When the season began, Stanford’s second game — at home Saturday against Duke — looked like little more than a warm-up for the Cardinal’s Sept. 15 game against Southern Cal.
After all, the Cardinal was ranked 21st in the preseason Associated Press poll, and Duke was picked to finish last in its division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cardinal had clobbered Duke 44-14 last year in Durham, N.C., so even without Andrew Luck, it seemed Stanford would have no trouble with the Blue Devils at Stanford Stadium this year.
Things look a lot different after the teams’ openers, though.
Stanford struggled mightily against a San Jose State team it was expected to crush, using a fourth-quarter field goal to record a shaky 20-17 victory but held on to keep the final spot in the latest AP Top 25 poll.
Luck’s replacement, Josh Nunes, had decent statistics, and he was praised afterward by coach David Shaw, but he was just 4-for-10 in the second half, and the Cardinal did not produce a touchdown after the first quarter.
“I did some good things, but there were things I need to improve on for this week,” Nunes said.
The Cardinal running game that was supposed to be so powerful was far from dominant. Duke opened with an impressive 46-26 victory over a Florida International team that was picked to win the Sun Belt title.
“Defensively, they’re going to be aggressive,” Shaw said of Duke. “They have some long, rangy guys on the defensive side, and they try to make it as difficult on you as possible, based on their alignments.”
The biggest concern for Stanford is Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, who completed 21-of-30 passes for 290 yards against Florida International.
No longer is the Duke game to be considered just a tuneup; it is a game Stanford is in jeopardy of losing, based on the results of the opening weekend.