Wake Up On Time
In the lead-up to Saturday's game, David Shaw said that he wasn't worried about the potential negative effects of the Cardinal's 9 a.m. PDT start at West Point. As a result, his team only made minor schedule tweaks in the effort to offset jet lag before kickoff.
Stanford's sleepy, stale start at Army may change that strategy the next time the Farm Boys visit the East Coast. Despite an overwhelming physical advantage, the Cardinal gained only 11 yards on their first six plays from scrimmage. Kevin Hogan fumbled to end Stanford's first series, while the team's second three-and-out forced Ben Rhyne to punt for the first time this season. Stanford should have steamrolled Army from the get-go, yet they found themselves trailing 6-0 after the game's initial two possessions.
The Cardinal discovered its offensive flow later in the first quarter, but they didn't establish a two-touchdown lead until the coffee truly kicked in late in the third. Because of a talent edge that was comically visible at times, the Cardinal's tardiness ultimately didn't matter, but a more formidable opponent certainly could have put Shaw's club in an predicament.
Grade: F (Stanford severely underperformed early in the game against a team that simply didn't match up.)
Pound Them Into Submission
After an early 6-0 hole forced Stanford to become slightly more inventive offensively, Hogan opened the Cardinal's third possession opened with an eight-yard swing pass to Ty Montgomery. This play, as unspectacular as it was, effectively breathed life into Stanford's bruising attack, a spark for which undersized Army had no answer. Tyler Gaffney immediately had space to rip off a 25-yard gain, the first big contribution to his career-best 20 carry, 132-yard effort.
The Cardinal eventually fully utilized their strength advantage in this one, averaging a solid 6.0 yards per rush on the afternoon.
Grade: B (Stanford's physical performance was good and expected given the team's significant weight advantage, but it wasn't up to the gangbusters 2011 Washington game standard. This program has set a high standard for ground domination over an overmatched opponent, so an A grade yesterday would have required more.)
Overcome Cut Blocks; Beat the Triple Option
Defensive end Henry Anderson awaits an MRI after hurting his knee in the second quarter, but indications suggest that Army's cut blocking techniques did not cause his injury. Still, the Black Knights' unconventional rushing attack triggered Stanford headaches throughout the afternoon. By the final gun, Army had racked up 284 total yards on the ground. Their biggest success came in the second quarter, when a sophisticated perimeter coupled with well-timed interior runs fueled an 18-carry, 117-yard effort.
Afterwards, Shaw stressed that it takes at least one half for an unfamiliar team to become accustomed to the triple option attack, so he was happy with the Stanford defense lowering Army's average per carry from 6.5 to 3.6 yards per carry from the second to the third quarter. Defensive backs Wayne Lyons and Jordan Richards eventually established excellent tackling angles, while Josh Mauro and James Vaughters anchored a wall-like front seven presence that cracked Army's dam at the point of attack. The Cardinal defense has developed a reputation for improving as a game progresses.
Grade: B- (Stanford's touted rushing defense is too good to claim complete success when surrendering 284 yards, no matter how unconventional Army's ground attack was.)
Establish Downfield Confidence
The Farm Boys' superior athleticism shone through almost every single time Ty Montgomery and Michael Rector ran a deep route. No. 7 finished with six catches and a career-high 130 receiving yards, while No. 3 created separation three times, earning his first career catch (a 26-yard touchdown) on his first try. Both receivers' performances were excellent signs for Stanford's offensive explosiveness moving forward.
Hogan still struggled to deliver with perfect accuracy on his longer throws. He did find a wide-open Montgomery once for a 46-yard score, but he overshot Rector on a deep ball and missed badly in Jordan Pratt's direction on a second-half interception. Arizona State will present a much larger defensive challenge next weekend, and Stanford will almost certainly need Hogan to throw with greater precision downfield.
Grade: C (Ideally, the Army game would have been a tailor-made confidence builder for Stanford's second-year quarterback, but a handful of mistakes means the jury is still out.)
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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