September Grade: B+
October Grade: C-
I finished my September report card grade for Kevin Hogan with this line: "On paper, the Cardinal's schedule intensifies in October. It's time to see if Hogan can continue settling in against tougher competition. He certainly has the weapons to do it."
That test didn't go too well.
The season's second month provided a rude awakening for Hogan and the Stanford offense. Total output decreased from 41.3 points per game to just about 24 per contest, while the attack converted only 39 percent of its October third down tries after successfully moving the chains 57 percent of the time in September. In all, Hogan struggled for about 2.5 contests and played well for 1.5 this month: He was more than solid against UCLA (18-for-25, 227 yards despite three receiver drops) and good at the start and end of the debacle at Utah, but fidgety, uncertain, and inaccurate elsewhere.
No. 8 doesn't get a failing grade, though, and that's because he played consistently well against the Bruins. That suggests that many of his problems elsewhere stem from questionable Cardinal play calling. His struggles at Oregon State (8-for-18, 88 yards) may have served David Shaw a wake-up call: Hogan isn't Peyton Manning, and a re-commitment to the power run game (see the UCLA win) is what the Cardinal needs to put him in a position to succeed. Hogan has the physical tools to do damage with his legs and beat opponents with throws into single coverage on play action. If Stanford sticks to that formula, he can unleash a November that will guide the Farm Boys' offense to a very respectable final 2013 tally. As it stands right now, the attack still compares decently well with other solid offenses of the Harbaugh-Shaw era:
||Yds Per Play
||3rd Down %
||Red Zone Eff.
||Red Zone TD %
|Tavita Pritchard ('08)
|Andrew Luck ('09)
|Andrew Luck ('10)||40.3||6.7
|Andrew Luck ('11)
|Josh Nunes ('12)
|Kevin Hogan ('12)||29||5.6||45%||100%||73%||71.7%||10*
|Kevin Hogan ('13)
September Grade: A-
October Grade: B+
Tyler Gaffney has ripped off three consecutive 100-yard efforts, so it's clear that Stanford's big boys up front are creating room, though the bunched-in elephant package seems to curtail possibilities in extreme short yardage situations. Outside of that, the hogs continued carving out big holes for the ground game despite the drop-off in the team's passing attack in October. Center Khalil Wilkes and right guard Kevin Danser, in particular, have continued to demonstrate solid physical progress. Their stiff double-team work against UCLA helped beat the Bruins into submission. David Yankey and Andrus Peat, meanwhile, have been bulldozers on the left side.
Pass protection has also been good for the Cardinal, but it hasn't been airtight. Oregon State's Scott Crichton destroyed a double team set by Cameron Fleming and Kevin Danser in Corvallis, for example. Peat has also been beaten a few times at left tackle. In all, Stanford has given up nine sacks so far this season, so the dominant days of 2009 (seven sacks) and 2010 (six sacks) are over, but the protection is still holding up well in a conference stocked with elite pass rushers. If anything, some of the Cardinal's occasional struggles should remind the staff that the bread and butter of this offensive line is run blocking. If Stanford stays on task in that regard, they can limit obvious throwing situations during which the risk of sacks increases.
September Grade: A-
October Grade: A
The table below illustrates that Stanford's running game is performing just slightly worse than its 2010 counterpart, and that's impressive considering the fact that the complimentary 2010 passing threat was certainly more formidable than the aerial attack that Stanford is featuring here in 2013. These positive ground results, of course, are attributable to meat-grinding blocking work and excellent Tyler Gaffney running.
No. 25 trails only Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey and Washington's Bishop Sankey in rushing production. He's only 114 yards away from his first 1,000-yard season on the ground, and November 7 will provide a good (and necessary, if Stanford hopes to win) opportunity to reach that mark. As was rumored before the season, Gaffney has emerged as Stanford's primary back. This is his show moving forward, and an A+ grade is in his future if he holds onto the football.
If Stanford firmly re-establishes the running game, Ryan Hewitt should begin seeing more of his old receiving opportunities in the flat (only four catches for 14 yards so far). As it stands right now, Hewitt has been extremely effective providing lead blocking from the fullback position.
|Yards Per Carry
||% Runs > 10 Yards
||% Runs > 20 Yards
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
September Grade: A-
October Grade: C+
Michael Rector is averaging 39.5 yards per reception. While that's a startling figure, it also illustrates the biggest challenge facing the Stanford passing game: a lack of balance. Rector's receptions, all four of them, have come exclusively on deep balls. The Cardinal needs more short-to-intermediate production from its receivers to run a sustainable attack.
The table below confirms that the Farm Boys are as explosive as they've been in recent memory. Over 13.8 percent of their pass attempts have gained over 25 yards, easily the best mark in the Harbaugh-Shaw era. The passing game as a whole, however, is not performing anywhere near its 2010 and 2011 peaks. That's because possession production has taken a massive hit: Tight ends have caught only six balls so far this season, and three of those catches are now on the defensive line, following Luke Kaumatule's move.
Devon Cajuste began to provide a solid secondary threat to support Ty Montgomery before he was hurt against UCLA. The Cardinal will need No. 89 healthy in November to restore some balance to their offense, because he brings many of the physical tools that Zach Ertz provided the passing game in years past. They'll also see better passing results if they commit to the running game as their offensive backbone. The team's offensive spine cannot be a passing attack that offers, at best, an unsteady short-to-medium range presence.
||% Pass Attempts > 15 Yards
||% Pass Attempts > 25 Yards
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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