Card Rolls, Feathers Fly!

Enthusiastic chants and yells reverberated through the walls of the Cardinal locker room as the media assembled for the post-game conference following an impressive, program-building victory over the visiting seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks, a high-octane machine that met a bit more than its offensive match on Saturday. Read on for the full transcript, thanks to our man Scott Cooley!

Card Rolls, Feathers Fly!

Post-Oregon Game Press Conference

 

Running Back Toby Gerhart (aka "The Juggernaut")

 

On the advantage of coming off a bye to prepare for this game...

 

"I think it's a good advantage. We had two good weeks of practice. Our defense was in tune and our offense was in tune to what they were going to do. We recognized their fronts. Everybody came back healthy, quick, relaxed and it was a big advantage for us."

 

On breaking Stanford's single-game (and single-season) rushing record...

 

"It's exciting, but we don't think about it during the game or anything like that. But once the game is over and you helped your team to a win, it's natural to look at that kind of stuff. That's something I'll be able to look at the rest of my life, and something I owe to these guys – Luck opening up passes and Owen just killing people. I was kind of sad when [Marecic] was playing defense for a little while. Owusu made some big plays, the offensive line, everybody. Dray, I always have to give Dray love. It's a testament to everybody – it's a team game. It's an honor and I think everybody takes pride in it."

 

On becoming bowl-eligible for the first time in eight years...

 

"It feels awesome. That was the goal going into this year – to finish. We had a couple games last year that we didn't finish and we didn't get to a bowl game. And this year that was the emphasis all offseason. We knew we had to be relentless. We had to finish, take that next step to get into the upper tier of the Pac-10. And it's paying off. I'm excited – it's my senior year and I finally get to go to a bowl game. Even guys that played in the past, I'm sure they are taking great pride in Stanford football and enjoying our success as well."

 

On the expectations of winning the game...

 

"People were out there saying, ‘I can't believe you won. But I told them, you got to have faith, you know? We were confident, there was definitely never any fear going into this game. We watched their defense and they have a good defense, but offensively we felt like we could score on them. And we did. Our defense had a great two weeks of practice and kept them in check. They scored 42 points, but slowing down that offense is tough to do. The defense did a great job."

 

On the nervousness of the game coming down to the end after having a 20-point lead...

 

"It's scary. Normally when you're set up with a 20-point lead, you're feeling good about yourself. But against them, I'm still on edge. I was still definitely really nervous no matter how much time was left on the clock. And they gave us a run for our money. We outlasted them but they are a scary offense."

 

On the passing game opening up running lanes...

 

"It helps a ton. Their safeties are in there tight and there are a lot of guys to block, and we can't block them all. If you take advantage of them throwing the ball it gets them to stop a little bit. And it also gets us big chunks of yards at a time. That's a big thing. Maybe today that's not the greatest thing because you wanted to keep their offense off the field, but anytime you can gain 30 or 40 yards on one play that's a huge momentum swing and it just starts to open up everything. Our running game and our passing game complement one another and I think we're a tough offense to stop."

 

On the team's reaction after losing senior captain MLB Clinton Snyder...

 

"Everybody was sad for Clinton and it's a huge loss. He's a leader that's been a rock on our defense and everybody was a little bit sad, but at the same time we knew we had to step up and play for him. Someone was going to have to step up and take his spot, fill in, and take the next spot to help our defense. There's definitely sadness, but I'm sure our defense played for him today. It's a sad way to go but Macaluso, Owen and those guys stepped in and did a great job today to contribute to this win."

 

On being more physical than Oregon in the game...

 

"You know we take pride in being physical and that's our offense's M.O. They are a good defense – they swarm to the ball and play fast. They are a little smaller than some of the defenses we've played the last couple of weeks and they are speed guys. But yeah, I think we got after them a little bit. But I don't think we are that slow – we aren't all power. We're balanced and I think we just got the better half of them today."

 

On this win being bigger than the USC win in 2007...

 

"For me, yeah, because I wasn't there for the USC win – I was at home. This was definitely my biggest win since I've been here at Stanford, and I definitely think it's bigger than the USC win because this gets us to that bowl game. Our seniors' goal coming in was to be a bowl team and this is by far the biggest win. The students storming the field – that was an awesome feeling. At this point I think this is the biggest game in all of our careers."

 

Quarterback Andrew Luck

 

On the win being the biggest of his career...

 

"I'm happy; I'm excited as all get out. I thought we had a great two weeks of preparation and we got to see the spoils from that today. It feels great."

 

On seeing Oregon playing last week and preparing for them...

 

"We knew they were a great defense – they have a lot of good athletes and fly around to the ball. But we believe in ourselves as an offense and we know that we can play with anybody if we play mistake-free and focus in on our technique. They are a great defense but we weren't intimidated by any means. If anything, we were more fired up to play them."

 

On the expectations of scoring a lot of points after watching the Oregon/USC game last week

 

"I have faith and belief in my coaching staff and my teammates. Coach Shaw always says it doesn't matter what they do, it's about us when we play. I feel like we have that mindset a little bit. We saw some things in the game that we thought we could definitely take advantage of, but we focused more on us not them. And I think that paid off."

 

On the excellent field position set up by the kick return team and what Chris Owusu provides...

 

"It's like Christmas. You can't ask for anything more. Too bad we didn't punch that one in on the first return. We got a field goal so I was a little disappointed. But it's such a momentum swing and takes so much pressure off starting the game. Chris, the kickoff return team, and Coach Durkin – they do a great job preparing every week and it's almost like we expect it now."

 

On being challenged by Oregon's defense with them stacking the box early in the game...

 

"I think you have to do that when Toby Gerhart is the running back. I thought the receivers did a great job of winning those matchups or drawing a penalty. They bailed me out a couple times and I was fortunate in that. I think our receivers did a great job matching up one-on-one, and I was thankful for that."

 

Fullback Owen Marecic

 

On playing defense against Oregon's offense...

 

"They''ve got some firepower over there. We knew it was going to be on us to slow it down a little bit. For the most part at the end of the day the offense scored more than the defense let up."

 

On how much defense he played during the game....

 

"I played for the better part of the first quarter, and then Macaluso went in."

 

On Gerhart's performance...

 

"As usual, he's just unbelievable. It's great blocking for him – I've just got to get a head on somebody and he'll run through the rest. I think his performance speaks for itself. He carried the team today and he's just awesome."

 

On Stanford using "power" to combat Oregon's "speed" throughout the game...

 

"They can bring it. They are a bunch of tough guys out there so I think they are a really balanced defense. They swarm to the ball, but at the end of the day I guess we controlled the ball a little bit more than they were able to stop."

 

Wide Receiver/Kick returner Chris Owusu

 

On his big day (4 catches for 111 yards & 1 TD)...

 

"It was a good day. I felt like Andrew Luck was on his game, as usual. On the post play I wasn't even looking and the ball was right there. I think we have a great quarterback who is a great leader and has great accuracy. The touchdown pass I was able to adjust to a greatly thrown ball where I could only catch it and not the defender. So overall, I think it was a good day."

 

On taking chances deep through the air...

 

"We saw that we could go after their safeties and DBs. Having two weeks to prepare definitely helps and we were able to have two weeks of preparation."

 
Kicker
 Nate Whitaker

 

On booting the game-sealing field goal...

 

"It was fun. The offense got me into a position to do that and it gave me a second chance. I like to say I missed the third one on purpose just to make it more exciting, but it was a really great feeling and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it. That was the most important kick I've ever made by far."

 

On Coach Harbaugh's comments before the final field goal...

 

"He said he we need this one so we can all win."

 

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh

 

On the win over Oregon...

"It was a big win. I'm just really proud of the football team and the coaching staff. And I would have been proud of them had we not won. Just because of the way our guys are – they are strong, mighty, good men. They play with a lot of class and integrity and character. In a lot of ways, we talked about it all week, this was the best opportunity that Stanford football has had in the last ten years to express who this team is as a football team. And they expressed who they were today. I couldn't be more proud of the guys. It was a great win."

 

On calling this a program-changing win...

 

"It's all been a process up until this point. It all led to this opportunity – the good and the bad all funneled into today. Men that can step up when it's their time and their opportunity and make the most of it is something of real strength."

On the importance of the sixth win and becoming bowl-eligible...

 

"To be honest with you, that's never been our goal. Our goal is to win the Pac-10 championship and we are still alive for that. We'll go next week down to USC and play a great football team on the road to keep those hopes alive. That's one of our three goals in the program."

On this being a "credibility-gaining" win...

 

"You can say it however you want to say it. To me, I think this was a great opportunity for Stanford football to express who we are as a football team. I felt like our guys took that opportunity and made the most of it."

On this win being bigger than the USC win in 2007...

 

"All wins are great. They all feel great. The players are the real heroes, and they are heroes to Stanford football. Guys that played in that USC game, guys that played 10 years ago, 20 years ago, played in the 50s on those great and glorious teams. Right now, our guys, these players are the heroes."

 

On the ability to take shots downfield...

 

"Those throws were nothing short of incredible. I'm thinking of one post he hit to Chris and I saw that the ball was in the air and Chris hadn't looked. He finally looked and that ball just seated itself right between the 8 and the 1. It was an incredible to make that kind of throw 40 yards down the field. And then Chris made an incredible catch on the one in the end zone by the tunnel. That was a heck of a throw by Andrew, but you talk about placing the ball – it's one thing to place the ball on a 10-yard route or 15-yard route. But when you start placing them on 50, 55, 45, those are great throws."

 

On the physicality of the game by Stanford...


"That is certainly something that is our mantra. We want to play physical, we want to play sound, we want to play smart and we want to hold on to the football. We want to do all those things that help you win a football game. I thought our guys played with unbelievable effort today. And they played with great second effort. And we knew that would be key because Oregon does such a great job with their second effort. I thought our team certainly matched that and was the stronger team today. Strong is what wins in November."

 

On the decision to kick the long field goal at the end of the game...

 

"We talked about it with some of the guys on the staff and I think maybe the consensus was to not kick the field goal. I just had a good feeling about Whitaker and I just felt like he was going to make it. I knew that was going to seal it and make it a nine-point game so I just went with that feeling."

On other options besides kicking the field goal...

 

"We could have lined Chris Owusu back 30 or 40 yards and shotgunned it to Andrew and turned around and threw it to Owusu and he could have run out some of the time and taken a safety. That was an option. Going for it was another option."

On Gerhart's heroic day...

 

"It was pretty darn heroic. Toby's been our shining star all year and he's a "man". That guy is a true "warrior" and believe me, I understand what that word means. That's a military term and I mean no disrespect to our military when I say that. It's a compliment actually. That's who Toby is and was out there today."

On Michael Thomas's fourth-down tackle...

 

"It was a called blitz and it was a big play. I think the way this game was developed was Stanford offense versus the Oregon defense. This was Stanford defense playing against Oregon offense, and the two special teams going at it. That's what this game was and certainly that was a big play in the game for our defense to get a critical stop. It changed the field position and momentum. It certainly didn't end the game there, but it was a big play and we were sure our defense could get a stop. If you look at it, we won two out of three of those battles today."

 

On everything in the offensive playbook working in the game...

 

"It was great planning by the coaches – Shaw, Greg Roman, Tim Drevno did an unbelievable job. So did Willie Taggert. There's a thing about a plan. A plan is a plan and everybody's got one. Like a young Mike Tyson said ‘your plan is only good until you get hit in the mouth'. And that happened out there today, but again that's where you go back and credit the players."

 

On thinking the offense could score 51 points on Oregon...

 

"I don't think we've ever scored 51 points before – oh yeah that's right, we did last year against Washington State. Our intent was to try and score every time we got the ball. In the matchup of the Stanford offense versus the Oregon defense, that's where our mindset was. We weren't trying to think about anything else but scoring. Our defense had the same mindset in stopping Oregon's offense. We really did a great job on special teams. Great credit goes to D.J. Durkin and all of our youngsters who played on special teams. I don't know how many times we kicked off and stopped them at the 20-yard line, but it was three or four at least, one time inside the ten. We got the big kickoff return at times by Chris Owusu. There wasn't a lot of punting in the game. The kickoff return game was huge today."

 

On the plan for stopping Masoli on the ground...

 

"We just treated him like a running back all the way. Like a running back in a Wildcat offense. I thought our defensive staff did a good job of defending the zone-read game. They hit us, they cracked us a few times, there's no question about that. Their offense does such a great job of running their lineman down the line of scrimmage but yet the ball never moves; it stays right behind the center. They try to get you running so fast to create the seams up inside. They are a great team there is no question about it. They are a great offensive football team and they are a heck of a defensive football team too. That was one of the best special teams in the country. That team was second in the nation on kickoff returns. So we knew we were going to have to play our best game on kickoffs by Whitaker."

 

On Whitaker's success in the game...

 

"It looked like his leg was stronger today than it was two weeks ago. I think the rest helped him. He did a good job – those balls were getting to the goal line and he was able to move the kick around so I thought his leg was real sharp today."

 

On Macaluso taking over for Marecic in the first quarter...

 

"Yeah I don't know exactly when it was. I don't know, I don't have the answer to that. I was watching Owen a lot – I have a hard time not watching Owen when he's out on the football field. I thought he did a heck of a job. I've never seen a guy like Owen in 30 years of being around the game of football. A guy who does so many things right, he's got to be 99 percent of the time doing things right, all the time. It's pretty remarkable that in this day and age a guy has the ability to play both sides of the ball."

On the extra week of preparation helping in the victory...

 .

"I think a lot of things probably helped. Like I said, it all kind of led to this opportunity here. But I think it helped our team. Our coaching staff did a really great job getting us playing together, all three sides of the ball. And it probably gave us some good recovery time. It probably didn't hurt that Oregon had just beat USC – that seems to be something that's worked for us this year. It sure felt like we played a whale of a football game though. "

On Andrew Luck's performance and the game being the best of his career...

 

"It was just an unbelievable performance by Andrew. How do you play better as a quarterback? Who could have done better? I really think it was his best game of the season. My wife Sarah likes to say that he throws 'lasers' and there were some lasers out there today. It was a heck of a game by him just playing the game. He rolls out and sucks the defense up and flips it over. He throws posts, he throws deep to the right, deep to the left, rolling right, rolling left, everything on the money. He's staying in the pocket, taking hits, making the big throws, lot of courage. A++"

On defense stepping up after the loss of Snyder...

 

"What happened with Clinton was just awful. There wasn't even much of a contact on the play, but our heart goes out to Clinton. At the same time, you are proud of the guys that stepped up today. I think our defense did a real commendable job. They just kept playing. Just looking for a stop, get us a stop here, get us a stop there. That's about the best you can do against this Oregon team – try to slow them down."

On seeing a bigger crowd at the game today and the appreciation of the fans...

 

"It's getting there. It's a work in progress, it really is. Why would you not like to watch this team play? Is there a better show around? These guys just play with their emotions on their sleeve and give everything they have. They are strong, these are mighty good guys and it is tough not to be really proud of them. I think anybody would want to watch them play."

On this win building confidence heading to USC...

 

"I just think it's an improving football team. It's been improving all along. Our team plays with a lot of poise because they are confident. They are confident in their abilities to play this game. And it shows. This is a confident team, but a hard-working team that doesn't take anything for granted and knows that they have to come back again. They can spend 24 hours feeling good about this, but then come back and get ready for USC."

 

On seeing something in Oregon's secondary the offense could expose...

 

"We have a lot of respect for this Oregon team and we really didn't see any weaknesses with them. The way they cover, the way they tackle. We knew we were going to have to be good. We were going to have to play well. We think our guys are pretty good too, you know? It's kind of the mentality like H.O.R.S.E. – if you're going to win in H.O.R.S.E. you have to make shots. You have to get open, you have to make throws, you have to protect. This wasn't a team that was just going to give anything to you. You really had to earn it by how well we were playing. And we felt confident we could do that."

 

On putting Stanford in his Top 25 rankings this week...

 

"I have to go do that tonight. It kind of hit me the other night. I was thinking about it and you go back over the last two years and this was a big challenge for our football team. The seventh-ranked team in the country. But then I started thinking about it and every week's been a challenge for this team. If you look over our last two years, most of the teams that we've played have been in the Top 25 at some point. In the last 24 months just about everybody, except for San Jose State and Washington State, has been ranked. This week was a big challenge, last week was a big challenge and next week will be a big challenge."

On confidence that they could beat Oregon after watching last week's game...

 

"A lot of people kept asking me, ‘Are you intimidated?'. No, I'm not intimidated and I didn't really think our players were. I've never seen them intimidated before. I don't think they played like they were intimidated today."


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