In the second quarter of Stanford’s 48-0 rout of the Colorado Buffaloes Saturday, the Josh Nunes era gave way to the Kevin Hogan era.

Nunes played well enough to get the No. 15 Cardinal to 6-2 coming into Saturday, but the team’s success was predicated more on a solid running game and stout defense than it was their passing game. When coach David Shaw was asked midweek if it was possible for Hogan to take over the starting job, he responded that ”anything is possible.”

That wasn’t an empty threat. Nunes was only 3-of-5 for 23 yards in the first quarter and the offense was nearly immobile in the process, managing only one first down. Hogan took over on Stanford’s third possession and he never reclaimed his spot on the bench.

Night and day

Stanford was up by seven when Hogan stepped in, but those points came on an Ed Reynolds pick-6. The offense didn’t score once with Nunes in the game; Hogan stepped in, and they moved 40 yards down the field, scoring on his third play.

In fact, Stanford scored on Hogan’s first six drives – five of those scores being touchdowns, two through the air. He finished 18-of-23 for 184 yards with those two touchdowns, adding seven carries for 48 yards rushing. Those numbers were better than Nunes accomplished against San Jose State, Washington, Notre Dame and Washington State, and Hogan did it in only two quarters. Although his success did come at the hands of Colorado – the nation’s worst defense – Nunes was inept against the same squad to open the game.

Getting to know Stanford’s future

Recruited by Jim Harbaugh in June of 2010, Hogan was a highly touted prospect coming out of Gonzaga High School in Washington DC. At 6’4” 225, Hogan uses his size to his advantage: he is a physical runner and he showed it against the Buffaloes, particularly on a 27-yard scamper in the third quarter.

He is a sophomore, so Nunes may have just been a temporary bridge between Andrew Luck and Hogan. Now Stanford will trudge into their most difficult two-game stretch to end the season, hosting Oregon State and then travelling to Eugene to play No. 2 Oregon. Both games are monumentally important, and they’ll be trusting a redshirt freshman to lead them to a shot at a Pac-12 championship and beyond. It’s a risky move, but if he keeps mistakes to a minimum, Stepfan Taylor and the defense could carry Hogan and the Cardinal to a fantastic 2012 outcome.

Speaking of the defense…

…they have been unbelievable in the last few games. They held Washington State to -16 yards on The Farm last Saturday, and this past Saturday they didn’t let Colorado gain the length of the football field. That’s not even an exaggeration: the Buffaloes only gained 76 yards in total; they passed for 97 yards but lost 21 yards on the ground. That’s right – opponents have rushed for negative-37 yards over the past two weeks.

– Reynolds has taken three interceptions to the house, and now leads the country in interception return yardage, per @KyleBonagura.

Rose Bowl hopes on the line

After destroying the lowly Buffaloes, the No. 11 Oregon State Beavers will present a much tougher test when they invade The Farm on Saturday. The Cardinal’s Rose Bowl hopes start and end with this game. If Stanford wins, another victory against Oregon and a Beaver loss to the Ducks could put them in position; if they lose, their sights will officially be set on a different bowl game.