Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 2, 2012

Offense may have new look

Hogan's increased play at quarterback could be significant for stretch run

by Rick Eymer

Kevin Hogan has apparently done enough in practice to force himself into the game planning for Stanford football coach David Shaw.

The redshirt freshman quarterback just keeps getting better, forcing Shaw's hand. The second-year coach announced Hogan would have his playing time increased up to 20 plays when the 15th-ranked Cardinal (4-1, 6-2) travels to Colorado for a Pac-12 Conference contest on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Stanford is locked in a battle for the North Division title with Oregon (5-0) and Oregon State (4-1). All three teams still have to play each other. Thus, every game is important and Hogan's role in the final games of the season could be important as his playing time increases.

"He's earning it," Shaw said. "He has done everything we've asked of him exceptionally well."

Shaw emphasized that both Josh Nunes and Hogan would play in the contest against the Buffaloes (1-4, 1-7).

"We have packages for both," Shaw said. "I'm not ready to take it away from Josh. We have to be more efficient in the passing game. We can't have another half in which we only run 15 plays."

Hogan has played in four games but hardly has much game experience in the passing game. He completed his only pass for a touchdown and has run the ball seven times for a net 12 yards.

"Kevin is a bigger, faster athlete," Shaw said. "He can run. He is elusive. Kevin's athletic ability in space is special."

Hogan has been given a bigger chunk of the offensive playbook in hopes of sparking the offense, which has averaged just over 15 points in three road games.

"He has played so well I can't not give him more," Shaw said.

Nunes took the news in stride.

"He's done a lot of good things on the field," Nunes said. "If he can help us win a game I'm all for it."

Hogan said he spent his freshman season trying to learn as much as he could from Andrew Luck. He apparently paid close attention.

"We have depth at quarterback," Stanford outside linebacker Alex Debniak said. "He can run and he has a gun for an arm."

Guard Dillon Bonnell, who is being used as a tight end lately, said Hogan knows how to run a huddle.

"He's a confident kid," said Bonnell. "He knows he can play, what his role is and he knows how to get it done."

Meanwhile, receiver Ty Montgomery could return to the lineup this weekend. He's been taking part in practice and looks improved. Shaw said a final decision on his availability will be made on Thursday.

Freshman offensive lineman Andrus Peat may not be available, however, because of an injury to a finger earlier in the week in practice.

Stepfan Taylor, meanwhile, is 96 rushing yards away from his third straight 1,000-yard season, which would be a first in Stanford history. Darrin Nelson went over 1,000 yards three times, but not in consecutive years.

As for traveling to the high altitude of Boulder, Shaw said the team already has taken some precautions in playing at the elevation.

"We try to go through practice with that shortness of breath that will happen," Shaw said. "We can rotate guys earlier. It usually takes about a quarter and a half to to acclimate."

Bonnell hails from Colorado, and said he feels the difference in elevation when he comes to Stanford, where he can achieve better stamina.

"It will be the first time I've played in the area since going to Stanford and I will have a lot of family and friends," Bonnell said. "I've seen the ups and downs of the Buffs."

Bonnell has two numbers, 76 as an offensive lineman and 96 as a tight end. He starts the game with the number 96.

"My role is a big tight end," he said. "It's the first time I've ever played anything other than the OL. You have a lot more freedom when you're blocking. I enjoy getting to full speed at people and throwing my weight around."

Debniak said the defensive line will be challenged by a Colorado team that "has the ability to run the ball as well as anyone in the conference. That poses a challenge for the run defense. We still hope to try to make them a one-dimensional team."

Debniak said the linebackers are an interesting bunch.

"We all have dynamic personalities," Debniak said. "We like to play loud and with a lot of energy. We have a great time as a group."

The linebackers were a major reason why Stanford set a school record with 10 sacks against Washington State last week, holding the Cougars to minus-18 yards of rushing.

The Cardinal defense ranks first in the NCAA in tackles for losses, third in sacks and second in rushing defense.

Stanford has the best turnover margin in the Pac-12, while the Buffaloes are last in the category.

Stanford is playing at Colorado for the first team since 1990, when Shaw was a freshman wide receiver. He made that trip before ending up as a redshirt.

"It was the first time I ever suited up and I was the first out of the locker room," Shaw said. "I'm leading the team onto the field and I see Ralphie the Buffalo running right at me. I did not know what to expect and I started to go backwards while all these guys behind me are pushing me forward."

Stanford ended up losing the game, 21-17, on a controversial touchdown with 12 seconds left. The Cardinal can't afford a similar ending Saturday. Too much is at stake.

Stanford still has a shot at becoming the Pac-12 champ and earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. Should Oregon wind up in the national championship game, the Cardinal could still end up in Pasadena.

A loss to Colorado, however, would end that.

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