Post-Game Press Conference:
Stanford vs. UCLA 10/3/09
SLB Will Powers (#42)
What was going through your head on the last drive, were you thinking about last year at all?
A little bit. It popped into my head. But it just really came down to going out there and stopping them. That's all we could think about. Last year we let that one get away, but we wanted to go out there and show we are capable of finishing games.
Can you describe the last play?
I was just working a pass rush move on the left side, on the left end. We have a five-yard rule so to speak where if you get to that level of the QB you have to work a move under and that's what happened. Our coverage held long enough to be able to let me get a hand on the QB and deflect his throw a little bit.
Can you describe your emotions when you knew on that last play that you touched the ball and the game was over?
My head was completely void of any thought. It was just a joy knowing that we had accomplished what we set out to do. It was an awesome feeling.
Does this qualify as "finishing" a game?
I hope so. As a defense we love to be out there and the last ones on the field making that stop. Luck here got the final play, but we love to see that as well.
Can you talk about the defensive effort in these last three games for Stanford?
It just comes down to the message for the year. Great defenses know how to finish. We go out there everyday at practice where we're sprinting to the ball because if you don't do it during practice it's not going to be there during the game. Sprinting to the ball alone makes a lot of plays and when we have all of our guys running to the ball like that; it's tough to break one tackle because another guy's coming in to wrap him up.
How good of a team are you guys?
We're a ‘great' team. It's very simple – you go out there, you do what you're coached to do and you execute that to the best of your ability. And when you do that, you win games. We're great.
Your defensive line lost (Matt) Masifilo, then you lost (Brian) Bulcke, and (Erik) Lorig just played a couple plays in this game. What was it like for this defensive line without those players?
The guys that came in today stepped up big time. They controlled their gaps. On pass rush, they got it on and put pressure on the QB and when a defensive line does that, it's really easy for a linebacker to float the gap. Lorig, all those guys who were out are awesome players, but luckily we have depth behind them that can fill the gap.
What was said in the defensive huddle before UCLA's last drive?
Everyone was talking – everyone was so giddy to get out there and finish because that's what we wanted to do. We had to calm ourselves down a little bit because you get too hyped up and lose track of what your responsibilities are. So it was in part the coaches calming us down and the players kept pepping everyone up.
RB Toby Gerhart (#7)
Tell us about using seven offensive linemen at the same time on some of your plays.
It's awesome to have that much line. That's a lot of ‘meat' down there. Those guys love it, they get fired up. They have that little shift where they slide down and it makes it tough for the defense to cover all the gaps. They set up the touchdown and we were able to gash them and that's what we were trying to do.
Can you talk about UCLA's defense?
That's definitely the best defense we've played so far this year. Going into this game, everybody talked about how good their defense was and how good their defensive line was, the linebackers and everything. We had a good game plan – the offensive line came out and executed and we hit some big pass plays. Ryan [Whalen] gave me a touchdown by getting tackled on the five-yard line. But we did a great job with those guys. There were just a couple little mishaps in the second half, where [Brian] Price swam one of our guards and we had a tackle for a loss. But for the most part, two TFLs and one sack is a pretty successful day against their defense.
Do you think your offense made a statement today?
We have a good offense. We believe that we have a good offense and a good team. We believe that we can beat good teams and overall we are a good team. Today was one of those days where we could make a statement for ourselves. There were a lot of questions going into this game about our program and UCLA's program. We were both off to a good start and could we be the real deal. This was a game for us to come out and make a statement and I think we did.
The first touchdown you had you went in untouched, do you prefer that opposed to running over people?
Anytime I have to fight through tackles, I'm going to feel that in the morning. Definitely anytime I can go untouched is the greatest feeling in the world. You are up on your feet and can celebrate with your teammates right away.
Do you think you should be ranked in the Top 25 now?
I think so. I think we're off to a great start and deep down we should really be 5-0. But we're not going to talk about that loss anymore. We're making a statement – we are 3-0 in the Pac-10 and the Pac-10 is a good conference, so yeah, I think we should be.
Do you feel like you are bulldozing over people out there and seeing the lanes open?
(Laughing) Well, I like to think I am ‘making people miss' instead of ‘bulldozing' over people. My father taught me to finish runs and if I see a seam I just hit it. I'm just trying to get through it and if people get in my way, I go over them. I just try to run where the offensive line blocks it. Not enough can be said about those guys, I wouldn't be anything without them. They're paving the lanes and I'm just filling the holes.
WR Ryan Whalen (#8)
Ryan, did you have a sense of eagerness when that flea-flicker got called?
Yeah, absolutely. It was one of those plays where it could have gone to Chris or me. I knew Andrew [Luck] was going to put it out there in a great spot so I was excited to run it down. It did put the pressure on me to get there and like Toby said, I gave him a touchdown because I couldn't stay on my feet. But it was a great throw.
What did you think about the play between (UCLA's Rahim) Moore and (Stanford TE Coby) Fleener?
I just saw the tail end of it. I saw Coby get drilled and his head hit pretty hard. But he popped right back up and he was alright. You never want to see another guy get injured like that, but it just happens sometimes.
There were still about 10,000 empty seats in the stadium, do you think a game like this will create more believers?
Hopefully. We always want to have our stands filled as much as possible. I can really tell a difference, how loud our crowd is. The past few games it's been awesome. If we keep putting wins up like this, we always hope we can get as many new people in here as we can, and I think we will.
QB Andrew Luck (#12)
Do you feel like you guys are establishing a nice balance on offense?
Definitely. What gets lost in that mix is how well the O-line does. When they are run-blocking like that it's easy to throw. And when Toby is running it is easy to throw. When we're completing little dinks and dunks here and there, it wears the defense down. I think it's very pleasing to see a three-TD rusher and a lot of yards in the stat book.
Can you talk about the conception of the flea-flicker play?
We handed it off to try and get the safeties and the DBs up, then Toby pitched it back and a very nice pitch it was. All week in practice the ball was going to Owusu, sort of down the sideline, so it was sort of a surprise to see Chris [Owusu] covered and then I looked over at [Ryan] Whalen and he had beaten his guy and he ran under the ball real well and made a nice catch.
How much does Gerhart's presence have to do with the success of a play like that?
A lot. Probably everything. We wouldn't call it if we didn't have a guy bulldozing people so it helps a lot.
The play before the half, were you astounded that it was called a fumble and should it have been called intentional grounding?
It probably should have been intentional grounding. I've got to learn to just ‘eat it' if I'm going to get sacked like that. I was surprised it was called a fumble, but that is why they have replay review. I've got to learn to ‘eat it' in that situation.
Did it make a difference when safety Rahim Moore went out of the game?
They are very deep as well. They weren't undefeated because they had a good 11 players on defense or offense. They have a lot of great players. He's a great player and it stinks to see a guy go down. No one wants to see a guy go down and get hurt, especially one of his caliber. But I don't think we thought about that at all and I'm not sure it made a difference.
What did you think of the play?
I didn't really see it. I threw it a little high and felt bad because I set Coby up to get walloped. But I didn't see the rest of the play.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
How would you describe the effort of the defense on UCLA's last drive?
It was a great effort, fanatical effort. And also playing within the framework of the defense. Coverage was good and tight and I'm really proud of them. It was a relentless type of play.
It seems like this defense is growing by the game, is that the way you see it?
I think so. They're attacking, they're playing with confidence, they're focused, and they're loose. I think they are playing great team defense which is what's exciting about it. Clinton Snyder plays in that middle and he's gotten really comfortable in there. That's a great position for him. He covers up for a lot of things, guys get blocked and he's covering a lot of ground between the tackles. But he's covering ground from sideline to sideline as well. He's got those strong hands and he gets those hands on people. It doesn't take him five yards to drag them down. And we're getting good pressure up front. We didn't have Lorig all game, but [Tom] Keiser, [Sione] Fua, Tom McAndrew stepped in and did a nice job. I thought Will Powers played very well. Delano Howell…when they break through into the secondary, he gets it snuffed out.
When everything is clicking offensively, does that allow you to open up the offensive playbook a little bit?
The flea-flicker was executed by the players. They protected the gaps. Toby [Gerhart] did a nice job flipping it back to Andrew [Luck]. There were three or four occasions in this ballgame where Andrew threw it downfield with accuracy like he did. Those are 50-yard line shots that didn't rise off the ground too far. They were right on the money, both of those to Whalen. And those are game-changers, drive-changers, field position-changers and score-changers. I thought Andrew was exceptional getting the ball downfield today. Really on the money most of the day and then he did a great job with his legs. I thought it was his best game and it took a lot of pressure off the running game.
The jumbo package – that's something we haven't seen all year, can you talk about that?
Tim Drevno and Greg Roman did a great job scheming the run game. And that's one of the ways. [The Bruins] really weren't adjusting to it. They kept their same personnel in and it was really good the way our line handled it. When you do something that you haven't seen another team do against them, when we have not shown that, you don't know exactly what you're going to get. So give the line a lot of credit. Adjusting it on the run and spot-blocking and getting it done.
You had some pre-snap line shifts, why is that done?
It is done to show an unbalanced line to the right and then just shifting it and now it becomes unbalanced to the left. It just seemed quicker to us. It seemed quicker than running three or four guys over from one side to the other. Just shift them all.
How good are you guys?
….We'll see. I'm just proud that the team is playing together as a team. These guys are ‘high- character' guys. They really believe in each other, they play hard for each other, and they have each other's backs. When you say, ‘what can one man give another man that is valuable', a friend that has another guy's back, that is the most you can give another guy. We're just pleased with the way they're doing that, they are playing hard for each other.
Do you think this team is where you thought it would be after five games?
Probably ahead. That UCLA team, you saw them in the tunnel walking by. Those are ‘pro guys'. That is a physically mature, ‘pro-looking' team. Their offensive line, their entire defense, they have some talent over there. Very physically mature young men. We knew that this would be our toughest test and our guys didn't flinch or back down one bit.
Do you think you made a statement tonight on a national level and do you think you should be in the Top 25?
Absolutely. I think they should definitely be in the Top 25. We'll see. I think there's kind of been a thing around the country with coaches and players where Stanford is not the ‘preferred BCS-type of football school' that they think of. But I think our guys have proven different. I think they're earning that kind of respect.
What kind of a weapon is Toby at running back?
I've always said Toby [Gerhart] is an NFL back that is playing college football. Obviously they are keying in on Toby, making statements that they were going to shut him down, but obviously that didn't happen.
You saw a lot of the ‘Norm Chow playbook' at the end of the game, not that you were conceding anything, but were you ‘allowing' some of that underneath stuff to happen?
How many points did they put up, 16? They're great, there is no question about that. Norm Chow is a great coach and you've got Neuheisel. The whole staff really, I have tremendous respect for them. But once again, I'll take my guys. I'll take Ron Lynn, Andy Buh, Greg Roman, Tim Drevno and the rest of our coaches. We've got great respect for them though, don't get me wrong. I just like our guys better.
At the end of the first half you gave up a field goal. Did you and Ron Lynn make the decision at the end of the game to not be conservative and play them straight up?
Well yeah, that is Ron though. Not me and Ron, just Ron. They played a lot tighter, they got after it and they attacked it. It was good – they were getting pressure on him, making him make the throws. Corner and free safety came a couple times, they disguised it really well. It looked like the blitz was coming from the middle and then at the snap of the ball it came from the boundary. And that is good stuff.
Did the Moore injury affect what you were doing offensively at all, and what did you think about that play?
I thought he led with his helmet. I hope he's all right. I don't know if it made a difference in the game though.
How would you describe Andrew's play today?
I thought it was good; it was his best game so far. I told him after the game he's going to enjoy watching the film. I thought he played exceptional, his accuracy was really good. He was locating the ball well. He did it with his feet, he managed the game, ran the offense and came up with a couple of big scrambles. There aren't that many guys that can pinpoint a 50-yard throw that doesn't come 15 yards off the ground. That's real ‘arm talent' to be able to do that. And he did it two or three times tonight.
If it hadn't been for the replay you would have lost another fumble, what was your feeling about that play?
He was either going to be down or it was an incomplete pass. It surely wasn't a fumble by any stretch of the imagination. It could have been intentional grounding, but I thought it was a well-officiated game.
Are you comfortable with your players now in your third season with the team?
I'm really proud of our guys and I'm comfortable being around them. They are men of integrity and great character. You don't have to be around them long to figure that one out. Their happiest time is when they go to football practice. They bring a real enthusiasm and focus and relentless kind of play every time they come out to practice. They love practice and love winning. That's when they are the happiest. You don't have to be around them real long to realize they are high-character guys with great integrity. I love our guys, would go to war with them anytime. Very proud of them.
Wake Forest was the only time you trailed all year. Was it nice to have your team respond after going down by three early?
The game was real early at that point. Turnovers on the first drive, we've had a fumble on each of the last two games against UCLA on the first drive, and that kind of struck me at the time. There was just something about our team today, there was a real look in the eyes. Even on kickoff coverage, they said we're going to run down there and we are all going to meet at the ball and I'm going to beat you there and be the first one to get to them. At halftime, we said we were going to meet back here at the end of the game, and come back with a great victory. There was just something about them today. It was in their hearts, it was in their eyes.
Stanford had three fumbles today, fortunately only lost one, but that's been a recurring problem so how do you alleviate that going forward?
Just keep coaching it. I've noticed Chris [Owusu] getting the ball away from his body a little bit last weekend and Andrew's was in the process of throwing the ball. He got hit without seeing it. Was there a third one? Oh yeah, Sherm's punt. We've just got to keep attacking it.
We saw Eric Lorig early and then he was absent the rest of the game, do you have an update on his status?
We'll see. He got hurt during the week of practice – tweaked a muscle. We thought he was going to be okay for this game and went a few plays and just couldn't do it. Brian Bulcke had surgery too, he's going to be out for the year with his wrist injury.
Can you talk a little bit about Stepfan Taylor coming in and backing up Toby today?
We'll look at the end zone copy and watch the films to see how he really ran the ball, but from the sideline view where I was, he looked pretty good. He got some tough yardage and protected the ball. I thought he did a really good job carrying the football. We need that back to come in and spell [Gerhart] and he also seems like a very nice change-of-pace type of runner. Maybe he'll jump a gap, two gaps, light on his feet, throw a reverse to him. I've been really pleased with Stepfan Taylor since day one. He studies so hard in the football classroom and it's so important since the running backs are involved in the running game and the passing game. He's been good, he's going to be a tremendous player.
Do you have a name for that jumbo package?
Do you have a "premium" subscription to The Bootleg? If not, then you are seriously missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest, baddest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)! At The Bootleg, "WE WRITE!"