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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - November 29, 2013

Another big game for Stanford

Cardinal hosts Notre Dame on Saturday, with Pac-12 Championship Game looming

by Rick Eymer

Most of Kevin Hogan's relatives attended Notre Dame and Stanford's quarterback thought he might be going to South Bend too. That is, until he started looking at other schools and what may be best for him.

"I was always watching their games," Hogan said. "So, yeah, I guess I did want to go there."

Before the current coaching staff was in place, Notre Dame was certainly a place of interest and he took several visits there. Then he started focusing on other schools and, when it came time to decide, the Irish had slipped down the list.

Last year his relatives may have still leaned toward the Irish. After all, Hogan was not yet the starter. This year it's a different story.

"Everybody will be wearing Cardinal," Hogan said.

Nationally No. 8-ranked Stanford (9-2) hosts No. 25 Notre Dame (8-3) on Saturday, with a scheduled kickoff of 4 p.m. (FOX)

The Cardinal and Irish are both guaranteed to play in a bowl game, with Stanford already knowing it will play a 13th game next week against Arizona State for the overall Pac-12 title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.

"It's still a rivalry," said Hogan, who is coming off his best game, statistically speaking, in Stanford's 63-13 victory over California in the 116th Big Game. "We're playing for a trophy and that's motivation enough. You can't look at it as a revenge game."

Hogan threw for a career high 329 yards and five touchdowns in the Big Game victory over the Bears. He became the first Cardinal quarterback with as many touchdown passes in a game since Todd Husak did it in 1999.

Hogan spent most of last year's Notre Dame game on the sideline and had little to say about the controversial ending, in which Stanford's Stepfan Taylor was ruled down short of the end zone though replays clearly showed otherwise. Clearly, the Cardinal would like to reverse that ending.

"There are a lot of guys who do have connections with Notre Dame," said Hogan, who is 14-2 as a starter, including 8-0 against ranked opponents. "That makes it a fun game to play."

Stanford has won three of the past four games in a series that dates to the 1925 Rose Bowl, in which Notre Dame's legendary coach Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen won their first national title with a win over Pop Warner and Ernie Nevers.

The Notre Dame Club of the San Francisco Bay Area created the Legends Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of the Notre Dame-Stanford contest. The teams have met 27 times, with the Irish owning an 18-9 advantage.

Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy, who leads the nation in sacks, called last year's game against the Irish one of the most physical games he played in all season.

"I was impressed with their offensive line," Murphy said. "I'm sure it's going to be another physical game."

Murphy also maintained that what happened last year has no carryover effect this time around.

"We focus on what we can control and that's attitude and effort," he said.

Murphy grew up minutes from Sun Devil Stadium and has yet to play there, though he's spent many weekends watching games there. Should Arizona State beat Arizona this weekend, he would get a chance to play there in the Pac-12 title game.

"I would not be upset if that happened," Murphy said.

Stanford's Ty Montgomery was injured and did not travel to South Bend last year. He watched the game on television and has also let go of any leftover regrets.

Montgomery scored five touchdowns, including four on receptions from Hogan. He ranks 16th in the nation in touchdown receptions with nine. Palo Alto grad Davante Adams of Fresno State is the national leader with 19.

The Bulldogs will also be in town this week, taking on San Jose State on Friday afternoon.

Montgomery, meanwhile, ranks 10th nationally in all-purpose yards and second in kickoff returns. He finished with 191 all-purpose yards in the win over Cal.

"That was a summary of what Ty is able to do," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "His biggest improvement has been run blocking. He has the speed to get behind anybody, no matter how deep he's being played. He's also mastered the most difficult of pass routes."

Montgomery, a running back most of his football career, said learning to trust running routes, particularly deep routes, has been his best improvement.

"It took me a long time to get comfortable with the deeper routes," he said. "The ball comes at you from higher in the air."

Shaw, a receiver at Stanford in the early 90s, is impressed with the overall improvement of the receiving corps.

"Jordan Pratt has been playing extremely well. Devon Casjuste is coming back and (freshman) Francis Owusu is coming on strong," Shaw said.

Montgomery leads the Cardinal with 50 receptions. The next three, Cajuste, Kodi Whitfield and Tyler Gaffney, have a combined 49 receptions. Owusu caught his first career touchdown pass against Cal.

Injury-wise, cornerback Alex Carter has the go-ahead to play after missing the Big Game, kicker Jordan Williamson is close to 100 percent and cornerback Barry Browning, with a bruised shoulder, will take it easy in practice but is expected to be ready to play on Saturday.

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