In Harbaugh's Words: "Gold-standard attitude"

Jim Harbaugh spoke out at his weekly press conference, and the Bootleg was there to listen. Harbaugh singled out receiver Ryan Whalen and quarterback Tavita Pritchard, reflected on Stanford's depth and spoke about the unique experience that is playing at Notre Dame.

The Whalen Story

 

Saturday's win over Washington was a story of unlikely heroes. And none of them may have been more unlikely than Ryan Whalen. The sophomore wideout turned in a career game with seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Accordingly, coach Jim Harbaugh had plenty to say about the receiver during Tuesday's weekly press conference:

 

"He's a go-to-guy. Making the tough catch, [I] loved the hit he took across the middle and on the very next play he went back across the middle and caught a critical third-and-two pass. He just continues to get better and better."

                                         

On the play Harbaugh's referring to, Whalen took a punishing hit from a Husky defender midway through the third quarter. It was the kind of hit that strong safeties dream of and wideouts envision in their nightmares. And while it was impressive how Whalen got back up, undeterred, and ran another crossing route for a first down on the very next play, what may have been more remarkable was his reaction to the hit.

 

After the play, the Washington defender stood over Whalen, looking down on him in a testosterone-charged celebration — essentially rubbing in his big hit. But Whalen didn't give him much time to celebrate: the sophomore made a point to immediately get up. He got up faster than he would have on a routine play. It was as if Whalen was saying, "Yeah, you hit me pretty good. But you're gonna have to hit me harder than that to keep me down."

 

The secret to Whalen's success? You don't have to look very far: the sophomore simply works as hard as he can.

 

"Ryan has always been the kind of player that takes full advantage of every single workout, every single weightlifting session, of every single practice," Harbaugh said. "[He's got a] gold-standard attitude. He works hard to get better everyday, and that's what he does. He's improved a lot as a player, and he was pretty good to start with."

 

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Returning to Glory

 

Harbaugh also spoke about the excitement of getting to face the Notre Dame in such a hallowed and traditional setting.

 

"It's a phenomenal football setting," he said. "I had a chance to play there once as a senior. It's something you're gonna remember for a while, and all these guys will.

 

"It's kinda like back when you're nine years old, visualizing, playing in the backyard, playing in front of a big crowd, millions of people on television, trying to imagine that. We're not nine years old any more, but we're in that setting. This is a great opportunity for our football team to go on the road again to a hostile environment and play a very good football team. Even though we're not nine we can still capture that spirit, that joy of playing football. And that's what we'll attempt to do."

 

You've got to love the unbridled enthusiasm that Harbaugh brings to the table. You can tell that he wants to win this game as much as his players do, and, hopefully, that will give the team the right mindset when it takes the field at Notre Dame this Saturday.

 

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Unsung Heroes

 

A major storyline in the Washington win was how a number of unsung players came together to help the Cardinal to its best game on offense in a long time. Harbaugh made sure to give these guys their due during Tuesday's conference.

 

"I was very pleased with a lot of guys—Anthony Kimble, Jeremy Stewart, Coby Fleener, Delano Howell, Jim Dray. All of those guys on offense that had either new roles or expanded roles, I was very pleased with the way they played."

 

The performance of those players shows that Stanford is a team with depth. It's funny to think that backs the caliber of Kimble and Stewart both didn't carry the ball much until Gerhart went out against the Huskies, but it comes with the territory when trying to manage the depth chart.

 

"It's great for the morale of the team to get as many players involved in a role and to have them execute that role," Harbaugh said. "They know the coaches will play the players who are practicing the best and performing the best on Saturday."

 

Lastly, Harbaugh made sure to lend a public pat on the back to Tavita Pritchard, whose ability to lead the Cardinal at quarterback has been questioned by both fans and media alike this season.

 

"I'm really proud of him," Harbaugh said. "I really like how he has handled the nature of the position and the pressure that goes with it. I'm thinking we have someone pretty special here. The more the pressure, the better he plays. Think back to the USC and Cal games last year and coming out of the blocks this season against Oregon State. You got a guy like that, you have a pretty rare find."

 

Not to be antagonistic, but I remember T.C. Ostrander playing most of the game against Cal last year, not Tavita. Harbaugh's praise seems to be a little over the top, but I can't fault him. It's likely that the more confidence a coach has in his quarterback, the better his quarterback will perform. And Tavita hasn't put up great numbers, so time will tell whether it's a coincidence or a sign of something special within the quarterback, but Stanford does seem to win games in the clutch with Pritchard under center.

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Junior Jack Salisbury is the lead football reporter for The Stanford Daily.


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