Sept. 19, 2006
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford football head coach Walt Harris, along with players Jon Cochran and Michael Okwo, addressed the media Tuesday at the weekly Stanford Football Press Conference held on the Stanford campus. Stanford (0-3, 0-1 Pac-10) will host Washington State (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10) at the new Stanford Stadium this Saturday, September 23 (2:00 pm, PT). The Stanford radio broadcast featuring Ted Robinson and Bob Murphy on the microphones can be heard live on KNBR 1050 AM and from a gostanford.com link to Yahoo Sports!. The game will not be televised.
Here's some of what coach Harris and the players had to say to the media on Tuesday.
HEAD COACH WALT HARRIS
"We had a shot against Navy. We stopped them early, but we weren't able to capitalize on offense. We dropped passes and missed assignments in our run game. When you play Navy, you're only going to get a few shots. Your best chance against them is to get ahead of them, which we did a little bit a year ago. When they are able to run their game and grind it out and do their thing, I think they are a formidable opponent, as they were for us. It was a frustrating experience. We were terribly disappointed because not only did we lose, but it was also the opening game in the stadium. I thought we played hard; we just had some things go against us. Navy is a good football team, and I expect they'll win some more games."
On upcoming game vs. Washington State
"As for this week, we are playing against a 2-1 Washington State team. Watching them, they have a good football team. They're physical on both sides of the ball, I think they're quarterback is very good, and their wideouts are outstanding. I think their defense is very, very physical. They understand what they are doing. We had a really hard-fought football game against them last year, and we did a good job in the turnover ratio, which proved to be the difference in the game. Our challenge this week is to execute our game plans in all three phases and then go try to win the game."
On where the team is right now
"Well, we haven't played well enough. We haven't done the things that you have to do to win football games; we've done things that you do to lose football games. That's the bottom line. The missed assignments come from, in my opinion, not practicing at a game-type level and so when the speed and intensity of the game comes, you're not ready because you haven't practiced that way. I think that's some of the curse of being a young player; you don't understand the tempo that you have to have in order to execute under the pressure of the game, when fatigue sets in, when the scoreboard looks grim, and all of the things that contribute to emotionally not being at the right peak."
On moving forward
"There isn't any easy way [to cope with the losses], and when you let victories slip away by doing things that force you to lose, it's hard when you look back at it. I'm hoping that we have learned and are still learning from our past experiences. On the other hand, we can't dwell on the past; we may not even show up if we dwell on the past. We are trying to dwell on the future, and what we've learned and how much better that will make us."
On the new stadium
"As I mentioned earlier, I think our stadium is as good as it gets. I hope you all enjoyed that part of [the game]. I think there is going to be some mighty fine experiences and ballgames in that stadium in the future. I just think it's really special. What is neat is that there are a lot of seats really close to the field. It's just a way different feeling than any other stadium I've been in. I think it will be a huge plus for us, and we also have to make it a huge plus for our recruiting."
On Stanford turnovers
"There's really no answer for it. If there were, I would hope that I have tried to cover it. It's not high enough in [the players'] priorities. As a player, you play living in your hopes and living in your fears; I think you should want to play living in your hopes. But you also have to be trained to be very disciplined. Those who touch the ball, that's a gift from our football program to you as a player. What happens, is that [the players] get caught up in the spirit of the game. But there is no excuse, in my vocabulary, for ever turning a ball over. "
On the position change for senior Jon Cochran
"I think the move has been good for him. Its kind of neat, you constantly see John and [starting right tackle] Jeff [Edwards] together, so they must be really great friends. It's an exciting thing for two friends to play right next to each other during their senior year. And [John's] played well; he was our blocker of the game, so to speak, and I think he's much more productive as a right guard than he was as a right tackle for us. I also think he probably has a lot more fun with it."
On the walk-on wide receivers
"It's tremendously challenging to walk on at this level. I think [wide receivers coach] Tucker Waugh has done a nice job coaching, and I think that's great. We need to make a brochure about how we play walk-ons to help us recruit guys and get them into school here. I asked our staff if they have ever been with a football program that had two walk-ons catch 10 passes in a college Division I football game. I haven't had that, even when I coached at Pacific. It's wonderful, and those guys have done a great job. We don't really talk about them as walk-ons; they're our players. A `walk-on' isn't really the most positive term. They're our players whether they're on scholarship or not, and we're going to coach them to get them even better."
On senior Nick Frank's injury
"That was a huge blow. One, he's a great football player and a guy who loves the game, especially the physical parts of the game, which is something we're always trying to develop here. When you lose one of your finest physical players as well as one of your best overall players - personally, I believe he's the best fullback in the Pac-10 - all of those things only make it harder. Neck pain is no fun to live with and it is not fair to any young man to take the risk of playing. It is also not fair to have neck pain linger for the rest of your life. This was a no-brainer decision, but give it as it may, it was still a huge blow to Nick. He's gave it up for our football program numerous times, meaning that he just didn't say anything and instead just shook [the pain] off. This is a huge blow for Nick because he loves to play and is one of our seniors."
SENIOR LINEBACKER MICHAEL OKWO
On team morale and staying positive
"After this weekend, we're obviously a little low, being 0-3. We don't have the swing or momentum that we wanted to have going into the Pac-10 season. We have a fresh start as of today, so I think people will come here with fresh minds, ready to play. We just keep pointing out the mistakes we have made and stay focused on the issues at hand to make sure we can perform well on the field."
On Stanford's 0-3 record
"I'm surprised that we are a 0-3 team. After the spring, I was really excited for our offense and although we have a young defense, I still saw a lot of potential in them. Sitting here, being 0-3, kind of shakes you up a little, especially after what I saw in spring. For the offense, I saw a team that could drive the ball and put together solid runs. We saw a little bit of that last game with our 86-yard drive, and we just hope to see a little more on the defensive side. I saw a lot of the young guys step up and play well in the spring, and we just want that to continue."
On playing in the new stadium
"That was my first game [since being hurt] but since I'm a veteran at this, my nerves weren't quite as hectic as they probably were for some of the younger guys. Now we can look at the game with clear minds and not have to worry about all of the extra excitement that goes along with the new stadium and our first game there."
On challenges for the Stanford defense
"I think the challenges we have to face are the on-field adjustments that go on throughout the game. We've played teams that have done some interesting things on offense, and I think its most difficult to play against a team when they come at you with something a little different than what you've focused on [in practice]."
On facing Washington State
"Their offense is similar to ours in the way they line up, throw and run zones. It is something we are pretty familiar with, so I think our guys on defense should be excited to play against this offense."
On Navy's offense
"Navy plays a really high-powered offense. It's really amazing to see their players. Each snap is really a war; they've got guys throwing up on the field, playing under horrible conditions, but despite that, they come out ready for each snap. You have to respect that as a football player; you enjoy playing against guys like that. I think that has really added to their success, along with what their coach has instilled in them and their program. I think that's a lot to say for the Naval Academy."