One in a series of articles looking back at the 2013 season and evaluating each position group.
It's difficult to evaluate Hogan's season simply on its merits for several reasons. First and foremost, there's Andrew Luck. He was often described as a once-in-a-generation talent, so it will likely take Stanford fans roughly a generation to stop using him as the standard by which they judge the current quarterback, a comparison which is wholly unfair. Even though Hogan is clearly better than most quarterbacks out there, he isn't Andrew Luck. This isn't his fault, but the bar has been set high at Stanford.
Second, the expectations were high for Hogan coming into this year. Remember what happened last season. The Cardinal's record didn't necessarily indicate this, but the team -- or more specifically, the offense -- was clearly struggling two thirds of the way into the 2012 season. They were 6-2, but narrow victories over inferior teams and troubling losses which were blamed on the stagnant offense led Coach Shaw to insert Hogan into the lineup early in the Colorado game. Hogan would lead the Cardinal to a 48-0 win that afternoon to earn the starting job, then win five straight games over ranked opponents, capping off the season with a 20-14 victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
His debut season couldn't have been better, and optimism was high in Mighty Card Nation. Most observers felt that Hogan was only beginning to tap the surface of his potential. Now that he was the clear starter, he would spend the off-season getting a deeper understanding of the playbook, he'd spend the spring working exclusively with the first team offense, and he'd emerge in the fall as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference. Or so we thought.
The first sign of trouble actually popped up in the Rose Bowl, but was obscured by the victory. Looking back now, what happened makes perfect sense. Hogan had been such an unknown quantity during November that his success isn't that surprising in retrospect. Defensive coordinators had no film to study, no tendencies to disect, and no known weaknesses to exploit. Hogan took the conference by storm because opposing teams had no idea who he was.
But when the Wisconsin coaching staff was afforded the luxury of an entire month to prepare for the Rose Bowl, I'm sure they reviewed every play of his five-game career and game-planned accordingly. The result was the worst game of Hogan's season. He had season lows in attempts, completions, passing yards, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and adjusted QBR, and he was held without a touchdown for the first time. Perhaps the secret was out.
What we saw over the course of this season, then, really shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. Hogan was plagued by inconsistency throughout the year, as he would look great in one game and mediocre in the next.
He looked good early on, playing extremely well in the Cardinal's first four wins over San Jose State, Army, Arizona State, and Washington State, but then he came crashing back down to Earth with a perplexing performance against Washington in week five. Although the team managed to squeak out a 31-28 win, Hogan's numbers were awful. He passed for only 100 yards (39 of them coming on a touchdown pass to Ty Montgomery), and never looked comfortable. His struggles continued the following week in Stanford's crippling loss to Utah, he played well the week after that against UCLA, but then he suffered through the worst game of his career (8 for 18, 88 yards) in a 20-12 win over Oregon State.
Ten days later against Oregon, however, in the biggest game of Stanford's season, Hogan played the best game of his career (though he'd top that a month later). He only threw the ball 13 times, completing seven, but each completion seemed critical. In addition to that, he ran eight times for 57 yards and a touchdown as the Cardinal upset the Ducks and took control of the Pac-12 North.
But we know what happened next. USC. Hogan threw two costly interceptions that eventually doomed the Cardinal. It was only the second loss of Hogan's career, but after this game the whispered questions began: Can the Cardinal win with Kevin Hogan at quarterback? Should there be a quarterback competition in the spring? Will Ryan Burns -- or even Keller Chryst -- be ready?
He rebounded with a great statistical game against the woeful Cal Bears, notching career highs with five touchdowns and 329 yards passing. Two weeks later, though, in the Pac-12 championship game against a much better Arizona State defense, Hogan played even better than he had against Oregon. He was 12 of 18 for 277 yards and a touchdown and demonstrated his mastery of the deep ball, burning the Sun Devils time and time again on play action. Just as important as all that, he demonstrated a strong command of the read option, something that had been lacking earlier in the season.
Looking at his season as a whole, Hogan took a step back in some areas. His completion percentage dipped considerably, from 71.7 to 61.4, and his interception rate jumped from one per 50 attempts to one per 30. On the other hand, his quarterback rating and QBR numbers improved, and he jumped from 7.21 yards per attempt to an impressive 8.98.
Kevin Hogan is not Andrew Luck, and although he fell short of expectations this season, he has still led Stanford to two consecutive conference championships, something that no Stanford quarterback since at least 1935 can claim. (Stanford's Vow Boys won three consecutive championships from 1933 to '35, but no amount of research will tell me who quarterbacked those teams.) His inconsistency was frustrating, but his improvement over the back half of the season was significant. The hope here is that we'll see continued improvement next season.
Overall Grade: B-
Future Outlook for the Position: A
With Ryan Burns already in the program and Keller Chryst apparently on the way, Stanford is loaded at quarterback, so much so that third-stringer Dallas Lloyd started working out at safety this week. We can look forward to watching strong play at quarterback for years to come.