Walt Harris Notre Dame Post-Game

It was a large contingent in the media room after Saturday's game at Notre Dame, with both sets of reporters talking with the two head coaches. Walt Harris was asked about what the Irish did to his team, as well as what Stanford was (not) able to do against their opponent. The Cardinal head coach talked about his playcalls, improvement, running the ball, his wide receivers, blocking and more.

Opening statement

"I want to congratulate Notre Dame on a victory here today.  They played well.  Our guys played hard.  I thought our guys, from our perspective, played a little better.  We had some unfortunate things happen when we weren't quite able to capitalize on some of the plays we needed to capitalize in order to make it a lot closer game.  That's football.  It doesn't always bounce the way you want it to bounce.  We have a lot of work to do, but we had some improvement - especially, I thought offensively at times.  Defensively, I think it's still continuing to get better.  Special teams was better today.  But once again, today we ran into a good football team with a good quarterback, and the protected him tremendously well.  He operated like we expected him to.  I thought Darius Walker did a nice job.  Their front on offense was the difference for us."

You had two times where your guys dropped wide-open balls.  Did you contemplate, 'Alright, one of them was a touchdown that could have changed the tenor of the game?'

"We thought both of them had a chance.  One of them was for sure a touchdown because it was in the endzone.  The other one was going to be a good gain.  That's the way it is.  That's part of football.  You have to fight your way through it and try to overcome it, and we weren't able to do it."

Is there something that Victor Abiamiri does against you guys that allows him to be so successful in these games?

"I just think that he's a good football player.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but we're done.  We don't have to face him again, right?  [laughs]  I'm sure Charlie will come up with some others, but he can't wait to play us.  That's what it looks like.  We wish him well."

Notre Dame started with the long drive.  Do you think that defensively the guys wore down as the half went on?

"I'm sure they did.  I don't think that drive wore us out so much.  We came back with a 14-play drive, but then we had three drives of three-downs-and-punt.  That wore our defense out.  We weren't able to get it done, and once again you have to give credit to their defensive front.  They dominated us in the short-yardage situations and also in pass protection."

You ran the double pass for a touchdown.  Notre Dame has been vulnerable against that before, so did you see something that helped you to call that play?

"Whenever you try a play like that, it could be really good or really bad.  We just thought that it had a chance.  It took a while to come down, and we were praying pretty hard.  Fortunately our guy camped underneath it, got it done and was able to get into the endzone.  It's one of those plays.  I wish we were at the point where we don't have to try that kind of stuff - where we can go down and just execute.  But sometimes you have to do that in order to get into the endzone."

How would you assess the running game?

"I thought it was great to have Anthony Kimble back.  I thought he ran physically for us, and I thought Toby Gerhart did, too.  The thing I can't wait to watch the tape is that we really had trouble pass protecting, yet we really ran the ball effectively most of the time.  It's not usually supposed to go like that because it's the same guys blocking and the same guys defending.  But I thought we had a good plan to run the ball.  We tried to run the ball.  One of my goals personally was to stick with the running game longer and see if it helped us, and I think we improved.  That's a positive for our future."

The Notre Dame offensive line has struggled at times this year.  What was your assessment of it?

"Well, I thought Brady Quinn had a lot of time to pass on a consistent basis.  Not every time, but on a consistent basis.  They're big and physical.  It's nice to have a freshman like Sam Young come in and play as a true freshman.  You have to look way up in order to see him.  We're hoping he graduates early [laugh].  They're good up front.  They play a tough schedule, and they have physical guys.  Most of those guys are veteran football players instead of him.  And they're physical, which makes it a lot better for Brady."

Walt, you had a 4th & 1 play at midfield when it was 7-3.  Was that something you saw in the defense to throw to Kelton Lynn downfield, or is that something that Trent Edwards audibled?

"You'd sure like to try something different, but we felt like we had to come into this game and try to make something happen.  For us just to play it close and play it conservatively, I don't think that's what we need to do in order to give our players a chance to win.  A lot of times, when you do that, you wish you had called a different play or maybe wish you kicked, but I was trying to help our team.  I thought we were in for a tough battle here in a hostile environment, and I thought it would help.  Unfortunately, we didn't get it done."

Can you compare this Notre Dame team to the one you saw play last November?  Is this a better team?

"They're both good teams.  They both beat us.  They have a fifth-year senior quarterback, who I talked to briefly before the game.  He's really matured, and like Coach Weis said when we talked about him, he'd already played through a lot before Coach Weis ever got a hold of him.  Obviously he gave him an excellent offense to play in.  But he's seen it, so he doesn't get rattled and he has great composure.  He's a very good scrambler, and he makes a lot of plays with his legs which really helps their pass protection and really makes it hard on the defense."

There have been several times this year where you have evaluated your receivers during the game and made some substitutions based on their play.  Kelton Lynn and Mike Miller were out on the field most of the game.  What was the decision with the different receivers you had that kept them in the game and maybe not others?

"Austin Yancy got hurt and was out for quite a while.  That was a big reason Mike played.  He actually came back into the game.  We don't really have that many.  The only other one was Richard Sherman, and Coach [Tucker] Waugh - who is an outstanding receivers coach - decided it would be best to go with the other guys."

Following up on that, Marcus McCutcheon did practice this week and was warming up before the game.  Was it a coaching decision or a doctor's advisory not to play him today?

"No, I think it is hard to come back from a somewhat serious knee injury and be out four weeks, then come right back and the first game he plays is at Notre Dame Stadium.  Last week was the first week he has been able to run around and be able to be touched by somebody.  We want to take care of our guys, and we still have some games to go.  We're looking that he should be better this week with another week under his belt and to build his confidence.  He really wants to play.  There is no question.  He's chomping at the bit."

Stanford was 1-for-8 on third downs, and Notre Dame was 7-for-13.  Can you speak to how big that was in the flow of the game, and how you guys can change that in future weeks?

"That has been a challenge for us all year.  That's how you win games and how you lose games, along with turnovers and field position.  You have to be able to get it done on third down.  We weren't able to, and they were.  It's simple.  We know that it has plagued us.  That's why you have those three plays and out.  We're trying, but it's a hard challenge right now."

Walt, you talked earlier about wanting to stick with and prove the running game today.  Both of your top two runners averaged over four yards per carry, which is an important metric.  Are you surprised that did not open up a better passing game, with the run successful?

"I don't think the passing game wasn't open.  I think that's not a fair statement.  I think the passing game was open.  I just think we couldn't get to it."

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