Kevin Hogan finds himself in a similar situation this week when the 16th-ranked Cardinal hosts No. 13 Oregon State on Saturday in Stanford Stadium in a Pac-12 Conference football game at noon.
Tavita Pritchard, currently on the Stanford football coaching staff, had thrown about two passes during a real game before taking over for T.C. Ostrander during Jim Harbaugh's rookie season with the Cardinal in 2007.
Stanford had just gotten kicked around by Arizona State at home, 41-3, in what would be its worst loss of the season and Ostrander, who graduated from Menlo-Atherton High, suffered a seizure a day later.
Pritchard was named the starter for a game at then-No. 2 USC and faced overwhelming odds. The rest, as they often say, is history. You can look it up.
Hogan's first start won't be nearly as dramatic. The redshirt freshman already has proven himself over the course of this season. His task, though, remains the same. A victory over the Beavers would mean Stanford will remain among the elite in the Pac-12 and move up from its No. 14 position in the BCS standings. A loss would drop the Cardinal to the second tier of bowl games.
Hogan has the support of his teammates, just as Pritchard had the support of his five years ago. Then- senior wide receiver Evan Moore even went so far as to predict a win over the Trojans.
Can Hogan produce the same results?
"He's a great quarterback," Stanford senior receiver Jamal-Rashad Patterson said. "He never got too excited and he never got down. He's just so cool, like the most interesting man in the world."
On the exterior, nothing seemed to change for Hogan when he was told by head coach David Shaw he would be the starter this week.
"Anything I can do to help the team," Hogan said. "I have to stay focused. I've prepared each week like I was going to play regardless if I do or not."
Hogan, a native of McLean, Va., said the only people he told were his parents (his mother will be making the trip from the East Coast), and he just barely cracked a smile when saying so. It doesn't seem like anything gets him excited.
"The boy can sling it," Stanford linebacker Jarek Lancaster said. "I expect a lot out of him. I know in spring ball it was hard to tackle him when they made him live."
Hogan took over from Josh Nunes in Stanford's 48-0 victory over host Colorado last weekend, leading the Cardinal (5-1, 7-2) on six successive scoring drives.
"It's culminated in the last two weeks," Shaw said. "He has shown a lot of promise, which is why he began to play. Athletically he gives us something special, and he's showed he can handle the running game."
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Hogan finished 18 of 23 with two touchdowns and 184 yards against the Buffaloes. He also rushed for 48 yards. Nunes was 3 of 5 for 23 yards and Brett Nottingham also played, going 3 of 5 for 16 yards.
"It was very difficult," Shaw said of the decision. "We owe great thanks to Josh Nunes. At the time, he was the only quarterback who handle the offense. We don't win the USC game without Josh. This is not about Josh, it has to do with Kevin. He gives us an added dimension as a runner, a rare thing."
To date, Nunes has thrown for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's completed nearly 53 percent of his passes (124 of 235) while throwing seven interceptions. He's also rushed for 112 yards and three scores.
"We have switched starters at other positions but the quarterback just gets more attention," Shaw said. "He was ready. Kevin has put some things on film that are tough to prepare for. Here's a guy, athletically, who can get an offense out of trouble."
Hogan accomplished a lot against a defense ranked last in the nation. In Oregon State he'll be facing one of the top defenses.
"They don't beat themselves," Shaw said of the Beavers. "They are never out of position and you don't see them give up many big plays. They don't break containment, they don't make mistakes. They are tough, aggressive and they don't waver."
Nunes took the news of his demotion calmly, Shaw said.
"He understood," Shaw said. "He's a competitor and I told him the competition has not stopped."
Nunes and Hogan remain close.
"He's been nothing but the most supportive teammate," Hogan said of Nunes. "He's a great friend and a great teammate."
Hogan never planned to visit Stanford while at Gonzaga Prep in Washington D.C. He was recruited by Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
"My parents told me it was good school and I should at least visit," said Hogan, who had gained interest from Virginia and Vanderbilt, among others. "When I saw Stanford, I was convinced that's where I wanted to go. I committed before Andrew Luck said he was going to return to school. When he did say so, I was happy."
Hamilton, who has ties to the D.C./Maryland area, said Hogan displayed great physical tools, had a high GPA and high test scores.
Once Shaw saw him on film, it was easy enough to go after him.
"It seemed like it rained every week and he played in the mud," Shaw said. "He never missed a cut, never slipped. He's a mudder."
"I got to see every kind of football weather," Hogan said. "It's fun. When it rains here, it's nothing."
Hogan said the Toby Gerhart era was the first time he became aware of Stanford.
"I loved the offense they ran," he said. "It was a hard-nosed, run-the-ball down your throat offense. That's when I started thinking a little more about it."
Now, Hogan is helping Stanford think about things like a Pac-12 title and BCS game.