The sun had gone down and the moon had come up, and Stanford’s status as Rose Bowl Champions had been all but assured. Nevertheless, I was restless. I made my way down a Rose Bowl aisle and onto the field. I walked around the red Stanford end zone, and I watched Iowa frantically trying to add some lipstick points to what had become quite the piggish Hawkeye nightmare.
I stood on the sideline, and all I could think about was how unfitting it was that Kevin Hogan’s career was to end on a Red Zone interception intended for Austin Hooper. The player whose 75-yard first pass of the game had helped set Christian McCaffrey’s Heisman recount movement ablaze, the winningest quarterback in Stanford history, and the only Pac-12 quarterback ever to start three Rose Bowl Games seemed fated to leave the field with a bitter punctuation to a sweet final game.
And then it happened.
Rector and Hogan saw Iowa’ s intention and made the same eye contact that led to Rector’s big touchdown grab against Colorado. This time the trigger was an impending cornerback blitz Coach Shaw and the offensive staff had installed the go route off that blitz as a key for Hogan in the game plan. Coach showed a bit of remiss when I asked him about the play, saying he’d forgotten to tell Hogan not to make that throw if he got that look given the score of the game.
C’est la vie.
You haven’t seen a college football game until you’ve seen it played at field level. I watched Hogan disappear into his drop back as the rush and his line converged into a sea of massive humanity. Then the ball springs up out of the crowd, Rector scoots right by me along the side line, gets under a pass Shaw thought he’d never reach, and tip toes inside the pylon for the crowning highlight “they” didn’t want Stanford fans to have.
It was so fitting that a player who’d come so far on the field and off, left the game’s grandest stage with an indelible signature moment. Hogan finished with 9.4 yards per attempt on the season and a 171.03 rating. Andrew Luck, by comparison, finished at 8.7 yards per attempt and a 169.68 rating his Senior season. He became the only quarterback in Stanford history to win two Rose Bowls.
Hogan’s was the highest single-season rating in school history, and he finished second all-time to Luck in quarterback rating. He departs with 9,385 passing yards, third all-time at Stanford. He finished 16-6 all-time vs. ranked teams, and will be forever remembered as a player who stepped up in the biggest games. This year alone, from both USC triumphs to the Notre Dame home finale, and finally to that final fling through the chilly Pasadena night, he was there when Stanford needed him the most.
Rector, for his part, grew into far more than a deep threat this season, making tough catches all year, making plays after the catch, and really making a difference out there on the field. It wasn’t by a big margin, but he ended as Hogan’s most targeted receiver, and the synergy he developed with Hogan came to a fitting climax on that final, perfect, punctuating end to a magnificent season for Stanford and a career for the ages for #8.