Wake Week Notes & Quotes

The Bootleg's Scott Cooley provides notes and quotes from the weekly media luncheon following Stanford's impressive, eye-opening 35-0 shutout of the beleaguered Bru-Crew at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena last Saturday night.

Wake Week Notes & Quotes:

Injury Report

Jim Harbaugh was a bit more divulging about team injuries this week. He must have seen every media member blasting his broken-record "working through something" phrase so he went a different route when talking about WR Chris Owusu and ILB Shayne Skov.

"We'll see how practice goes this week, it's day-to-day," he said.

Owusu's speed in returns and down the sidelines has been missed and Skov's proven tackling prowess would definitely come in handy this week when facing a zone-read, option offense like Wake Forest.

Harbaugh did mention that both were expected to be practice Tuesday. He said Jeremy Stewart was in the same boat as those guys, but wasn't 100 percent clear about Stewart practicing.

A Lot of Hart

Randy Hart's 40-year coaching resume is littered with success. Harbaugh and the Stanford brass brought him in as the team's defensive line coach in 2010 and his experience has returned early dividends.

"Nobody has more energy on our staff than Randy," Harbaugh said. "I love going out to practice every day and watching him coach for all of the two hours and 15 minutes. He's not a guy that's ever standing around looking at his script. He's drilling his players, he's coaching them…he's made a huge impact on the culture of our team.

"Randy is somebody that's seen a lot of football and I am learning a lot from him every day."

Flop Shot

And the Academy Award goes to…Jim Harbaugh!

There weren't many coaches, if any, that came across more animated on TV last week than Harbaugh against UCLA and Pete Carroll in his NFL return. The ESPN cameras were in love with Harbs Saturday night and captured a "best supporting actor" moment when he reenacted a kick return flop.

Harbaugh said he wasn't trying to be funny and still didn't have an explanation as to why Quinn Evans was flagged for kick-catch interference when no contact was made.

"I was trying to get an explanation for what they called; he said he buzzed the returner," Harbaugh said. "I thought I was familiar with the rule book, but I don't remember seeing the word ‘buzzed' in there."


Pressing His Luck

When the passing game struggled last week, Andrew Luck put his legs to work, scrambling for 63 yards on seven attempts and a  touchdown...almost (replays showed his knee touched down before he crossed the goal line). 

Last year, Harbaugh said there was a delicate balance between how much he wanted his star quarterback running the ball and how much he wanted him to avoid injury. When Luck was sandwiched between the helmets of a linebacker and safety at the goal line Saturday, Harbaugh said he experienced more concern than excitement.

"There's more a part of me that cringes," he said about Luck lowering his helmet.

The coaching staff is continually preaching to Luck that he has to slide instead of taking on a defender. They are making some progress, but the natural inhibition of a competitor is to gain every bit of yardage he can.

"I understand as a quarterback you have a different responsibility running the ball so sliding is definitely an option I'm trying to work on," Luck said. "That situation on the goal line…it was third down and I really wanted to score. But I have been working on going down earlier."

Academic Workload

With the start of the trimester on the horizon, Cardinal student-athletes will have to adjust back into that balanced groove between football and academics. We just hope neither suffers because of the added stress.

Andrew Luck said that he is signed up for 13 units in the fall. When asked how much time he would dedicate to studying, he deferred to the "we'll wait and see" response.

"It depends on the course load," Luck said. "I don't think I remember too much from last fall, but get back to me in two weeks and I'll have more on that."

Axe Men

If you haven't noticed, the back sides of Stanford helmets are adorned with tiny "axe" decals. Harbaugh said these are amassed through game performances.

"Mainly they accumulate by reaching team goals or unit goals, but they can also be earned by individual play," he said.

The offense and defense have 10 goals outlined for each game. If that unit achieves a goal, then a player receives a sticker.

Winning a Pac-10 game provides players with two axes while a non-conference victory rewards one.

Safety Michael Thomas might not have much room on the back of his helmet after a breakout performance against UCLA. He received two axes for his two forced fumbles, one for the touchdown and a number of others for team and unit goals.

"I don't want to tell you I counted, but I think I had 12 or so," Thomas said with a smile. "After the Pac-10 Player of the Week announcement came, they said they might sneak me two more."

Late Start

Stanford's official game notes stated that Saturday's 8:15 p.m. local start is believed to be the latest in school history. While the late start should have a greater effect on the Demon Deacons (it should feel like 11:15 p.m. to them), Stanford players said it does pose a few challenges.

"You just get anxious waiting around all day," Ryan Whalen said. "But then again, there's plenty of time to rest."

"I think players hate it," said Luck. "You sit around in the hotel and watch other college football games. But TV is a big part of college football nowadays and you just have to deal with it."

Luck said that Coach Harbaugh asks them to not get caught up emotionally while watching football because they have to reserve emotions for their game. Whalen also mentioned that the Cardinal have been holding late practices, stretching until after 9 p.m., in preparation for the unusually late game.

Strip Tease

Michael Thomas contends that teammate Delano Howell is the best guy on the football team at forcing a fumble. Apparently Howell's been giving lessons and Thomas has been soaking them up. Below, Thomas breaks down "Stripping 101" from Professor Howell:

"First of all, you have to secure the tackle. If you do that and the ball carrier doesn't have the ball covered with two hands, then you get your hand on the ball and pull with all your might. It sounds very simple, but so far that's been working and that's what happened last week. Secure the tackle, get one hand on the ball and just rip it."

Thomas said his second forced fumble of the night, which was returned for a touchdown, was a little easier.

"On that play I was just trying to make the tackle. As I'm tackling more guys are coming around, so I figured if he wasn't going to break out, I would just try to strip the ball. Instead of it popping out like earlier in the game, it flew right into my hands and I took off running!"

Non-Excessive Celebration

After Michael Thomas's game-icing touchdown return, he was flagged for a penalty - for "excessive celebration".

"Coach Harbaugh didn't agree with it at all, but I think the call they made was that I wasn't celebrating with my teammates," he said. "I was like well, ‘I was waiting for them to get into the end zone with me.'"

Apparently Thomas gave the Texas "Hook ‘Em Horns" sign to the crowd, which he said also might have prompted the yellow flag.

Thomas made it clear that he was not a Longhorns fan but simply a fan of the State of Texas, where he grew up.

About the Author: Scott Cooley has worked in the sports media industry throughout his professional career, including serving as a writer for an ESPN production house and a professional football franchise. His work has been published in multiple print and online platforms including ESPN.com. He currently writes for yours truly, TheBootleg, as well as Covers.com and Bookmaker.com. Cooley specializes in football, baseball and basketball with an emphasis on sports betting. Cooley and his wife reside in California, contact him at Contact him at scottwcooley@gmail.com

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