Academy Review: Week Three
LIGHT, BRAVE OLD ARMY TEAM: A PIECE OF SUNSHINE AGAINST STANFORD
The Army Black Knights not only managed to avoid a blowout at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal this past Saturday. They made the defending Pac-12 Conference and Rose Bowl champions sweat for a much longer period of time than most pundits expected. Yes, plenty was made before (and after) this game about a West Coast team dealing with an early start (this contest began just after 9 a.m. Pacific time), but Army had to step onto the gridiron at Michie Stadium and turn Stanford's body-clock issues into something meaningful.
The Black Knights did exactly that. Army isn't nearly as physical, rugged or deep as Stanford, but for the better part of the first three quarters, coach Rich Ellerson's team really and verily slugged it out with the Cardinal on fairly even terms. The only genuine point of regret for Army is that it wasn't able to score touchdowns early in the first half, when it was carrying the run of play by any reasonable measurement. The inability to find big-play lightning in Stanford's third of the field is what the Black Knights have to use as motivation for the remainder of the season. That same inability to score inside an opponent's third of the field is what has held back Army against Navy the past decade.
Everything else about this performance was immensely encouraging. Stanford is a smashmouth, power-running team; therefore, Army's ability to outrush the Cardinal and win the time of possession battle by nearly eight minutes is particularly impressive. Committing only two penalties against Stanford shows how well the Black Knights were able to block the Cardinal's defensive line. Just one turnover in the face of a physical Stanford defense represents a strong performance in terms of ball security.
Ellerson can tell his team with total seriousness and confidence: This level of performance will beat Wake Forest and several other teams on the Black Knights' schedule. The question, as always, is if Army can sustain what it displayed this past weekend.
For Navy and Air Force, in-between reactions are hard to come by these days. Navy was fabulous against Delaware in a romp over the Blue Hens, while Air Force's defense was distressingly exposed by a Boise State offense that didn't do anything in week one against Washington. Navy's outing against Delaware was so encouraging chiefly because there was no letdown after the big win at Indiana. Air Force's showing, especially on defense, served as cause for great concern because Boise State's offense isn't as good as the Utah State offense that tore apart the Falcons a week earlier. Air Force didn't improve in any meaningful or measurable way on defense, and that has to make head coach Troy Calhoun a very busy man in the film room this week.
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