Pregame thoughts: Army hasn’t played a top-five team in 51 years. Guess that speaks volumes about Notre Dame’s recent mediocity, as the Irish often play the service academies. The stadium looks beautiful and with, if memory serves, attendance mandated for many cadets, Army will have a nice home-field advantage.
Stanford starts ingloriously. Ty Montgomery had a hole but an arm tackle dropped him at the 27 on the kickoff return. Then the Cardinal goes three and out, with a tipped near-interception on second down foreshadowing bigger troubles on third down. After a timeout, Kevin Hogan is dropped on a coverage sack, and after review, the ball does squirt out before he hits the ground. Army takes over at Stanford’s 30.
Army runs triple option up the middle three times, with Stanford loading the box and nothing doing every time. Still, Army somehow sneaks through an ugly, ugly field goal that may have been partially deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Army 3, Stanford 0, 11:47 remaining, first quarter
The Card’s second drive starts with a wildcat for three yards, and then a second-down bubble screen to Kelsey Young loses a yard. So much for our gadget plays. Hogan again has no one open on third down and has to scramble for a few yards before a punt. Stanford will have to find a way to get its receivers open, because it’s cost the Cardinal twice on third down thus far.
Army converts the game’s first down on the ground. They haven’t passed yet, midway through the first quarter. They won’t need to, with a counter triple option pitch again moving the chains, with the Black Knights now across midfield. A great catch from an Army wide receiver, who probably caught a ball nine feet off the ground, yields yet another first down. With Army plodding forward three or four yards at a time and the Knights using their full play clock most snaps, we have under five minutes left in the first quarter. That’s exactly what an underdog wants to do: shorten the game to increase the variance. Finally, Stanford forces a passing down on third and long, but a six-yard scramble moves the Knights into better field goal range. The 48-yarder is good, and Stanford’s offense better get moving soon.
Army 6, Stanford 0, 3:27 remaining, first quarter
John Elway’s on our sideline. So is Ty Montgomery, shoved out after an eight-yard gain on a quick hitter. Tyler Gaffney squirts through the middle on power right, and is just barely dropped after a 25-yard gain. Gaffney runs power right for another nine yards, and now we’re cooking with gas. We’re going right instead of left, the presumed strength of the line. Michael Rector has his first reception in a Stanford uniform off play action, and it’s a 26-yard touchdown. Hogan throws a little short, allowing a defensive back to deflect (and likely intercept, had he read the play better) the pass. As is, though, the ball is tipped right into Rector’s hands. Touchdown, Stanford.
Stanford 7, Army 6, 0:32 remaining, first quarter
Elway gives a nice interview as the camera pans to a “Stanford salutes USMA” banner. Class all around.
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