WEST POINT – Of its 20 points, Army scored 13 in the first half. That didn’t surprise Stanford head coach David Shaw.
“The bottom line, which I learned a long time ago, is when you’re playing a triple-option team, it takes a half to get used to the speed, to get used to the tempo, the misdirection that they have,” he said. “Our guys eventually got used to it. We started to slow them down. It’s a hard team to stop. You never talk about stopping a triple-option team, you talk about slowing them down and trying to get them to third downs and put them in passing downs. From that respect, our defense, after halftime, felt really good about what they were doing and finally started to slow them down.”
Obviously. Army only had one score in the second half, a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining. Of its 284 yards rushing, 157 came in the first half.
What most pleased Shaw is that his team, a 30-point favorite, did not begin to squirm with the game still close.
“What I loved about the team today is when people are telling you that you’re supposed to win a game by a lot and you come in at halftime and it’s close,” he said. “If you listen to the outside people, you get a little anxious. At halftime, we were not anxious. We knew we hadn’t played our best. We knew we had to play our best, and our guys came out in the second half and played great.”
After its opening-night victory over Morgan State, Army has lost two straight. This is coming off last season’s 2-10 finish. Ellerson doesn’t detect any look-out-below panic.
“We played hard,” he said. “I don’t think it’s their best football. I think there is some low-hanging fruit out there that can make us a better football team. There are some things fundamentally and technically that we can really grow at. In terms of our effort and our combativeness, the internal culture of our team is intact. I knew this was going to be an emotional game for them. They were excited to play, and they held onto that emotion throughout the contest. The emotion was not our enemy. The emotion never got in our way. We used it to effect. They love to play. They care about one another. If we keep those things going for us, there is a way forward.”
With its loss to fifth-ranked Stanford, Army continued its 40-year losing streak against nationally ranked teams. Its last such victory was a 17-14 victory over No. 15 Air Force Nov. 4, 1972. Stanford was the first top 10 team to play at Michie Stadium since Dan Marino led No. 8 Pittsburgh to a 24-6 victory, in 1982. Army last faced a nationally ranked team last season, a 28-7 loss at Rutgers Nov. 10.
A top-five team last played at Michie in 1962, when Army defeated No. 3 Penn State, 9-6. Army last hosted a game against a No. 1 team in 1972, against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won 77-7.
The last time Army played Stanford was Sept. 22, 1979, a 17-13 road victory for Army. The last time Army hosted Stanford was a 21-20 Army victory Oct. 2, 1976. Stanford now leads the all-time series with Army 6-5. The teams’ first game was in 1928, a 26-0 Stanford victory.
Saturday’s crowd of 39,644 was the most at Michie since 2004 when 40,129 attended Army’s 31-22 loss to Air Force. The largest crowd ever announced at Michie was Oct. 2, 1971 against Missouri, a 22-6 Army victory before a crowd of 42,765.