Kevin Hogan ran into a juggernaut on Oct. 18, 2008. In just his fourth game as Gonzaga's starting quarterback, the sophomore stood toe-to-toe with the best team in Maryland. DeMatha High took one look at the fresh meat across the line of scrimmage and attacked Hogan like a pack of famished wolves after a stray sheep.
Predictably, Hogan completed just 12-of-28 passes for 173 yards and two interceptions in the 35-6 rout. But Hogan survived, and he wasn't demoralized. Moral victories don't count for much, but the raw signal caller held his head high and vowed to learn from the game.
The very next week, Kevin Hogan had his finest performance of the season against Paul VI (Virginia). He completed 16-of-23 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs.
"He was just on fire in that game," said Gonzaga's head coach Joe Reyda.
Gonzaga eventually lost the game, but it hardly mattered. Gonzaga had found their quarterback, and their offense was off life support.
"We had a great offensive game and it was a confidence builder for the offense," Hogan said. "We showed we could put some points on the board."
On one touchdown pass, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Hogan called a "sprint right, double post, wheel." (In laymen's terms, that's two wide receivers bunched on the right side running post routes, while a third receiver, who comes in motion, runs a fly route down the sideline). Hogan explained that his first read was the receiver running the wheel route. But the cornerback sat on the route, forcing Hogan to improvise.
Hogan didn't panic. He used his quick feet -- he plays basketball -- to avoid the rush before finding receiver Ricky Neville sprinting downfield. Hogan watched Neville beat the safety then come open over the middle. He reared back and unleashed a 40-yard strike. Neville snatched the dart over top the safety and sprinted to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown catch.
"I put it out there and Ricky went up and got it," Hogan said. "I take pride in reading the secondary and finding the right reads. I know where my advantages will be."
Not only does Hogan have ideal physical traits -- size, arm strength and athleticism -- but his instincts rival those of an upperclassman. This, Joe Reyda thought, was a signal caller who could lead Gonzaga back to the playoffs.
"He has the potential to be the best quarterback to come through Gonzaga ever," Reyda said "I haven't seen a quarterback here this good since 1986 when Gary McIntosh came through."
That's high praise for a sophomore who has started just six games in his varsity career (he's 2-4). But Hogan threw for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns in those six games, and he's getting better this offseason. He's dominated two 7-on-7 passing leagues this summer, one at the University of Virginia and the other at Maryland.
In Charlottesville, Hogan played two full basketball games before suiting up for gridiron duty. Though tired, he stepped on the field the next morning and turned the 7-on-7 into a glorified pitch-and-catch game with his receivers. Hogan showed tremendous arm strength and accuracy as he led his team to a championship win over St. John's (D.C.).
A week later in College Park he picked apart some of the top defenses in the area and almost led Gonzaga to an upset of rival Good Counsel in the championship game.
"He hit some 30-yard passes that were bullets, right on the money," Reyda said. "He got better as the day went on."
Hogan's summer performance already has Maryland and Virginia recruiters whispering about him. In a year, they're going to be talking a lot louder. Hogan has the potential to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Maryland-D.C. area, according to Reyda.
"He's absolutely a Division I quarterback," Reyda said. "He just has to tweak a few things, but nothing major."
Hogan's improvement is imminent. Last year he never had a chance to develop a relationship with his receivers. He also didn't work out as hard coming off his freshman year. But this year he's been in the weight room daily and has ample time with his wideouts.
"I've put in a lot of time working this offseason," Hogan said. "I feel like I'm a leader; I'm getting the guys ready for the season."
Reyda, for one, is impressed with Hogan's work ethic.
"He's just one of the hardest working kids out there," Reyda said. "The kids respond to him, and he's going to work as hard as he can to make this team as good as he can."
But can Hogan turn around a team that won just two games all of last year? He'll certainly have a rough go in the Washington Catholic League, but that won't stop Reyda from predicting a turnaround in 2009.
"Kevin is going to get the job done," Reyda said. "When he's clicking, there will be some good things that will happen. He's a motivated young man that will succeed in everything he does."