, played only about six downs in each

of the last two games. While most of that time has been as a

read-option or wildcat-style quarterback, expect more passes and

packages soon.

”He’s not ready to take it all right now,” Shaw said, ”and

I’m not ready to take it all away from Josh.”

Nunes has started all eight games since the Indianapolis Colts

selected Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. The

redshirt junior completed 7 of 15 passes for 136 yards and a

touchdown as Stanford squeezed past lowly Washington State 24-17

last week. He never found his rhythm, and at times looked lost.

The defense, which has carried the Cardinal all season, sacked

Jeff Tuel a school-record 10 times, and Ed Reynolds returned an

interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to bail out the

offense again.

Now the No. 15 Cardinal (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) head to Boulder to

face the beleaguered Buffaloes (1-7, 1-4). Future playing time

could be at stake with matchups against No. 13 Oregon State and

second-ranked Oregon that will decide the Pac-12 North Division up

next.

Asked if he’d consider starting Hogan should the trend for both

quarterbacks continue, Shaw said: ”Anything is possible. Anything

is possible, which is always the thing when you’re going to give a

guy more time at any position.

”We just can’t have another half like we had this past game

where we had 15 plays the whole first half. We have to be more

efficient.”

Washington State, the only winless team in Pac-12 play, had 25

first downs to 12 for Stanford. The Cardinal converted five of

them, only put together one complete drive all game, and Shaw

spelled Nunes for five consecutive plays with Hogan between the

third and fourth quarters.

Apparently Shaw has finally seen enough to audible from a

formula that so often hasn’t worked.

Nunes beat out strong-armed Brett Nottingham, once considered

the favorite for the starting job, in fall practice. Hogan emerged

late in that competition, and even though the depth chart still

lists Nottingham as No. 2, Hogan has since passed the redshirt

sophomore for playing time.

While Shaw said in spring practice he disliked a two-quarterback

approach because it could disrupt rhythm, circumstances have forced

him to consider otherwise.

”It’s not so much a change in philosophy as saying, `This is

what is prudent. This is what is the smart thing to do,”’ Shaw

said.

Nunes has completed 52.6 percent of his passes. Shaw has said

all year he wants that figure to be at about 70 percent, especially

considering Stanford doesn’t throw deep that often.

Nunes has thrown for 1,620 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven

interceptions. His struggles have been well documented in losses at

Washington and Notre Dame, but so have his highlights. He led

Stanford to a 21-14 victory against then-No. 2 Southern California,

and rallied the Cardinal from a two-touchdown deficit to stun

Arizona 54-48 in overtime.

Nunes has shouldered the blame for any offensive struggles.

”It starts with me,” he said Tuesday, adding that he isn’t

bothered at all by splitting time with Hogan, and praising his

budding backup. ”I just need to make the throws and be more

consistent and get us into the right plays more often.”

Shaw also is quick to point out that not all the blame falls on

Nunes.

Top wide receiver Ty Montgomery has missed three straight games

with a lower leg injury, and he dropped two key passes in the loss

at Washington, among others. Stepfan Taylor ran for a career-high

189 yards against Cal two weeks ago, but then the young offense

struggled to create lanes against the Cougars. The senior ran for

only 58 yards on 21 carries.

Hogan has seven carries for 16 yards in four games and has only

thrown the ball once, connecting with tight end Levine Toilolo for

a 9-yard touchdown in Stanford’s 21-3 win at rival California.

Shaw said Hogan has an ”added mobility,” earned more playing

in practices, and has ”done exceptionally well” with the small

amount of offense he has run. Shaw said he isn’t worried about the

potential impact on Nunes’ confidence and expects the move to only

motivate both quarterbacks more.

”As I said in front of the team, this is big-time college

football. There’s competition everywhere,” Shaw said. ”Josh has

responded great in practice, and so has Kevin. It’s not necessarily

to compete to be the starter. It’s competing for plays.”’

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at:

www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP