With Kevin Hogan manning the offense and Tyler Gaffney returned to the gridiron from a sabbatical on the baseball diamond, the Stanford Cardinal have an offensive punch to complement their stifling defense.
In its season-opening win over San Jose State a year ago, Stanford struggled to mount an offensive attack against the Spartans in the second half. An SJSU turnover set up the Cardinal's sole points in the final 30 minutes, and the
Stanford needed no such favors to score points in its 2013 opener Saturday. The Cardinal rolled up 404 yards of total offense and scored 17 points each half in their 34-13 defeat of SJSU.
Hogan took over the Stanford offense late into the 2012 campaign, relieving a struggling Josh Nunes. Nunes was the Cardinal starter in last year's affair with SJSU, and the difference between seasons and quarterbacks was striking. As Stanford football follower David Lombardi noted:
Stanford suffered each of its losses last year with the now-retired Nunes at quarterback, and scored just 13 points in both of those contests.
Then a freshman, Hogan brought a dual-threat dynamic to the Stanford offense. On Saturday, he gained 17 yards on three carries to supplement a 207-yard, two-touchdown passing performance.
Hogan spread the ball among nine different receivers. For Cardinal faithful with lingering memories of one Andrew Luck, that statistic has to carry weight. One of Luck's hallmarks was steady and even distribution among a number of targets—eight players caught 24 passes or more from Luck in 2011.
While Hogan lived up to expectations in his 2013 debut, the play of running back Gaffney after more than a year away from football has to have Stanford head coach David Shaw smiling.
Shaw was faced with replacing Stepfan Taylor, a three-year starter who seamlessly replaced 2009 Heisman Trophy finalist Toby Gerhart in the Cardinal ground game. Taylor buoyed the Stanford offense as it shaped its identity in 2012, rushing for 1,530 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Through one week, Gaffney filled Taylor's void as Taylor had Gerhart's previously, carrying 20 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Gaffney inherits Taylor's capable running mate, Anthony Wilkerson, who picked up more than seven yards per carry in his nine attempts against SJSU.
The promise of an offense to go with a defense that proved its might once again, holding SJSU to just 251 yards, has Stanford looking like a reigning Pac-12 champion that will be very difficult to unseat.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter @kensing45.