Hogan’s Veteran Performance Carries Cardinal Past Irish

November 28, 2015

NCAA, Stanford Cardinal

By: Ben Leonard

STANFORD, Calif. —

What a way to go out. Legendary, in fact.

Fittingly, in his last game at Stanford Stadium, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan heroically lead his ninth-ranked Stanford Cardinal with 269 passing yards and four touchdowns to a roller-coaster-ride 38-36 victory over the sixth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

With the instant classic of a victory, the Cardinal kept its distant College Football Playoff hopes alive. All head coach David Shaw had to say about it: “heck of a college football game.”

Hogan, the nation’s active leader in wins (34) engineered a brilliant drive with 30 seconds left to play to set up a last-second field goal for Conrad Ukropina, who nailed it from 45 yards out. The fifth-year senior connected with Devon Cajuste for a twenty-seven-yard pass on his last play on The Farm, putting Ukropina in position to send Stanford fans storming the field in a frenzy.

Hogan on his last night in Palo Alto at the helm of Stanford’s offense:

It was very emotional. I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it. I knew it was going to be that way, so I just tried to go out there and enjoy my time with the boys out there. I couldn’t have pictured it going down any better.

But it had seemed like Hogan was going to have to go out on a downer. Stanford was clinging to a 35-29 lead late in the fourth quarter, but quarterback DeShone Kizer and Notre Dame had the ball with just over six minutes left.

The Irish put together a brilliant drive of their own, silencing the sellout crowd at Stanford Stadium with a brilliant 15-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Kizer rushing touchdown. The dual-threat quarterback flummoxed Stanford’s depleted secondary, without its two starting cornerbacks, rushing for 128 yards and passing for 234.

It had been a back-and-forth game all night long. As Hogan put it, “it was one of those games that just seemed like whoever had the ball last was going to win it.”

Stanford’s defense had struggled to contain the Irish offense all game long in space, but kept the game close by stopping them from getting in the end zone. Notre Dame pulled its best Oregon impression,  The bend-not-break defense tightened up where it mattered most — in the Notre Dame’s first four trips inside the 25-yard line, Stanford held them to three field goals and a fumble, keeping the game close.

The Irish held the edge in yards per play (8.8 vs 6.6, even with a huge downturn for the Irish in the second half) with an explosive offense, but couldn’t convert when it mattered the most. They had big plays aplenty, including a C.J. Sanders 93 yard kickoff return touchdown on the Irish’s first possession, and a 73-yard touchdown strike from Kizer to Will Fuller. Fuller ended up with six catches for 136 yards and the once score, tearing up Stanford’s paper-thin secondary.

It never felt like Stanford was in control of the game — the Irish sold out to bottle up Christian McCaffrey, holding him to just 94 rushing yards on 27 carries. With his 228 all-purpose yards, McCaffrey did end up becoming the third player in college football history to eclipse 3,000, but with this relative dip in production, Stanford’s offense had to revolve around Hogan.

Usually, that’s not a recipe for success, but it ended up working out on Saturday. Senior wide receiver Devon Cajuste was a big part of Hogan’s success, coming up with several big catches, including the one that set up the game-winning field goal.

Cajuste, also in his last game on The Farm, had been less productive than usual this season, hampered by an injury that has sapped his speed. Before his breakout performance, catching five balls for 125 yards and a touchdown, his head coach David Shaw said Cajuste had told him that he finally “felt fast again” and “felt like [himself] again.”

Notes:

Notre Dame is practically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss, while Stanford’s hopes look distant. The win over a top-six team will certainly give the committee something to think about, but the losses to Northwestern and Oregon still hurt their cause…Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly: “we were two plays away from being undefeated and the best team in the country”….When asked about how McCaffrey’s off game will affect his Heisman hopes, Shaw ‘had no idea’ since he’s “not on any award committee.” What he did know: “No one can tell me that there’s a more dynamic player in college football right now.”

 

About bentleonard18

Ben Leonard is the head writer and Director of Business Development for Bay Area Sports Talk Association. He is also an author for Rule of Tree (SBNation), Sports Radio Service and OutsidePitchMLB, an official affiliate of the MLB. He has a passion for baseball and college football.

View all posts by bentleonard18

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