For Starters: Comparing the Debuts of Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan

Doug Pensinger

They weren't as different as the final outcomes might seem to indicate.

So how did the Stanford coaches approach the task of introducing a new, inexperienced quarterback? While it’s always good to play Colorado, and people referred to the playcalling as more creative (in a large number of instances, people praising better playcalling are actually just praising more successful plays...which may or may not, of course, be because of your playcalling), the passing mix in terms of pass distance was not terribly aggressive.

Here’s what Hogan’s passing mix looked like (as best I’m able to do from the Pac-12’s shortened games, which I believe edited out a couple passes. As usual, I’m measuring the distance the ball travels in the air. So a five-yard curl and a five-yard bubble screen that turns into a 20-yard romp count exactly the same for our purposes. ? = scramble or indeterminate.). And let’s compare it to Nunes’ passing mix in his first start:

1-10 yards 10-20 yards 20+ yards ?
Hogan 16/20 4/20 1/20 4
Nunes 16/24 6/24 2/24 4

Remarkably similar, right? So why’d it work better? Well, two guesses: 1) Hogan right now is a better player than Nunes was then; 2) San Jose State is a much better team than Colorado. Elements of both are probably true, you’d imagine. Hogan’s short passes worked to much better effect because he was able to place the ball much better, enabling much more yards after completion. Nunes, on the other hand, had much iffier placement on his short to intermediate game. Hogan also appears to believe that checking down is a plausible and desirable option in the appropriate circumstances, whereas Nunes seemed actively to disbelieve in their existence, not unlike a kid disbelieving the existence of vegetables.

For all the acclaim, by the way, the passing game with Hogan at the controls exhibited two issues: first, Hogan’s feel for the pocket may not be as good as Nunes’ is right now--on two of his scrambles, he got caught from behind; two of his checkdowns came with hands all over him; second, the running back/TE dominance of the offense continues. I’d like to see more completions to wideouts, especially deep. (Though Ty Montgomery celebrating his return to action by dropping a pass was....sadly appropriate.) (Also, a long-term issue, but the primary skill players in the offense are: Ertz, Toilolo, Taylor, Patterson, Terrell. The latter three will be gone, and I’d feel lucky if one of the other two returned. This will be an issue, sadly.)

At any rate, Hogan’s making a massive step up in weight class against the Beavers tomorrow. If history’s any guide, Hogan’s passes will be more aggressive -- just as Nunes’ became over the course of his interregnum.

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