How to Beat Army

Can Mauro play low while staying tall?

Stanford's visit to Army provides a set of unique challenges in the Cardinal's second game of the 2013 campaign. David Shaw's scout team has simulated the Black Knights' cut-blocking triple option attack throughout the week. Are the Farm Boys ready for a markedly smaller opponent?

Wake Up On Time
Army averages 254 pounds across the line of scrimmage; Stanford outside linebacker Trent Murphy weighs 265. The Black Knights feature a defensive end who checks in at 228 pounds. He lines up alongside a tackle a 247-pound tackle. Simply put, this is a David v. Goliath type of match-up.

Stanford's potential problem: Well, David killed Goliath despite his marked disadvantage. Army will try to overcome the Farm Boys' bruising size through a variety of exotic looks highlighted by their offense's triple option attack and their defense's double-eagle flex scheme.

But regardless of some of the complications that X's and O's may present, the two clubs are ultimately engaging in an inherently physical battle Saturday, and there's a reason why Army has not beaten a ranked team since 1972 while the Cardinal is in the nation's top five. As long as their execution isn't atrocious, Stanford has no business losing this game. The 9 a.m. PDT start on the East Coast is a potential complication. Given the Cardinal's talent edge, it may be the most daunting one.

Pound Them Into Submission
Featuring three down linemen, a pair of outside linebackers, one inside linebacker, two supplementary players around the line on the outside, a duo cornerbacks, and a deep safety, Army's double-eagle flex defensive scheme is certainly funky compared to what Stanford's attack is used to facing. It's best suited to defend against option offenses, though, so the Cardinal's power running game should certainly find its niche on Saturday.

Army tries to make up for its lack of size with defensive quickness, so Stanford's big boys must execute their assignments with matching speed. That generally isn't a problem for an athletic, Shannon Turley-trained front. If they're in position to block, the Farm Boys can pound the Black Knights into submission.

Overcome Cut Blocks
Last season, Army ran the football 88 percent of the time on its way to leading the nation in rushing, averaging 369.8 yards per game. Again, the Black Knights use unconventional techniques to make up for their size disadvantages and set the table for their production. Low cut blocks, designed to take the feet out from underneath larger players, highlight this effort.

"If you play too tall, you'll get chopped down like a tree," Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro said.

Fighting through cut blocks will be a noteworthy challenge for the Cardinal simply because of the front seven's remarkable height. All of the team's leading linemen outside of David Parry reach at least six feet, four inches.

"You don't have a size advantage anymore when you're on the ground," David Shaw astutely observed.

Coaches have been preaching the importance of quick, crisp footwork and technique throughout the week. Cut blocks can pose an injury risk, but only against players who aren't technically sound while facing them. If Stanford doesn't bring Army's hustle to the table Saturday, they'll find themselves in a vulnerable position.

Establish Downfield Confidence
The Pac-12 schedule starts with a bang a week after Saturday when Arizona State visits, so this is the final chance for Stanford to work out some kinks before a physically daunting opponent comes calling. Shaw explained Kevin Hogan's deep ball overthrows against San Jose State were attributed to freshman excitement. No. 8's a redshirt sophomore, but he's only started six career games.

Saturday marks a perfect opportunity for Hogan to fully settle into his rhythm. Army is a fundamentally sound football team, but they are not on Stanford's level athletically. This is a tune-up chance.

David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with (sign-up)! Recommended Stories