Walt Harris USC Post-Game

For an 0-9 football team after a 42-0 loss at home, there are plenty of questions to ask Stanford head coach Walt Harris. He commented Saturday night in his post-game locker room session with the media on the Trojans, pass protection and fourth-down decisions. Also improvement from T.C. Ostrander and the offense, as well as a step forward for the rush defense.

Opening statement

"USC is USC.  They have some legitimate outstanding football players.  They were very focused.  They might have been more focused than a week ago - who knows.  They're not rated where they have been rated because they have a bunch of guys who can't play.  They have a lot of guys who can play, on both sides of the ball.  I think their physicalness on defense gets overlooked, as well as their system, and we had trouble blocking them on a consistent basis."

0-9 has to be hard on any team.  How do you feel about your team's effort right now?  Do you feel like you guys are trying right now as hard as in Week One?

"Yeah.  I don't think you can say that Stanford went out there today and showed no life or no spirit.  I don't think that at all.  I think Stanford played hard, for what we have.  I commend our football players for doing that.  It would be really easy to be psyched out by the skill and the talent that they have.  But I think we fought them as best we could."

Walt, what kind of improvements did you see offensively today?

"I thought T.C. [Ostrander] was a little better today, when he had a chance.  We had trouble blocking them in our pass protection.  It was nice to see us hit a deep ball - it's been a long time.  It's unfortunate that we had protection difficulties.  Obviously we had some blocks where we had some guys who didn't execute their technique as well, and sometimes we were beaten physically.  I thought Anthony Kimble tried to get it up the field.  We tried to make it competitive but just didn't have enough to get it done."

Is Pete Carroll's team the best team that you have faced this year?

"They're the most talented team we have faced - yeah."

He brought in his backup quarterback early in the fourth quarter.  What did you think of that?

"I think he is an outstanding football player as well.  He was highly reputed as being a great quarterback, and he did nothing to make me think that he won't be."

How does this SC team compare to the ones of the last two years?

"I think they're an evolving team.  I think they have a lot of younger guys playing in certain positions - younger and very, very talented.  I think that their quarterback gives them a great chance to win.  Also their wideouts.  I thought our guys did a pretty good job on the run game, which is something we really can build on.  I think that before the season is over, they will be awfully good.  They have some tough challenges down the road, but they have an outstanding coach and a lot of talented players who I am sure will do a great job."

Walt, the last couple games you have had trouble moving the ball.  Today you moved the ball and had a couple big plays, but couldn't get in the endzone.  What does it take to get in there?

"The closer you get to the endzone, the less you can stretch them and the more they turn it up, in terms of their strengths against our weaknesses.  I'm sure there are some calls you would like to have back, but we are not able to physically get it done down when we are in that area.  That's pretty much the way it has been for a while."

How tough is this for you as a coach, to week-in and week-out not put the ball in the endzone?

"If I was in it because of my ego, then I think I would probably be a lot harder to live with.  But I'm in it for the kids.  We're working hard to get better, and we all can do better.  Coaches.  Coach Harris.  Players.  We all can do better.  When we took over this job, we knew some things maybe you didn't know, and we knew that there are a lot of areas we have to improve in this football program.  That's obviously an area."

Did T.C. Ostrander have an improved pocket presence today?  He looked like he may have saved some plays with his feet and decisions...

"Yeah, I think T.C. played well.  He had guys coming from everywhere.  I thought he laid the ball off well, and he threw it away.  He moved around a little bit.  It's hard to operate when you have people all around you, when they're not supposed to be.  I thought he did a very commendable job in an improved performance."

Walt, that was your fourth blocked kick of the season.  What's the breakdown there?

"Well, we lost our left - the guy who is normally our starter on PAT/field goal protection.  He was out.  Then we replaced him.  It was on the left side, but I don't like to mention names.  We just got shoved back.  And the ground was slick.  They got better footing than we did, and they drove us back.  I don't know if it was a low kick or not; I really couldn't tell.  They just got too good of penetration."

Did you consider going for it at that point?  I think it was 28-0...

"You know, you can say, 'Oh we need a touchdown to win the game.'  I'm just trying to play well and get some good things happening.  Sometimes a field goal is positive.  Not sometimes - a field goal is positive.  We would probably be excited to have three points.  I think the shutout is harder to live with than three points.  Regardless, they are all extremely difficult to live with.  Right now in our situation, we are going to have to understand that's the way it is and find a way to get the ball turned over so that we're closer.  Maybe intercept a pass like the Oakland Raiders did; they intercepted two passes and ran them back for touchdowns.  We just have to make it happen."

A little bit earlier than that, it was second quarter and I think 21-0.  You had one of your deeper penetrations of the day and punted on a short field instead of going on fourth down...

"Where were we?"

The 30-something...

"I thought we were on the 40.  I think the down-and-distance made it...  I know that we're playing against USC, and we're trying to play better.  It's been a hard road for all of us.  You can second-guess all the things all the time.  When you're 0-9, it's free.  Take your shots.  I just felt like for our team, it would help our defense.  I didn't feel comfortable with our protection.  It would have only put our protection in a position to have more pressure than they can deal with, as well as our quarterback, who has to deal with the protection in order to get the ball off.  I took the conservative way to try and get the longer field.  We also had a couple balls downed inside the 10-yardline, which put the pressure back on USC."

You made the change on kickoff return after Wopamo Osaisai's fumble.  You had expressed earlier in the year that you maybe didn't want to go with him there because of ball security.  Is he probably not going to be back there soon?

"I don't know if we can say that.  He is learning like all of us.  He is an inexperienced football player back there.  I love his energy, and he had some tough things happen here tonight, he will be a better player because of it.  And he'll be a better kickoff return guy.  We obviously have to block somebody, too.  I don't think we blocked very well on kickoff return at all."

Coach, if you could change one or two things about this football team to make it more competitive, what would you change?

"I don't think you can just narrow it down to one or two things.  I think we have a lot of things we have to do to improve.  There are a lot of areas where we want to look.  Kickoff returns blocking.  You could say PAT/field goal blocking.  You could say pass protection.  You could say run blocking.  You could say doing your assignments.  There are a lot of things.  When it's a hard loss like this against a good team, there are a lot of areas to look, and I'd rather not look."

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