In any team sport, when facing a powerful rival like the one Stanford faced when they were hosted by USC in Los Angeles Saturday night, one player needs to step up, take throw the team on their shoulders, and carry them to victory. Kevin Hogan filled that role as the Cardinal defeated the Trojans in a 41-31 road win.
You know the narrative. It was a must win for Stanford, a game in which USC was heavily favored, and it was in hostile territory. Coach David Shaw's play calling had come under fire after the excruciating loss to Northwestern just two weeks ago. The vast majority of Stanford fans were hoping for the best, but were skeptical.
Despite the pressure, Kevin Hogan played like a man possessed, throwing for 279 yards and two touchdowns, and picking up a series of critical first downs in the 2nd half even after his left leg was badly twisted. The statistics, as good as they are, just don't do justice to his performance. Limping, but undeterred, he resembled a young Ben Roethlisberger in the way he was able to evade tackles and extend his time in the pocket.
His throws were tight and accurate. He communicated with his line and receivers while under center prior to the snap, something we didn't see much of in the prior two games of the year. When he needed to, he stood tall, knowing a pass rusher would drill him, sacrificing his body to put the ball on target. In short, he was simply brilliant as he orchestrated one of the best. guttiest offensive performances you will see all year. It was a victory that stands among the best of his career.
The PAC-12 landscape changes severely after this Cardinal victory. USC has lost, Oregon has lost, and while both Cal and UCLA remain undefeated, nobody expects that to last. It seems as though the conference title may once again be anybody's at this point, especially after Kevin Hogan threw his team right back into the mix. There is plenty of work to be done going forward, but this was a win to feel incredibly good about.