By Joseph Beyda
Head coach David Shaw announced at Tuesday’s press conference that senior quarterback Kevin Hogan sustained a leg injury against Notre Dame and did not practice on Monday.
The coaching staff planned to limit his reps in practice on Tuesday and expect to have their third-year starter back before Friday night’s home showdown with Washington State.
“It didn’t slow him down,” Shaw said. “It didn’t stop him from running…he played through it. We were aware of it. There was no fear for future injury. Especially as the adrenaline’s going, he still had full range of motion, full strength. Our trainers and doctors did a great job making sure he was ready to go, and he was ready to go. After you play a game it gets really sore, and that’s where he is.”
In cold and rainy conditions in South Bend, Hogan posted one of the worst statistical performances of his career, completing just 18 of his 36 passes and throwing two picks. He was also sacked four times, though Shaw would not indicate on which play Hogan was hurt or the nature of the injury.
Shaw said that the passing game’s struggles against the Irish — especially for senior receiver Ty Montgomery, who had just four catches for 12 yards — were mainly a result of the Irish’s pass rush.
“The biggest thing was the pressure,” Shaw said. “We had to throw the ball twice to [Montgomery] earlier than we wanted. Kevin had to get the ball out of his hands…There’s one in the red zone where Ty makes a break and he’s open, and you could call it a dropped ball — he didn’t see the ball. He turned his head and the ball was right here, and he couldn’t get his hands up.”
Should Hogan not be ready for Friday’s game, he would be replaced by senior Evan Crower. Though Shaw said that Crower could start for many teams, there is also a significant experience gap, as Crower has only appeared in mop-up duty in five games in 2013 and 2014.
Shaw indicated that his staff is trying to “simplify a lot of things” for the Cardinal offense, which has scored just 44 points in its three biggest games of the season (against USC, Washington and Notre Dame).
“We want our guys thinking a little bit less and playing a little bit faster, and the big reason for that is to try to cut down on mistakes,” Shaw said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re trying to change a whole lot.
“I sound like a broken record, I’ll say what I said the last three weeks: We need to do our jobs better,” he added. “And not have free runners hitting our quarterback. And hand the ball off and have a guy get to the line of scrimmage. And, when we get the opportunity to break a tackle — yeah, we need to break a tackle. That’s where those long runs come from.”
Part of the strategy is continuing to get the ball to Montgomery more, as he leads Stanford in broken tackles.
But the improvement also has to revolve around the offensive line. Though Shaw said that junior offensive tackle Andrus Peat had maybe his best game since coming to Stanford at Notre Dame, the line as a whole — which, besides Peat, includes four new starters — had trouble withstanding the Irish’s pass rush or paving the way in the running game, which averaged just 1.5 yards per carry.
“I feel like we are very un-Stanfordlike in that we are very inconsistent,” said junior center Graham Shuler. “I look around in the huddle at those guys and I see how hard they’re working, how hard they’re fighting. And they’re playing their tails off. You can’t negate that. But what we have to start doing is preparing better, and when we face adversity, when we face great pressures, a great gameplan from a great defense, we have to be able to respond in a much better manner than we did.
“The [line’s] play was unacceptable,” Shuler continued. “I went back and watched the film, and it made me sick how frustrated I was at the mistakes that we were making. But you have to learn from those, and that’s the only thing you can do…We’re going into our sixth game. It’s time for all of those little things to go away and for us to become who we need to be.”
The dominant Cardinal defense has become somewhat of an afterthought this year, simply because of the glaring inefficiencies on the other side of the ball. Shaw said that senior Kevin Anderson, who posted Stanford’s only two sacks, had the best game of his career in South Bend, following up strong performances in recent weeks by fellow outside linebackers Peter Kalambayi and James Vaughters.
When Shaw was asked about the breakdown that led to Notre Dame’s game-winning touchdown with 1:01 remaining, he refused to dwell on the play.
“It was the last mistake of too many mistakes during the course of the game,” he said. “We blew a coverage. It hasn’t happened very much at all, honestly, with us in years.”
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.