Three Keys: Stanford
THREE KEYS TO BEATING STANFORD
1 – Don’t give up on defensive plays or drives. This is the obvious number-one key to Saturday’s game. Army might give up several chunk plays of 25 to 30 yards, given that Stanford is a formidable team with a powerful offensive line and an appreciable degree of skill, especially in the person of receiver Ty Montgomery. Army can’t expect to completely shut down the Cardinal. However, if those 25-yard plays occur in the middle third of the field, and Army’s safeties can make tackles deep down the field so that those 25-yard plays don’t become 50- or 60-yard touchdowns, Stanford will have to finish drives in the red zone.
After a week in which Stanford drove the ball inside the USC 30-yard line on nine separate occasions but scored only 10 points, the early book is out on the Cardinal: If you make them inch the ball down the field and can take the home run away from them, they generally don’t finish drives, or at least have not shown the ability to consistently perform in red-zone situations. Army’s defense is not going to win every play in this game. In fact, it will probably lose a few dozen plays. However, if the Black Knights can win a majority of every red-zone snaps Stanford takes, they just might be able to contain the Cardinal’s scoreboard total and put themselves in position to win with a score of, say, 28-26 or 35-33. Hey, why not dream big?
2 – Keep away. The best way for Army’s defense to be shielded and protected in this game is for the offense to keep the ball away from Stanford. It’s true that if Army has a big play in front of its nose, the Black Knights should take it, collect seven points, and be grateful. Yet, in a somewhat counterintuitive truth, the best touchdowns for Army will be the ones that come at the end of 15-play, 80-yard drives. If the Black Knights can put together two touchdown drives of at least seven minutes in the first two and a half quarters or so, they might be able to create just enough uncertainty in Stanford’s offense, just enough of a sense of panic from the Cardinal. If Stanford is made to think that it has to score a touchdown when it gets the ball and that it can’t afford to let Army play keep-away for half a quarter, the Cardinal just might press a little too much and make the handful of mistakes that could keep the Black Knights close.
3 – Time zone differences and the reality of the first quarter. Last year, Stanford made the trip to West Point for an early kickoff and looked predictably sluggish throughout the first half. This time, that dynamic will not exist. Army has to expect Stanford to be mad after its loss to USC. The Black Knights have to be ready at the opening bell for whatever punches Stanford might try to land. A slow start is not an option for Army this weekend.
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