No. 15 Stanford, Army a clash of old-school styles
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) There will be few passes and even fewer surprises when Army and Stanford meet Saturday.
In an era where spread offenses are all the rage, the programs will put on a rare competition between throwback styles. The Black Knights (1-0) will stick with their signature triple-option offense, and the 15th-ranked Cardinal (1-1) will rely on the power running game and imposing defense that has led them to the past two Pac-12 championships.
''We can't masquerade what we're trying to do very much,'' new Army coach Jeff Monken said. ''We want to run the football. They know that, we know that.''
What happens in the middle is where things get tricky.
Army's funky formation - by today's standards, anyway - gave the Cardinal more trouble than expected at West Point last season. The Black Knights led 6-0 early and kept the game close most of the way before Stanford pulled ahead for a 34-20 victory.
Monken took over after Rich Ellerson was fired in December and has given the triple-option his own twists. He learned the offense as an assistant under Paul Johnson at Navy and Georgia Tech and carried it to Georgia Southern, where he coached the lower-tier Eagles to a stunning win at Florida last season.
Trying to upset Stanford is another matter.
''The thing I really admire about that team is their desire to be good at running the football,'' Monken said. ''They don't try to be fancy. The Pac-12 is a league with a lot of fast teams like Oregon and Arizona State and they're going 100 miles per hour, but Stanford is a tough team that plays good defense.''
The Cardinal are coming off a sloppy 13-10 home loss to Southern California - which is now ranked ninth - in a game the defense dominated. Stanford had two missed field goals, eight penalties and several red-zone blunders - all uncharacteristic for a program that prides itself on minimizing mistakes.
Stanford has shown the ability to rebound from early losses in recent years. The Cardinal haven't dropped consecutive games since 2009.
Stanford coach David Shaw insists his team will not overlook Army, especially after last season's contest, and he's counting on the disciplined Black Knights to test his players' focus.
''It's a combination of everybody being in the right spots every single play, but also mixing up what you do,'' Shaw said. ''Because if you do the same thing every play, they'll find your weakness.''
Some things to watch when Army visits Stanford:
TRIPLE-OPTION TRICKS: Army ran for 341 yards and seven touchdowns in a 47-39 victory against Buffalo last week, while Stanford's reconstructed defense allowed 156 yards rushing to USC's up-tempo offense. ''It's a little bit of a switch-up, but I don't really mind it,'' Stanford defensive tackle David Parry said. ''We like to go against teams that run the ball a lot.''
AIR ATTACK: One-dimensional teams don't usually fare well against Stanford. But one of the biggest reasons Army had success against Buffalo was because of the way it threw the ball. The Black Knights completed all seven of their pass attempts, which forced Buffalo's defense to back off the line of scrimmage.
CARDINAL CARRIER: Stanford is still searching for ways to replace the production of 1,700-yard rusher Tyler Gaffney. The Cardinal ran for just 128 yards on 38 carries last week as it used five different running backs, two fullbacks and 11 scrambles from quarterback Kevin Hogan. Expect the tailback-by-committee approach to continue.
MATCHING MONTGOMERY: Stanford senior wide receiver and All-American kickoff specialist Ty Montgomery is the best athlete on the field most games, and he should give Army all it can handle this week. Montgomery ran his first punt return back 60 yards for a touchdown against UC Davis and had 205 all-purpose yards against USC while lining up at wide receiver, running back and wildcat quarterback. He also returned kickoffs and punts.
TURNOVER RATIO: Stanford has been among the leaders in turnover ratio the past few seasons, but USC won the turnover battle 2-0 last week. Army forced three interceptions against Buffalo but also lost two fumbles, which the triple-option is prone to do. Which team takes care of the ball could be crucial.
AP Sports Writer John Kekis contributed to this story.