LOS ANGELES-Following a legend isn’t so bad. But when you’re walking behind in the shadows of a man considered the Next Great NFL Quarterback, the pressure to live up to those high standards, can no doubt either be a blessing or a curse. In the case of Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, it has all worked out pretty well.
The man that followed Andrew Luck had some big steps to fill when he stepped in as a starter for the Cardinal a couple of years ago. All he has done since is lead Stanford to three Rose Bowl Game appearances, racked up a 2-1 record in the “Granddaddy of Them All” game, and staked the Cardinal to three Pac-12 Conference championships.
After Stanford dismantled Iowa 45-16 in the 2016 version of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, Hogan’s college career is done. He’ll be moving on to the next chapter of his life, which should include joining Luck at the NFL level. But when you look back at Hogan’s career at Stanford, be warned that you’re not going to be blown away by mercurial passing numbers.
What you’ll see is a guy who operates with a steady hand, a quarterback who plays efficient. He’s also a guy who has a rocket arm and is about as mobile as Luck. And when he’s called to take a game into his own hands, he knows how to do it. The Iowa defense knows this all too well now.
While the Hawkeyes were keeping all eyes on Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey, Hogan took them apart with his right arm and scrambling legs, producing four touchdowns.
Being single-handily responsible for scoring four touchdowns on a national stage such as the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual, more than likely will earn you a spot in bowl game lore. At the very least, you’ll probably get handed the game’s top offensive player award.
Hogan will likely receive neither. And that’s okay. Going out in his last meaningful collegiate football game as a winner and having secured three Rose Bowl Game appearances as the starting quarterback for the Cardinal, may register a lot higher with the senior signal-caller than picking up individual accolades.
While McCaffrey outdid the brilliant performance executed by Hogan, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for a score in Stanford’s blowout win on New Year’s Day, the Cardinal quarterback quietly dissected Iowa with some pinpoint passing.
McCaffrey’s astonishing 368 all-purpose yards against the Hawkeyes may have outdid Hogan’s output of 223 passing yards on a national media scale. But it was the play of Stanford’s triggerman that put the Cardinal offense in explode and go mode. That would start with the first play of the game when Hogan connected with McCaffrey for a 75-yard pass and catch touchdown.
“I’ve had the best vantage point all season watching this guy,” Hogan said of the game’s initial touchdown pass to McCaffrey. “You get used to seeing that stuff. I shouldn’t take it for granted, but I saw him make a great cut across the defender’s face and just try to put a ball on him. Of course, he makes people fall and outraces them to the end zone, and that’s the start we needed. We play a lot of young guys on this team, and to come out with a quick touchdown, quick strike really helped us out, helped us feel confident and settle into the game. I think it helped the whole team kind of get into a rhythm.”
Thanks to Hogan’s two touchdowns on Stanford’s first two possessions, the Cardinal became the first team in bowl history to score 21 points in the first quarter.
The numbers that Hogan put up for the game is kind of reflective of what he has done throughout his career. The stat line is not going to wow anyone. That’s okay. Hogan’s statistics does not move you when it comes to the excitement meter. Before the Rose Bowl Game, Hogan passed for 2, 644 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The year before, Hogan went for 2, 792 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. And in his first full season as a full-time starter at Stanford, Hogan passed for 2, 630 yards and 20 touchdowns. Not exactly the kind of numbers that will get you to pump the brakes or cause you to stop in your tracks.
These numbers are ho-hum or pedestrian at best. Stanford coach David Shaw will Hogan just the way he is, thank you very much. A large part of what makes Shaw appreciative of Hogan is the leadership qualities he brought to the Cardinal team.
“He’s a guy that’s been through the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows, and he’s gained perspective and he’s gained wisdom,” Shaw said in a press conference leading up to the Rose Bowl Game. “That leadership has shown up every time that we’ve needed it throughout the year. Tough moments, difficult moments, tight games, I mean, he’s the main reason why we’ve been up by two scores in games and we keep playing well. There have been games we’ve been down by two scores, and it’s his steadiness, and his belief and his energy that keeps the guys fired up and ready to go.
“Down two scores, third game of the year at USC, it’s a tough place to be down two scores with that crowd going, and he led us back on a bad ankle. Down two scores to Washington State, the defense is playing outstanding, and we can’t complete a pass and we can’t run the ball, and he has three long runs, basically, that help us stay in the game and have a chance to win it at the end. So his leadership, whether it’s as a runner, as a passer or just as an experienced player talking to the rest of the team, it’s really shown up when we’ve needed it.”
What gets you excited about Hogan is that he takes care of the football and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. In the past three years, Hogan has completed 72 touchdown passes against just 25 interceptions. Even more impressive is his completion percentage. For the 2015 college football season, Hogan hovered close to the 70 percent (68.6%) mark.
And for his career, he completed 66.1 percent of his passes. What Hogan accomplished during his career is atypical of a Stanford football players: fundamentally sound and mistake-free. That’s a pretty good formula for winning at any level. It sure as heck works the Stanford way.
Hogan is not Luck. For Stanford’s sake, it is a good thing he didn’t try to be. He’s too busy trying to Kevin Hogan. If Hogan tried to emulate Luck or anyone else, the Cardinal may not have made it to the Rose Bowl Game in three of the last four years.
“I mean it’s awesome,” Hogan said during the Rose Bowl Game Media Day. “It’s our goal to be here each year, and just trying to meet those goals, and to get back down here for a third time is remarkable. And just shows the guys we have on our team and coaches we have and the hard work we put in.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers sports, social and racial justice, politics, equal rights, and entertainment. Dennis has over two decades of journalism experience. He earned a degree in journalism from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”