For the first half of last Saturday’s game, Stanford looked like it was still on its cross-continental flight.
Though things certainly didn’t look pretty early on, No. 5 Stanford (2-0) used a strong second-half surge to defeat Army (1-2) 34-20 at Michie Stadium. Senior running back Tyler Gaffney and junior receiver Ty Montgomery provided the necessary one-two punch for the Cardinal offense. Gaffney rushed for 132 yards and a score on 20 carries with a 23-yard touchdown reception, while the physical and speedy Montgomery baffled the Black Knights secondary with six catches for 130 yards and a touchdown of his own.
“What I love about the team today is that, when people tell you you’re supposed to win the game by a lot, you come in at halftime and it’s close, if you listened to the people outside you’d get a little anxious,” said head coach David Shaw. “In the locker room at halftime, we were not anxious. We knew we had to play our best, came out in the second half and played great.”
The Cardinal began the game on a rocky note when junior quarterback Kevin Hogan coughed up the ball on the opening possession and then suffered a three-and-out on its next drive. Capitalizing off Hogan’s early miscue, Army tacked on two field goals to take an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter.
Hogan bounced back by throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Michael Rector, who displayed great concentration after the ball was tipped to collect the first reception and touchdown of his college career. Not to be outdone, Montgomery scored a 46-yard touchdown early in the second quarter when Hogan found him on a deep post. Stanford struggled to pull away, though, as Army used its triple-option run game and cut blocks to drive down the field, producing a late touchdown to keep the score close at 20-13 heading into halftime.
“We kept our calm,” Gaffney said. “We tried to keep an even keel. We went out there knowing that six points wasn’t going to win the game. We went out there with the same mindset: keep grinding. We didn’t overlook them. We had to keep grinding. We were down. Adversity stepped in, and we responded.”
Led by seven-tackle performances from fifth-year senior defensive end Josh Mauro and junior outside linebacker James Vaughters, Stanford’s defense would clamp down in the second half and allow only one touchdown—in garbage time, no less.
“[Army] came out there with a little bit different approach than what we had seen,” Mauro said. “It took guys having the will to do their jobs. We made some adjustments in the second half to stop the inside run. We got the look all week, but it’s so much different when you’re actually doing it. All the credit to them. They played their butts off.”
Gaffney helped the Cardinal extend its lead when he found a soft spot in Army’s secondary to catch a 23-yard touchdown pass from Hogan, who finished 11-of-18 passing for 188 yards and three touchdowns. A few drives later, Gaffney busted a 19-yard gain and then punched it in from one yard out to make the score 34-13, finally putting the game out of reach.
The Cardinal hopes to get off to a quicker start this Saturday when it begins Pac-12 play at home in a critical showdown against No. 23 Arizona State (2-0). Fresh off a controversial 32-30 victory over then-No. 20 Wisconsin, the Sun Devils are looking for another statement win to bolster their bid to win the Pac-12 South.
At the helm of the Sun Devils’ up-tempo spread offense is quarterback Taylor Kelly, who in two games has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns. Against a normally stingy Badgers defense, Kelly efficiently worked the sidelines with his back-shoulder throws and consistently escaped pressure. And though Arizona State likes to stretch the field horizontally with four- or five-receiver sets, the running back tandem of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster isn’t afraid to run between the tackles either.
The most feared Sun Devil, however, is consensus All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton, who wreaked havoc in the backfield and was at times unblockable last year with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks. Though the Cardinal offensive line got a strong push against an undersized Army front seven—not putting together its best game, but paving the way for Gaffney nonetheless—Sutton and the Sun Devil defensive front, averaging nearly 296 pounds per body, will prove to be a much stiffer test for the Tunnel Workers Union.
Stanford avoided the injury bug against San Jose State in the season opener but wasn’t so lucky at West Point. Senior defensive end Henry Anderson left the game with a knee injury and was not listed on the depth chart for this upcoming Saturday. Senior cornerback Barry Browning also appeared to be banged up; as of Monday night, his status for the game remains unclear.
Stanford and Arizona State clash at Stanford Stadium on Saturday, with national television coverage on FOX. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. PDT.
For in-game updates and analysis, check www.stanforddaily.com for our live blog and follow @StanfordSports on Twitter.
Contact George Chen at gchen15 “at” stanford.edu.