Kevin Hogan rose to the challenge of his first extended playing time of the season, passing for 184 yards and rushing for another 48 yards to help lead the 15th-ranked Stanford football team past host Colorado, 48-0, in a Pac-12 contest Saturday.
Maybe it was the higher altitude. Whatever it was, The redshirt freshman replaced redshirt junior Josh Nunes and helped to hand Colorado its first shutout at home in 26 years.
"We knew we were going to give Josh the first two series and give Kevin the next two series and see where we went from there," Cardinal coach David Shaw said. "And Kevin took the ball and ran with it."
The Buffaloes were powerless to respond, gaining 76 yards of offense.
"We had to prove that we could finish, we know we have a great defense. We needed to prove that we could play 60 minutes," Shaw said. "We didn't want any let up, they drove down the field at the end and we were able push them back again. Our guys played extremely well."
The Cardinal (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) handed the Buffs (1-8, 1-5) their first shutout at Folsom Field since a 28-0 loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 15, 1986, snapping a streak of 150 straight games in which the Buffs had scored at home.
Andrew Luck raised the stakes for all future Stanford quarterbacks following his brilliant three-year career. It was a tough enough assignment for Nunes just to follow in those footsteps let alone compare favorably to him.
Hogan, who engineered scores on six successive drives, completed 18 of 23 passes with two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks before Brett Nottingham got his chance in the fourth quarter.
"Well, you see the mobility," Shaw said. "It's not just the scrambling for a couple of yards. He's fast, he can run, he's athletic, he can throw on the move, to the left and to the right. We saw him push up in the pocket and find his check-downs."
Any downers coach?
"I can't find a lot of negatives to what he did," Shaw said. "I'm very, very impressed."
Hogan may get a chunk of playing time next Saturday, when Stanford hosts Oregon State.
"There's a chance you might see more than one quarterback," Shaw said. "You will see a whole lot of Kevin Hogan."
He wouldn't commit to naming him the starter, however.
The soft-spoken Hogan likely won't be campaigning for the spot this week either.
"Whatever the coaches think," he said. "It was a good team win and whatever they choose, I'm happy with. I was preparing myself to play as much as they needed me."
Tight end Zach Ertz was subtle in his support of Hogan.
"Whatever the coaches want to do," Ertz said. "He played great, obviously. He had five incompletions the whole game, I think that kind of speaks for itself."
Hogan led Stanford to touchdowns on his first four drives, putting the Buffaloes in a 35-0 halftime hole, then added two more scoring drives in the third quarter.
The Buffaloes didn't enter Stanford territory until tight end Nick Kasa's 20-yard catch at the Cardinal 33 with 9:16 left in the game. Two plays later, a sack for 24 yards pushed them behind enemy lines, and Colorado never recovered.
"We don't ever expect easy games," said free safety Ed Reynolds, who intercepted Jordan Webb's pass and returned it for a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter. "Every team is going to give it their all against us. Week in, week out, we can expect the Pac‐12 to be a competitive conference. On both sides of the ball, we just came out and did exactly what we wanted to, which was to dominate from the beginning."
Cornerback Alex Carter forced another turnover on the next series, as he jarred the ball loose from a receiver and linebacker A.J. Tarpley grabbed it.
Three plays later, Stepfan Taylor ran untouched for a 26-yard touchdown that made it 14-0.
Hogan then drove the Cardinal on touchdown drives of 70, 65 and 58 yards, but his coach and teammates loved his 20-yard scramble on third-and-9 more than anything else.
"Just to get my legs warm, that run felt real good," Hogan said.
"I think that was great to see for the offense to add that extra dimension," Ertz said.
Taylor added a 2-yard TD run with 8 seconds left in the half after Jamal-Rashad Patterson came down with Hogan's 20-yard pass on third-and-14.
The Buffaloes are the worst team in the nation by several measures, including scoring defense, kickoff coverage, sacks allowed and passing efficiency. So, what can the Cardinal really take from this mismatch?
"A lot," Shaw insisted. "Because it's still about us. It's about execution, it's about guys doing their jobs and doing them well. That's what we always look at regardless of who we play or where we play."