STANFORD, Calif. - Stanford's maligned offense proved it could win an offensive shootout, and quarterback Josh Nunes proved he could lead a fourth-quarter comeback, as the Cardinal outlasted Arizona 54-48 in overtime at Stanford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
When the Cardinal failed to score an offensive touchdown in its 17-13 loss to Washington in its previous game, the Cardinal offense in general and Nunes in particular were criticized.
But against an Arizona team that piled up 617 yards of total offense, No. 18 Stanford (4-1, 2-1 in the Pac-12) overcame a 14-point deficit with 9:03 left in the fourth quarter, and scored the tying touchdown with 45 seconds to go on Nunes' three-yard touchdown run, one play after he completed a 17-yard pass to Zach Ertz on a fourth-and nine play from the 20.
In the overtime, Chase Thomas intercepted a tipped Matt Scott pass to end Arizona's possession, and Stepfan Taylor ended the game on a 21-yard touchdown run on the Cardinal's second play of overtime.
Coaching in a game that featured more than 100 points, more than 1,200 yards of total offense and 10 lead changes did not do much for the nerves of Stanford coach David Shaw.
"Awful for coaches and coaches' wives," Shaw said, "But I told the team, this was the kind of game we needed."
It proved Stanford could win a game coming from behind when forced to throw, which was in doubt after the first four games.
Scott set single-game school records for passing attempts (69) and completions (45) while piling up 491 passing yards with three touchdowns and the one interception, against a Cardinal defense that had been effective in the first four games.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was surprised afterward to learn Scott had thrown the ball more than 60 times.
"I didn't realize that," he said. "That's a lot of throws. That's all right. We've got ice for him."
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey added 132 rushing yards, and Austin Hill had 11 catches for 165 receiving yards.
Stanford also had 617 yards of total offense. Taylor rushed for 142 yards, and Nunes completed 21 of 34 passes for a career-high 360 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Levine Toilolo had 141 receiving yards.
Despite all of Arizona's offensive numbers, Rodriguez bemoaned the Wildcats' inability to move the ball on two late possessions.
After Nunes had directed a 60-yard scoring drive to cut the Stanford deficit to 48-41, the Wildcats went three-and-out for the first time since the first quarter, giving Stanford an opportunity to tie it at the end.
"We needed to make one more play in the fourth quarter and we end up winning the game," he said.
After regaining possession with 5:43 left, Nunes directed a 14-play, 79-yard drive in the final minute, despite having a 10-yard offensive holding penalty early in the possession.
"Josh is just so steady," Shaw said. "He doesn't go up. He doesn't go down."
The Wildcats, who lost their third straight to drop to 3-3, then failed to convert in the overtime, too.
After getting a first down at the Cardinal 13, Arizona was unable to gain any yards on the next two plays, and Thomas intercepted a tipped ball on third down.
"I was just thinking, "Catch it and make a big play,'" Thomas said. "We showed we could handle adversity. It was like a 16-round heavyweight fight."
No team had sliced apart the Cardinal's defense like Arizona did on Saturday, but as Shaw noted, "The defense played well when they had to play well,"
Shaw said he had no intention of putting the ball in the air on Stanford's overtime possession, but Taylor prevented the Cardinal from relying on a field goal by bursting up the middle to score the winning touchdown from 21 yards out.
It left Stanford feeling good about itself heading into next week's road game against Notre Dame.
Arizona overcame a one-point halftime deficit by taking the second-half kickoff and quickly driving 75 yards for a score that gave the Wildcats a 20-14 lead.
But the lead seesawed after that as the teams combined for 69 points in the second half.
The game's first turnover - a Ty Montgomery fumble at the Stanford 45 - resulted in a nine-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Miller that pushed the Arizona lead to 48-34 with 9:13.
Arizona seemed in control at that point, but Stanford got back in the game by scoring on its next possession, then forcing the three-and-out.
NOTES: Stanford lost starting cornerback Terrence Brown when he was inadvertently kicked in the chin on Arizona's second offensive play. ... Stanford backup tailback Anthony Wilkerson missed his second straight game Saturday because of a lower leg injury. ... Saturday's game was Arizona's third straight against a ranked opponent, and its next three opponents - Washington, USC and UCLA - are all ranked as of Saturday. ... Arizona played without center Kyle Quinn (ankle) and safety Jared Tevis (ankle). Tevis was second in the Pac-12 in tackles heading into the weekend. ... Arizona's Scott entered Saturday's game ranked fifth in the nation in total offense. ... Entering Saturday, Rich Rodriguez had a 12-4 record in nonconference games and a 6-20 record in conference games since leaving West Virginia following the 2007 season.