STANFORD (CBS/AP) — With his booming voice echoing outside, defensive tackle and part-time singer Terrence Stephens huddled his Stanford teammates in the locker room and gave the program’s postgame tradition a twist.
Instead of just counting the Cardinal’s points in unison — a chant he led later anyway — Stephens called out, “Who’s next?”
“Trojans!” teammates replied.
“Who’s house!” he yelled.
“Our house!” they responded.
Say this for Stanford players: they know when they need to play better.
Drew Terrell returned a punt 75 yards for a score and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass, Ed Reynolds took one of his two interceptions for another touchdown and No. 25 Stanford rebounded from a disappointing debut to roll past Duke 50-13 on Saturday night.
Next up: a home date against second-ranked Southern California in a rematch of last season’s triple-overtime thriller the Cardinal (2-0) won. And while Stanford coach David Shaw called his team’s effort “a lot better” than it was in a 20-17 win over San Jose State last week, he also recognized the obvious truth that will simmer around this Silicon Valley campus the next six days.
“The game that we played tonight,” Shaw said, “still wouldn’t be good enough to beat USC.”
From one week to the next, the strides Stanford made still overwhelmed Duke in all phases.
Josh Nunes completed 16 of 30 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, showing more flair in his second start since No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck left for the NFL. The redshirt junior overcame his first interception to move the Cardinal offense with a strong and steady hand that never surfaced in the opener.
Jordan Richards also picked off a pass by Duke’s Sean Renfree to highlight a dominant defensive effort in a final tuneup before Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Co. stroll into Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal held the Blue Devils (1-1) to 27 yards rushing, forced three turnovers and leaned on its defensive and special teams on a night mohawk-wearing middle linebacker Shayne Skov returned. Skov, who served a one-game suspension last week for a DUI arrest on campus, had four tackles and one pass breakup in his first start since tearing ligaments in his left knee in the third game at Arizona last season.
The one downside: only 92 yards rushing for a program that prides itself on power performances.
“It’s all hands on deck, honestly,” Skov said. “We have to have the best week of practice we’ve had so far. We have to make sure we’re a little sharper than we were this week. It’s going to take everything we got.”
Such a blowout against Duke seemed unlikely leading into this matchup of historically strong academic universities.
Stanford slipped four spots in the AP poll following that too-close-for-comfort win last week. Duke also routed Florida International 46-26, beating a Football Bowl Subdivision team in its opener for the first time since 2002.
Both programs reverted to last season’s form in a hurry.
After the defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession, Terrell split two defenders and juked the punter before running untouched down the sideline to give Stanford a 7-0 lead. The Cardinal had not returned a punt for a score since Richard Sherman’s 48-yarder against San Jose State on Sept. 19, 2009.
Officials whistled Tony Foster for pass interference against tight end Levine Toilolo on third-and-7. That set up Stepfan Taylor’s 13-yard touchdown run on the next play to extend Stanford’s lead to 20-0 early in the second quarter.
Taylor finished with 69 yards rushing on 14 carries.
“When you get behind a good team like that,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said, “it can blow up on you and that’s exactly what happened.”
Stanford stuffed Duke repeatedly and constantly gave Nunes and the offense shorter fields. In the best chance the Blue Devils had to reach the end zone in the first half, the Cardinal pressured wildcat quarterback Brandon Connette into an incomplete pass on fourth-and-2 from Stanford’s 14-yard line.
The defensive dominance didn’t always translate into scores.
Nunes threw incomplete to tight end Zach Ertz on third down and Stanford settled for a 35-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson. Another incomplete pass to Ertz led to a 32-yard field goal, and Toilolo landed out of bounds in the back of the end zone before Williamson kicked a 22-yarder.
Ross Cockrell also stepped in front of a pass by Nunes and juggled the ball into his chest as he fell on his back for an interception. Nunes, who had only thrown two passes for Stanford before this season, had never tossed an interception.
“A heck of a lot better,” Nunes said about the team’s performance. “We had points on special teams, defense and we were able to put some points up on offense.
Any chance Duke had for a second-half surge ended fast.
A surprise onside kick failed and the Cardinal cruised down field. Nunes lofted a 19-yard pass in the corner of the end zone that Terrell wrestled away from Foster for another touchdown.
Henry Anderson tipped Renfree’s pass on the next possession, and Richards corralled the ball for an interception at Duke’s 7. That led to a 3-yard touchdown toss to Toilolo that put Stanford ahead 37-3 and sent an already sparse crowd — announced at 44,016 — heading home to rest for USC’s visit.
Reynolds added to the highlights when he stepped in front of Renke’s pass and ran 71 yards for a score. Reynolds, who intercepted David Fales’ final pass last week to seal Stanford’s win, also picked off backup Anthony Boone in the fourth quarter.
The last Stanford player with two interceptions in a game was Delano Howell in 2009 against Washington.
Renfree completed 28 of 40 passes for 200 yards and the two interceptions. Boone relieved Renfree with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter, and the rest turned into a formality Duke knows all too well.
The last time the Blue Devils beat a ranked team on the road was in 1971, coincidentally a 9-3 victory over Rose Bowl-bound Stanford on Oct. 2, 1971.
“Our team didn’t show up,” Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. “Stanford did show up.”
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