Spread team, power scheme: 7-0, 1Q

Stanford needs to realize that they’re still looking for a go-to power back, but they have elite scatbacks and elite wide receivers. I’d think there’s a happy medium where Stanford spreads it out, goes no huddle, and also tries to retain some of power concepts, and I realize the coaches are feeling it out, but at some point, you have to go with what works, and right now that's a spread.

Stanford takes the opening kick and marches down methodically, no more than 16 yards at a time, to the Army 23. We are now in the money zone, obviously, after last week. Heard an interesting stat on the KNBR pregame with Scott Reiss, Todd Husak and John Platz: Stanford is under 50 percent on the season in red zone scoring. Not scoring touchdowns, but scoring anything whatsoever.

Then we have the release, in an eerie shadow of last week. Same play-action to the tight end, same beautiful Kevin Hogan throw to the same left corner of the north end zone. This time it’s Devon Cajuste running the tight end route, and this time, unlike in the last quarter of football we saw here, there’s no flag for a chop block. Some four-star Army general hasn’t stormed down to the sideline to protest, and there are probably a few fewer fans in the stands, but it counts for seven, just like last time.

Hogan to Cajuste for 23 yards to cap a 70-yard, nine-play drive that took 4:16.

Stanford 7, Army 0, 10:44 remaining, first quarter

Stanford forces a three and out, with Blake Lueders blowing up a first-down triple option nicely. The Card return to the punt return formation we saw last week, in which both Ty Montgomery and Christian McCaffrey set up to return. The Knights punt to Montgomery, and again like last week, McCaffrey sprints over and absolutely blows up his man. I love the formation, as it’s getting the ball in the hands of your two best playmakers, and by the way, Montgomery’s punt return against UC Davis came thanks to a Christian McCaffrey block. The second guy gets Montgomery after a long, wind-aided punt, and Stanford will scrimmage from its 25.

Shout out to Army for making two nice tackles on Montgomery in open space, one on the return and another on a bubble screen on the first drive. Stanford must have seen something, because they start this drive out with a bubble screen as well, for eight. Another second and short run goes nowhere, and this time, Kelsey Young is cut down in the backfield on third and one. Not a good sign after last week’s struggles. Rashard Pippens has a great sprint on the coverage unit to down the returner – if anything, he arrived early – and Army will go from its 15.

Kelsey Young has one run for 16 yards, to his credit today. The other three have gone for a combined negative four, each of them on second or third and short. Hogan does have a rating of 239, a perfect 6-of-6 for 60 yards and the touchdown. A wide-open Austin Hooper got involved early, as he has two catches for 18 yards. Barry Sanders also has two early carries for 10 yards.

Aziz Shittu does his best Blake Lueders impression, slanting past his would-be blocker to blow up the first down triple option. On fourth and short, it’s an Army punt – they have just one first down so far – and Stanford doesn’t get a chance to return off a short punt and in their punt return safe formation.

Washington 35, Illinois 5. Oregon 48, Wyoming 14, in a game that wasn’t that close. Can anybody make a good argument as for why the Ducks shouldn’t be the No. 1 team in the country, especially after Alabama’s D struggled against West Virginia? Didn’t think so, and they’ve been my No. 1 team this year from the get-go.

Barry Sanders for six, resetting the chains at the Stanford 45 on the second-and-five give. Hooper then is open on the flat route but drops Hogan’s floater. Hogan also could put a little too much on it, such that Hooper would have had maybe 13, instead of 23, had he hung on. But the Card come back to the same play the next snap to move the chains into Army territory. Hogan gets happy feet the next snap and runs himself into a sack. McCaffrey breaks outside for seven, and then Hogan nearly throws a pick on a well-covered out route on third down. FYI: Buffalo scored 42 on this same Army unit last week.

Through one quarter, the Cardinal were at their best attacking the flat, passing downfield, and finding open space, and did not have much success running between the tackles. The Card came up empty on two of their three first quarter drives, all of which entered Army territory, and did punch it in on the other. This sounds familiarly frustrating after last week.

I think Stanford needs to realize that they’re still looking for a go-to power back, but they have elite scatbacks and elite wide receivers. I get Stanford’s identity as a smashmouth team and that a line takes time to gel and all of that, but the most efficient offense to match the Stanford personnel, based on what I’ve seen this year, is a spread. I’d think there’s a happy medium where Stanford spreads it out, goes no huddle, and also tries to retain some of its power concepts, and I realize the coaches are trying to feel it out, but at some point, you have to go with what works, and right now that’s spreading and shredding.

Stanford 7, Army 0, End of First Quarter


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