STANFORD (CBS/AP) — Chase Thomas intercepted a tipped pass by Matt Scott in overtime, Stepfan Taylor ran for a 21-yard score two plays later and No. 18 Stanford rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to stun Arizona 54-48 on Saturday.
Josh Nunes threw for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns and ran for three more scores for Stanford (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) to offset Scott’s record-setting performance.
Scott completed 45 of 69 passes — both school records — for 491 yards and three touchdowns until Henry Anderson tipped his final pass in overtime that Thomas intercepted. Arizona (3-3, 0-3) amassed 617 total yards but lost for the third straight game and is still winless in conference play.
For most of the afternoon, the Wildcats scored at will and looked more like the team that beat Oklahoma State to start 3-0 than the one that lost to Oregon and Oregon State the previous two weeks. Facing its third straight ranked opponent, Arizona’s aerial attack shredded Stanford’s defense in a way few teams have the past few seasons.
The Wildcats became the first team to eclipse 400 yards passing against the Cardinal since Oklahoma in the 2009 Sun Bowl. The Sooners threw for 418 yards in a 31-27 win over the Cardinal.
Too bad for Arizona its defense couldn’t hold up when it counted.
Nunes ran his second 1-yard touchdown to trim Arizona’s lead to 48-41 with 6:34 remaining. The Cardinal held the Wildcats to only their third three-and-out on the next possession, and Nunes led a drive that will help ease the doubts about Andrew Luck’s successor.
The redshirt junior ran for 16 yards on third-and-7 from midfield, threw 17 yards to tight end Zach Ertz on fourth-and-9 from Arizona’s 20 and ran for the tying touchdown with 45 seconds remaining.
After failing to find the end zone in a 17-13 loss at Washington last week, Stanford’s offense showed some fight from the start.
Taylor, who finished with 142 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 35 yards on seven carries before Nunes lofted an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ertz in the corner of the end zone to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead.
While the offense finally found its rhythm, Stanford’s defense struggled to slow down the fast-paced Arizona attack.
Ka’Deem Carey ran for 13 yards for his first of three touchdowns in the second quarter, and John Bonano kicked a 34-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead later in the quarter.
Nunes stayed steady and sharp, finding Levine Toilolo for a 12-yard touchdown pass to put Stanford back ahead 14-10. Bonano kicked a 33-yard field goal to slice Stanford’s lead to 14-13 at half.
The pace picked up even more following the break.
Scott threaded a 27-yard strike to Terrence Miller inches short of the goal line that set up Carey’s short touchdown run to put Arizona back ahead 20-14 less than 2 minutes into the third quarter.
While the Cardinal prefer to play grind-it-out games and control the clock, Arizona simply wouldn’t let them.
The teams traded touchdowns for most of the second half until Jourdon Grandon stripped Ty Montgomery after a 16-yard catch early in the fourth quarter. Arizona recovered and took over at Stanford’s 45.
Scott quickly led the offense down field and hooked up with Miller for a 10-yard completion that gave the Wildcats a 48-34 lead — the biggest either side had all afternoon. Scott nearly set the school passing record set by Willie Tuitama, who threw for a school-record 510 yards in a 48-41 win over Washington at Oct. 27, 2007.
Rodriguez opted to run the clock out with 45 seconds remaining from Arizona’s own 19 and two timeouts and play for overtime.
Stanford has now won after its last seven losses. The last time the Cardinal dropped consecutive games came in 2009, when it lost to Oregon State on Oct. 10 and then Arizona on Oct. 17.
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