Hogan Potentially Stanford's Greatest Hero
By Christopher Wuensch
Kevin Hogan finished the 2013 season near the bottom of just about every passing category the Pac-12 has to offer.
If the Stanford junior has another year or two like last season, there’s a chance he could go down in Farm history as the greatest quarterback to power the Cardinal.
That’s not a slight on Stanford’s quarterbacking legacy, which has produced 10 starting NFL quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era and once earned the moniker “Quarterback U.” It’s actually quite the monumental task, considering Stanford’s quarterback fraternity composite photo features the smiling faces of a Heisman winner, three Consensus All-Americans, and as many former No. 1 draft picks (four) as College Football Hall-of-Famers.
We’re talking the likes of John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Andrew Luck.
Hogan, on the other hand, finished up last season ranked last in the Pac-12 among starting quarterbacks with 187.9 YPG. His 20 touchdowns barely tied him for seventh in the conference, while his 2,630 passing yards was 10th-best among his Pac-12 peers.
So how can a guy who tied for the fifth-most interceptions in the Pac-12 in 2013 go down as the greatest Cardinal to line up under center?
Real simple: wins. Kevin Hogan is the Parker Lewis of the Pac-12. He simply doesn’t lose.
Hogan is 17-3 since taking over for Josh Nunes during Week 10 of the 2012 season. One of those losses was as 24-20 defeat at the hands of Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. The other two losses came on the road in the hostile confines of Utah and Southern California — tough places to play, especially in 2013.
Hogan’s stat line isn’t all pedestrian. Fact is, the rising junior doesn’t throw all that much. But when he does, he makes it count.
Of the conference’s regular starting quarterbacks, only Utah’s Travis Wilson (237 attempts) had fewer passes than Hogan’s 295 tosses. And Wilson missed three games due to a horrific-sounding intracranial artery injury. Hogan’s 151.5 efficiency rating placed him fourth overall in the Pac-12 behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Washington’s Keith Price and Brett Hundley of UCLA.
All three of the aforementioned quarterbacks should at least get a shot to catch on with a team in the NFL — even Price a free agent recently released by the Seattle Seahawks. Hogan’s résumé, however, has an ace-in-hole that none of them have: he’s beaten all them, twice.
At his current pace, Hogan is looking at roughly 9,000 yards for his career, which would lift him from No. 15 on Stanford’s all-time passing list to No. 4 — leapfrogging the likes of Plunkett and Trent Edwards and would find him pushing Elway’s 9,349 career passing yards. Steve Stenstrom’s 10,701 career passing yards might be a tad out of reach.
Same goes for touchdown passes where his current clip would leave him at an estimated 70 scoring strikes, also good enough for No. 4, abutting Stenstrom’s 72 TDs and Elway’s 77. Hogan would need 27 touchdown passes in each his junior and senior seasons to eclipse Andrew Luck’s 82 career touchdown heaves in three years. Hogan would need four years to catch Luck.
These numbers are based on Hogan’s sophomore season. It stands to reason that with age and a restocked Cardinal weaponry, Hogan’s stats will see an incremental increase.
At his current clip, Hogan stands to be right up there, statistically speaking, with every quarterback to ever lead the Cardinal, Cardinals or Indians. At least in the age where players didn’t wear leather helmets, that is.
Frankie Albert, a two-time All-American who piloted Stanford in the early 1940s, is credited with being the first quarterback to run the T-Formation in football history. Albert led Stanford to a 9-0 record and a pseudo-national title in 1940 that wasn’t recognized by the AP, rather by the bygone voting systems of the Billingsley Report, Helms Athletic Foundation and the Polling System.
It would be 70 years before a Stanford quarterback (Luck, No. 4) would guide the Cardinal to a top-5 finish in the AP polls.
Bobby Garrett (1954), Elway (1983), Luck (2012) and Plunkett (1971) all went No. 1 in the NFL draft.
With stats being just about a wash, the tiebreaker comes down to wins. Seeing that Stanford hasn’t technically won an outright national title (they split 1926’s honors with Alabama), the ultimate decider comes down to the Granddaddy of Them All: the Rose Bowl.
Hogan has already been to as many Rose Bowls (1-1 record) as any other quarterback in Stanford history. There’s a very legitimate shot he’ll see another one before his days on The Farm are over.
An eye injury in 1935 shelved Frank Alustiza chances to take the Indians to three-straight Rose Bowls. One more Rose Bowl win for Hogan and he’ll be in his own company. Alustiza went 0-2 in the Rose Bowl.
As great as John Brodie was — leading the nation in touchdown passes (12) as a consensus All-American in 1956 — the Stanford quarterback actually threw more interceptions (14) that season than TD’s and guided the Indians to a paltry 4-6 record.
Elway, for all the pomp and glory that sustains his legendary status, never even went to a bowl game, let alone a Rose Bowl. He only finished above .500 once in his entire Cardinal career and that was at 6-5 as a sophomore in 1980. He finished his career in Palo Alto a spectacularly-mediocre 20-23.
Luck, despite all his personal accolades, never played in the Rose Bowl. And twice wore a bridesmaid dress as a Heisman-Award runner up. His Cardinal teams finished No. 4 and No. 7 in the country respectfully in 2010 and 2011. Hogan’s Cardinal squads have finished No. 7 and No. 11 in final AP voting.
Luck holds the career mark on The Farm for wins with a 31-8 lifetime record. If Stanford can run the table in 2014, Hogan will also have 31 wins in three seasons.
Plunkett won both a Heisman Award and was a Rose Bowl MVP. If we’re talking potential here, Hogan stands to have much better numbers than Plunkett, more Rose Bowl appearances and perhaps wins, and has a chance to do what no other Cardinal has ever done in winning an AP-recognized national title.
With a hypothetical perfect season and a national title under his belt, it stands to reason that Hogan’s name would rise to the top of that elite fraternity. And his draft stock will certainly rise to No. 1 pick consideration.
Now, all Hogan has to do is go out and make greatness happen.