Rose Bowl In Focus: Gardner, Tarpley, Sanford

Ben Gardner on the tackle that broke a 40-year drought. A.J. Tarpley on leadership. And Mike Sanford on the recruiting class -- of 2019. Many of these quotes stem from exclusive interviews with The Bootleg, and there are some absolute gems here.

Defensive lineman Ben Gardner

On halftime corrections:

"A couple of adjustments were simply knowing what we were doing on top of communicating. We limited our mistakes in the second half."

"We came into halftime disappointed. As a D, we knew we were capable of stopping these guys. To shut them out in second half is a testament to our coaching on defense."

"In the first half, we had a few communication errors on third down and beat ourselves. Once, we lost contain because we had two [different] calls going and just failed to align correctly to a couple of formations."

"We tried to simplify. Coming with pressure wasn't working, so we tried to simply play our base defense and limit our errors. We felt we could control the line of scrimmage."

On his fourth-down stop (footage here):

"We needed a stop after that review. I felt good about our goal line package, though they'd been successful all season. I picked up on a tendency in film. Judging by the guard's stance, I had a hunch and adjusted my alignment. I probably didn't do my job, but tried to adjust."

"Sometimes you just feel it from their stance. I felt the guy coming down, and was able to knife into the crease and make a play before the tackle got me."

[Ed: A down block is one of the easiest in football for an offensive linemen to execute, so for Ben Gardner to get all the way around down-blocking OL Rick Wagner, No. 58, and drop James White in the backfield is nothing short of incredible. Watch the replay with Gardner's quote above in mind, and the play comes alive: Gardner almost had to know what was coming in order to beat Wagner to the spot.]

On the mullet:

"This thing's coming off tomorrow. I'm going to celebrate one last night, me and my mullet, and then it's gone. I might go to barber for the first time in three years."

On what he's proudest of:

"One thing I'm really proud of is finding different ways to win. In years past, with Luck under center, we'd blow everyone out, score a lot of points."

"This year, it was not always the prettiest. We had to find different ways to win. Usua Amanam had a big interception to seal the thing. Jamal-Rashad Patterson had a big catch early on."

"I'm proud of the way everyone hung in there. It was looking bleak in the third quarter. We were losing the field position battle. We needed to flip field, come up with four or five stops in a row.

"Guys never flinched. They kept their eyes on the prize and kept fighting."

Linebacker A.J. Tarpley

"It's been crazy compared to when I got here, right after the Sun Bowl."

On reasons for the transformation:

"The leaders we have in this program, Chase Thomas and the other leaders we have."

Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Mike Sanford

On Coach Shaw:

"Coach Shaw obviously is Stanford. He is such a great representative of Stanford University. He was forged around this program, it means everything to him, and I knew that he'd be a longtime fixture here, and hoped I'd have a chance to be on this staff."

"This profession, as an assistant, quality of life has to do with the boss. We sacrifice a lot. We all believe in him, what he says we can trust. He has a plan, has a vision, and there's no second guessing. Working for him is a breath of fresh air knowing that there are outstanding leaders in this profession, in the world for that matter."

On how winning the Rose Bowl helps recruiting:

"The exposure is unlike any other game. There's international exposure, people who have never seen us play before. Think of a young man in eighth grade, a superstar on the East Coast or in the South who turned on ESPN. It's such a New Year's Day ritual, watching the Rose Bowl. It's the one game everyone watches, even more than the national championship game. That's what you do."

"That exposure involves not just the current class, but making progress on future classes. 2019 prospects, we made progress with tonight. What was heard from a national standpoint today was clearly communicated to the masses: we're tough, physical, and do things the right way."

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