Gilby expects a Cardinal flush

Stanford's rush defense stats are beyond impressive so far in 2003. In their opener against San Jose State, the Spartans ran backwards to the tune of 9 yards. Against BYU? Try 13 yards for the entire contest. So, the Cardinal defense has averaged a paltry 2 yards a game heading into their Pac-10 debut against Washington in Seattle. How will the Huskies attempt to solve Stanford's stingy D, coached by A.J. Christoff and Tom Williams?

"They probably also have an advantage because they have three coaches that have coached at Washington (Tom Williams, Wayne Moses and Steve Morton) and two that coached in the Rose Bowl (Williams and Moses)," Gilbertson said Wednesday. "System-wise, it's to their advantage. But then again, they aren't in our huddle and we aren't in theirs."

Technically, the Cardinal claim to run a 4-3 base, but in reality they use a variety of schemes and blitzes to confuse their opponents. "They are a pressure defense," Gilbertson said. "We'll probably see a lot of blitzes and a lot of safeties coming. We're anticipating a lot of pressure in what we see."

What the Washington head coach described may not be something the Huskies see again all season. But in reality, it may be something they'll see in one form or another in every game they play from here on out.

"They play a New Mexico-style package, which is hard to target," Gilbertson said. "We'll see nickel and dime packages and have to figure out who is coming. It the 'vogue' thing to be doing and we'll probably see it all year in some fashion. We saw it in the first three games, not as much against Indiana."

So what is the 'New Mexico package', exactly? Well, it's a defense designed by Lobos head coach Rocky Long that is predicated on the idea of multiple looks and recognition. It's the 3-3-5 double stack.

In brief, the 3 down linemen play over the tackles and center, with the three linebackers 'stacked' right behind the linemen. The five DBs lined up are 5 across - corners on the wide outs, free safety in the deep third, and the two safeties acting as rovers in the flats on either side of the linebackers.

Based on this formation, there's a lot of changing up the safeties and linebackers can do just before snap, allowing for the possibility of a lot of confusion. One or both of the weak/strong safeties could shift, becoming defensive ends, the linebackers could either stunt, twist or play the gaps straight up, depending on what the linemen do.

So, in reality, they may throw a 5-3-3 at the offense, or a 4-3-4, or a 4-4-3, etc..., but usually there's always 8 'in the box'. That's a lot of looks to prepare for. And usually all the shifts, stunts and confusion happens with less than enough time to recognize who the offense is supposed to block, whether it is man or zone blocking.

Depending on personnel, when a defense is in a 3-3-5 base, you can blitz, stunt or play straight up. The beauty of the scheme is that the defense can either blitz eight or drop eight at any time. Since it is balanced formation, it is a great blitz defense. It enables a blitz from either side of the offensive formation. With five defensive backs and three linebackers on the field, it provides the defense with a lot of team speed.

Will Washington see some straight 3-3-5 from Stanford Saturday? We'll see. But with the numbers (or lack thereof) put up by the Cardinal so far on the defensive side of the ball, it's hard to imagine they'll be sitting on their heels, waiting for the Huskies to come to them.

Dawgman.com Top Stories