The Army Black Knights (1-2) battled the No. 5 ranked Stanford Cardinal (2-0) for most of three quarters before dropping a hard fought 34-20 game at Michie Stadium. Army used two early defensive three and out series and a turnover to grab an early 6-0 lead. The Cardinal was able to get their offense untracked but the Black Knights hung tough and were down just 20-13 at half time. Army's hopes of Pulling the upset ended as their offense struggled through a scoreless third quarter as Stanford extended their lead. This was the first time since 1962 that Army played a top five ranked team at Michie Stadium.
PASSING OFFENSE: B
Angel Santiago was 2-of-5 for 24 passing yards. His only pass attempt in the first quarter was a completed button hook pass to Chevaughn Lawrence for 8-yards on their second drive which ended in a field goal. Santiago completed a very nicely throw ball to Terry Baggett for 16-yards on a wheel route to start a drive. On Santiago 's next pass attempt he did a nice job avoiding the blitz but was rattled and threw the ball away despite having a open running back down the field. In the fourth quarter Santiago had to throw away the odd third-and-1 pass play call when he was pressured and his receivers covered. His last throw was his worst as he was picked. He had Chevaughn Lawrence wide open on an underneath crossing route but missed him.
A.J. Schurr completed 4-of-5 passes for 25 passing yards and a touchdown. In the second quarter Schurr completed two short passes to Anthony Stephens (2 for 10 yards) as the Black Knights moved to the Cardinal 40. Schurr missed a chance at a potential touchdown when he had E.J. Tucker all alone deep but he felt pressure and pulled the ball down and ran. On the final drive he had a miscommunication with Edgar Poe that fell incomplete but he completed his last two passes. Schurr zipped an out route on 4th-and-seven- to Scott Williams for a nine yard gain which kept the drive alive. It was a nice route and catch by Williams. Schurr threw a nice ball that Edgar Poe leaped and caught for a 6-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left. Poe, as we discussed in our Incoming plebe articles, has the potential to be a big target in the red zone.
The offensive line did a good job battling one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Stanford led the nation with 57 sacks last season. and had four sacks in the opener. The Black Knights held them to no sacks and often when pressure Army's quarterbacks took off. Army's quarterbacks generated more yards scrambling and quarterback draws on passing downs that they did throwing the ball.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B
The Black Knights rushed for 284 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored a touchdown. Army struggled to finish drives due in part to a talented Sanford defense that allowed just 84.4 rushing yards per game in 2011 and 97 per game last year. The physical Cardinal defense knocked Army's two best runners out of the game. The other issue was the pitch decisions of Angel Santiago. At times Stanford pinched the fullback and the quarterback, especially in the second half, and Angel lowered his head rather than pitching the ball to the motion pitch back. This needs to change if he is going to remain the starter. Angel Santiago (17 att, 54 yards) has produced just two touchdowns in each of the past two games. He has to be more productive for this team to win. Santiago's fumble on a mesh hand off killed the only promising drive Army had into Stanford territory in the third quarter. The Cardinal scored on the following drive to put the game out of reach. If Santiago had run the offense and used the pitch on a number of occasion he could have made Stanford pay because they were overplaying their defense and leaving a lane for the pitch back in the second half.
Larry Dixon (6 for 22, 1 TD) scored on a 15-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-9 when Army confused Stanford with pitch motion and center Ryan Powis made a terrific block on the defensive tackle Perry while Reichert was able to get to the second level and seal the Cardinal star Inside linebacker Shayne Skov. After Dixon was injured Hayden Tippett (3 att. for 14 yards) filled in ably like always. It was Tippett's crushing block that sprung Baggett on his 46-yard run that set up the touchdown. Terry Baggett (9 att. 96 yards) showed his speed and run skills with a number of nice runs.
The Black Knights really missed Raymond Maples (6 attempts for 21 yards) ability to run between the tackles on the counter and run hard through tackles after he was injured and left the game. Army's injuries forced backups Stephen Fraser (5 att. for 17 yards), Tony Giovanelli ( 4 att. for 15 yards) and Lawrence Scott (3 att. for 12 yards). Scott showed some speed on the series where Dixon scored but on his last carry he should have cut the ball up the field for a few yards instead of cutting to the sideline and losing a yard. Trenton Turrentine (2 atts., 15 yards) had two nice runs on the last drive but it was surprising he wasn't used more with the injury situation. A.J. Schurr (6 atts.,18 yards) nearly made a disastrous play as he was being tackled he forced a pitch to Terry Baggett who was covered and absorbed a hard hit and a 4-yard loss. It's decisions like that which loses A.J. the confidence of the staff. I thought he did a nice job handling the ball and his pitch decisions were sound the rest of the way.
PASSING DEFENSE: B
Stanford's Kevin Hogan and his back up Evan Crower completed 13-of-22 for 205 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Chris Carnegie (8 tackles) played one of his best games as he allowed no touchdowns and was solid all day against Stanford's receivers. Cornerback Josh Jenkins (3 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 pass defensed) was beat for two touchdowns but continues to show his athleticism. On Stanford's opening 26 -yard touchdown catch Jenkins was initially in perfect position but gathered himself a step too early before he leaped. Instead of intercepting the throw he batted it in the air where it was caught by Michael Rector for the score. He was beat on a double move by speedy Ty Montgomery for a 46-yard touchdown later in the first half. Free safety Geoff Bacon (6 tackles) bit hard on play action and failed to provide the deep help which is his responsibility. Jenkins continued to battle he made a smart interference penalty to avoid being beat by a touchdown catch then came back on the next passing play to intercept a pass in the end zone. Jenkins also batted a pass away which may have been picked off if Holloway and Justin Trimble (1 tackle) didn't collide. Jenkins is going through some growing pains but he should develop into a quality cornerback. SAM safety Shaquille Tolbert (2 tackles) was beat by Devon Cajuste who dropped a touchdown pass as Stanford had to settle for a field goal in the second quarter. Tolbert has been more lucky than good with receivers dropping passes in the end zone the past two weeks. Hogan's last touchdown pass was on a beautifully design play off jet motion where Tyler Gaffney ran a wheel route and was in a mismatch with Mackey in coverage. Quick end Dalton Mendenhall (2 tackles, 1 sack, FF) made a nice play showing his speed to sack Hogan and causing the ball to pop in the air just before the half. Too bad it landed in the hands of the Stanford running back. The much maligned Mike Ugenti (4 tackles, sack, FF) started and produced the best game of his career. His sack and forced fumble gave the Black Knights a short field and an easy field goal on their opening series The Black Knights gave Stanford more trouble than San Jose State did in their opener. Last year the Spartans went 11-2 and won the Military Bowl.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B+
The Black Knights allowed 197 rushing yards, 5.7 yards per carry and a touchdown on the ground. While those numbers will not remind anyone of the old Pittsburgh Steelers famed Steel Curtain run defense if was a terrific effort by the front seven against one of the best offensive lines in the nation. I was worried before the game that we would see a replay of last year's Temple game. Rover Thomas Holloway tied for the team lead with eight tackles. Holloway isn't fast but he's always around the ball. Marcus Polling (2 tackles) started at Mike LB in place of the ill Alex Meier but it was Julian Holloway, who made 6 tackles, that saw the most minutes and played well. Holloway seems to have found a position at Mike LB after being used as a flex player since joining the program. Jarrett Mackey (5 tackles) is running a lot better than last year. He really solidified the run defense since being inserted in the starting lineup. The stats weren't great but this was a terrific performance against one of the best power running teams in the nation.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Kicker Dan Grochowski blasted two hard line drives home to open the scoring. Grochowski first attempt was tipped but it knuckled through the uprights. His late on side kick attempt was ugly. Punter Alex Tardieu averaged 31.5 yards on five punts. He shanked two directional punts off the side of his foot that traveled just 22 and 19 yards which killed his average. The other two punts were over forty yards. Stanford Kodi Whitfield returned a punt 25-yards before being run down by Army's Marcus Polling. Jalen Noble (13 yards) and Scott Williams (14 yards) both returned kickoffs. Noble returned one punt 10 yards. Army lost a number of top special teams coverage guys last year and the new players need to improve their performance.
Rich Ellerson took the right approach this week of having his team focus internally on themselves after a terrible performance against Ball State on the road. Under Ellerson the Black Knights have played the marquee teams on their schedule very tough at Michie Stadium. They need to bring their "A" game every Saturday. Ellerson was more involved in calling the defensive signals himself and if the team plays like this then he should continue to do it each week. Ian Shields called a good game. A few missed reads by Santiago on the option and A.J. Schurr on a pass play cost a few big plays. I didn't like the going for it on fourth-and-one at Army's own 29 down just two scores. If it's four down territory then you run the ball twice and don't try a third-and-1 pass. Once the pass failed I would have punted. Once Army failed to convert it was turned into a three score lead. I was surprised by some of the personnel changes. The defensive changes worked. I was surprised to see Trenton Turrentine see so few reps in favor of running back with little playing time in such a big game. Personally I would make the move at quarterback to Schurr this week against Wake Forest.
A.J. is a lot more fluid in his pitch decisions than Santiago and I believe he can make more plays. No one wants to burn a timeout but some people need to get a grip about the timeout to start the second half. Stanford was lined up in a different look in the second half trying to overload its defense. Santiago didn't like the play call, hesitated and called a time out instead of running the play. The dumb thing to do there would be to run the play into the teeth of the defense. It's only a time out. It's no negative reflection on the coaching staff. Ellerson should stop asking his punters to directional kick. When the punter shanks the ball it is a huge negative in field position.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
An A+ for effort, desire and competitiveness. It was a 14-point loss so I can't give them an "A" grade although I was really impressed with the Black Knights. I thought that Stanford would dominate and blow out Army. The Black Knights never backed down despite being 30-point underdogs. It's important that the team build off this effort with the next two games at Michie Stadium.
Army Report Card: Stanford
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