My dad once told me a story about playing football against the service academies. I don't know if it's true, but I like the story.
Someone once asked Lou Holtz, then the head coach at Notre Dame, some question about how their game with Navy that weekend was a total mismatch. Holtz replid with a quip to the effect of, "It's not a mismatch. They've won some pretty big games around here. Wake. Coral Sea. Midway." Holtz, referring to the names of the famous battles that adorn the facade at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial stadium, made his point: Don't ever take the service academies lightly. If you want to win, you have to battle them for it.
Now, on to this week's awards:
Most Impressive: Tyler Gaffney. This may turn into the season of Tyler Gaffney. So far, he's been the best player on the team. Gaffney rushed for 132 yards and hauled in a receiving touchdown. At this point in the season, he looks like almost a lock to rush for 1,000+ yards and find the end zone 15 or more times. Last week, he got half of the team's carries - this week, he got 20 of 34 carries. Expect Gaffney to carry it 20-25 times a game form here on out.
Biggest Surprise: Ty Montgomery. Montgomery made it two weeks in a row with 100+ receiving yards and a touchdown. That's answering the call for a top receiver in a big way. It's encouraging that the Stanford offense has studs in the backfield and out wide. After this week, it won't be a surprise when he goes for over 100 yards.
Most Consistent: Jordan Williamson. Another week, another long field goal that split the uprights with ease. Williamson nailed a 47 yarder and a 31 yarder, giving me confidence that he can be pretty much a sure thing for the Cardinal in 2013.
Most pleasantly surprising: Michael Rector. Rector didn't factor into last week's game plan at all, but he finally got a catch and a touchdown this weekend against Army. While Ty Montgomery has been awesome as the #1 receiver, it's nice to see that there are some talented pass-catchers behind him. One guy obviously can't do it all for the Stanford passing game, and Devon Cajuste and Rector have shown their skills in games one and two.
Most frustrating performance: Kevin Hogan. Hogan was not bad on Saturday - he was generally on point - but he did throw a bad interception in the red zone and fumbled twice. Those are the kind of things you can get away with in an early-season nonconference game, but they obviously won't get it done against bigger, stronger opponents. It's not realistic to expect perfection, but it would have been soothing to see Hogan be a little sharper as he tunes up for Pac-12 play.
Uh, where'd you go? Award: The run defense. This is the hard part about nitpicking these games, because Army might not be a great team, but they do one thing well: run the ball. Still, Stanford gave up 284 yards on the ground to the Black Knights. In contrast, Oregon rushed for 198 yards against the Cardinal at Autzen last season. Saturday's performance was not dominant, but that's probably to be expected in a game at 9 a.m. Pacific time.
Beast Mode Award: Tyler Gaffney. For obvious reasons. (With a special mention to James Vaughters, who made a nice play to shed a blocker and tackle an Army runner for a loss in the 2nd half. This may have finally been his breakout performance - stay tuned.)
Tweets of the weekend:
All the respect in the world to Army. That team is full of tough #ArmyStrong dudes that scrap til the end. #Salute #ProudAmerican #StanU— Josh Mauro (@JustJoshin90) September 14, 2013
Humbling experience visiting West Point and seeing the men and women who have committed to protecting this country #FreedomAintFree #USA— David Yankey (@papa_yank) September 14, 2013
And here's Richard Sherman slapping Jim Harbaugh's ass. http://t.co/gRMQV76D8v— BuzzFeed Sports (@BuzzFeedSports) September 16, 2013