Almost three years ago to the day, Kevin Hogan had a coming out party in Colorado. While Stanford won six of its first eight games in 2012, the offense was sputtering. Looking for a spark, Stanford head coach David Shaw, replaced Josh Nunes with Hogan on the third series of a Pac-12 matchup against the Buffaloes in Boulder.
All Hogan did was lead the Cardinal to six consecutive scoring drives, including five touchdowns, in a 48-0 win. He's been the starter ever since.
Hogan guided Stanford to five straight victories against ranked opponents, culminated by a 20-14 triumph against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, the first appearance by the Cardinal since 1999. Then he reeled off five wins in a row to start the 2013 season.
Hogan's 31-career victories are tied for first among active FBS quarterbacks. His next will set a school record he shares with former All-American Andrew Luck.
On Saturday morning, that opportunity will come, at of all places, Colorado. Back where it all started.
"To think that it's almost come full circle, that I'm going back there, is pretty wild," Hogan said this week.
What does he remember most?
"I remember the touchdowns, the long drive and big plays," he said. "Feeling comfortable in the huddle. I wasn't nervous. That's something you will always remember, your first real game playing."
Hogan isn't sure why the offense ignited.
"A lot of things went right," said Hogan. "We were clicking. Prior to that, I hadn't really gotten extended playing time, a few snaps here and there. To get a couple drives and get my feet wet felt great."
Ninth-ranked Stanford (7-1 overall, 6-0 Pac-12) brings a seven-game winning streak to Boulder. The Buffaloes (4-5, 1-4) nearly downed UCLA last week before succumbing, 35-31, while Hogan rallied the Cardinal rallied for a 30-28 win at Washington State.
So much has changed since his last visit.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound fifth-year senior from McLean, Va., is now 31-9 as a starter and 13-6 against AP top 25 teams, and he is closing in on several career marks.
When Hogan takes his first snap Saturday, he will tie Steve Stenstrom for the most starts in school history (41). His .652 career passing completion percentage and 151.1 passing efficiency rating are second to Luck (.670 and 162.8). Hogan also ranks fourth in passing yards (8,180) and touchdown passes (62) and third in total offense (9,279). His 1,099 career rushing yards are the most by a Cardinal quarterback.
"I think I've grown up, matured and become a better leader of the offense," said Hogan. "I've demanded more of everyone and what we can do in practice. Everyone who comes to college knows how to throw and run. But those are some of the intangibles I feel I've gotten better at."
Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson returned to action at Washington State after missing four games with an injury. He combined with free safety Kodi Whitfield to make a key stop on a two-point conversion attempt.
"It was great to be able to get out there and contribute," said Anderson. "You realize how much you really love the game when you're forced to sit on the sideline. You kind of take for granted how fun these games are and how special it to be able to go out there and play."
A team captain, Anderson admitted to early butterflies.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "I haven't taken very many reps the last month. But in the same sense, it was almost a blessing in disguise. I had the special benefit of being the freshest guy on the field because I had a month off."
Not that he didn't stay involved.
"I tried to coach the guys up as much I could from the sideline," said Anderson. "Helped contribute in ways other than the field. As Joey Alfieri and Mike Tyler played more, I tried to help and lead them a little bit."
Anderson, sophomore quarterback Keller Chryst and inside linebackers coach Peter Hansen starred across the street at Palo Alto High. Hansen's father, Earl, was a long-time head coach of the Vikings and often attends practice.
"We're buddies," Anderson said of Chryst. "Special group of guys who come from Paly. It's cool to be able to play with him."
As for Colorado, Anderson knows it will be a challenge. Last week, the Buffaloes ran 114 plays against UCLA.
"They're one of the few teams in the Pac-12 that will play power football," he said. "It's exciting to play against some O-linemen who are going to fire off the ball and are really quick. We have to be in shape and be ready to play."
For the second consecutive year, the Stanford football team recorded the highest graduation rate in the country at 99 percent, according to the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate report released Wednesday. Stanford tops all FBS and FCS institutions and ranks 10 points higher than the next Pac-12 school, UCLA, at 89 percent.
Reliving 'The Play'
A new film about the controversial game-ending play in the 1982 Big Game between Stanford and Cal will be shown Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., at the Aquarius Theater in downtown Palo Alto. Directed by Peter J. Vogt, the movie features interviews with John Elway, Paul Wiggin and other participants.
David Shaw expects full participation on Saturday, including junior inside linebacker Kevin Palma . . . Stanford arrived on campus Sunday morning about 3 a.m. PT after the Washington State game. Following several physical games, Shaw let players practice without shoulder pads on Monday and noticed a big difference in their energy level on Tuesday. About 15 left early to take mid-term exams . . . Freshman cornerback Quenton Meeks was selected the FWAA National Defensive Player of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America. The San Diego native intercepted two passes against Washington State . . . Senior Conrad Ukropina has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award. The Pasadena, California, product has converted 11 of 12 field goals, 37 of 37 extra points, and leads the team in scoring with 70 points. Three finalists will be announced Nov. 24 . . . Limited standing room-only tickets remain for the 188th Big Game on Nov. 21 at Stanford Stadium.
"I'm extremely excited about this game because I love Colorado. That's home for me and any time you get to go back home, it's something special." - Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey