It is unusual for a football team, an elite team like Stanford, to change quarterbacks during the season and remain elite.
That's exactly what the Cardinal did. They changed quarterbacks and beat the seriously good Oregon State Beavers and became even more elite. The Cardinal are a contender for the Rose Bowl and, if they beat the Oregon Ducks next week in Eugene, they could own the Pac-12 North (it still feels funny to write Pac-12 and North.)
Stanford coach David Shaw grew dissatisfied with former starter Josh Nunes and on Saturday went to Kevin Hogan, a redshirt freshman, gave Hogan his first start ever at Stanford. That's putting pressure on a young player, but Hogan, it must be said, has a calm, even mild demeanor — his manner reminds you of Bob Newhart if Newhart played quarterback at Stanford, which he never did.
Because of Hogan — his poise and talent — the Cardinal beat the Beavers. It's not entirely because of Hogan, but he drove the car, even though he threw two picks. No one's perfect. But he threw three touchdowns and he rushed for 60 yards. The guy's as big as a Ram Charger and, whenever Stanford needed five yards, it seemed he would take the ball and run. Nothing fancy. Not some around-the-end trick. He would tuck in the ball and steam right up the middle — just try and stop him.
He also performed a nifty maneuver again and again. He would run parallel to a receiver — often fullback Ryan Hewitt — and as he ran, a defender would dash toward him and he would flip the ball past the defender to Hewitt for a big gain.
Here is Shaw on that kind of play: “Jon Gruden used to call those awkward body throws,” Shaw said. “You can't practice them. The quarterback has to get outside and there's somebody between him and the fullback and you've got to be able to get the ball over the guy's head or throw the ball around him. Those are just athletic plays that guys can make or they can't make, and Kevin's made four or five in the last two games. It's vital.”