Oct. 17, 2005
Stanford, Calif. - Stanford football head coach Walt Harris along with Cardinal players Jon Alston and Brandon Harrison addressed the media at Monday's weekly Stanford Football Press Conference. Here's some of what the trio had to say in advance of the Pac-10 contest between Stanford (3-2, 2-1 Pac-10) and Arizona State (3-3, 1-2 Pac-10) at Stanford Stadium this Saturday, October 22 (2:00 pm, PDT). There will be no live telecast of the game but an audio broadcast can be heard on Stanford flagship station KNEW 910 AM and via the internet on gostanford.com.
Stanford has won two straight games and will be looking to extend its win streak to three in a row, while Arizona State has dropped its last two contests.
HEAD COACH WALT HARRIS
On the win at Arizona last Saturday
"It's always nicer and brighter when you find a way to win a football game. I was very impressed with how our defense got better as the game went along. It was scary for our while. We weren't 100% consistent (on special teams), but we did some good things. When we had to do the job in the area of special teams, I thought we did. Offensively, we can play better. But, anything we can do to try to win a football game, we're going to do, and that was the most important thing that we found a way to win the game and preserve a victory in the fourth quarter. The turnover battle that we were able to win proved to probably, other than the win, is the most important part of the game."
On this Saturday's opponent Arizona State
"Arizona State is a very talented football team, very explosive. They have some really good football players. We really like the quarterback [Sam Keller]. Obviously, [Derek] Hagan is an outstanding receiver and [one of the best] in the history of the Pac-10. They are also a really talented team defensively. They have athletes on defense and speed everywhere. So, we have a big challenge this weekend."
On what it will take to beat Arizona State
"We just have to play well. One of these days, all three phases [offense, defense, special teams] will play lights out. So far, that hasn't happened. Sometimes, it's been one side, sometimes the other. We just have to be more consistent and keep fighting. We've found that if we do the things we've been working on all week to do, they work. The last two weeks of practice has allowed us to play better in a game, because we have practiced like a game. The players are the ones reaping the dividends, as are all those that are loyal to Stanford Football."
On the pressure Arizona State's offense will put on the Cardinal defense, as well as the Cardinal offense to score points
"It's a team game, so obviously the longer we can keep Sam Keller and his troops off the field, the better we'll be. But, the Sun Devils' defense also stopped USC for a long period of time in their ballgame, so they have an equally talented team on defense. They have a complex scheme that puts a lot of pressure on your players."
On the team's play in wins at Washington State and Arizona
"In the last two games, we've done things that you have to do to win games. The games we've lost we've done the things you do that make you lose games."
On the recent emerging play of Jon Alston
"Jon's getting healthier and in playing shape. He also realized that he's one of our senior leaders, team leaders and best football players. I think he's called on himself more than maybe earlier. He's more in the swing of things. He missed all of spring practice [with an injury]; all that stuff counts. When you're out and not practicing or banged up, you're not getting ready to play. This is not a game where you can practice without gear, but because of his injury and knee surgery it just wasn't possible."
On being accountable
"We have to become better at being accountable to each other. When we don't do it right, it's not good ... You don't want to be the guy that lets everyone down. You got to get that mindset, and we're not there yet. Everyone has to be accountable to everyone else; that's what you call a team. Teams that play well are teams that grow together and pay attention to details."
On the team's attitude
"Our guys like to win; they've worked hard. They're worked harder in practice; they've stepped up. The seniors have set the tone. They are a big part of our motivation. They're the ones that win the football games, not the coach. They're the ones that are getting it done."
On the team's success in the area of turnovers
"The mentality behind not giving the ball up is painstaking attention to detail. Every coach and every player is required to do that. The winning edge is something where we show our guys how to carry the ball, and they are responsible to do it. That's one of those things that I'm always looking at is ball security, and the rest of the coaches are doing the same thing. We're starting to buy into it, and it's been the winning edge ... That's what we have to get our guys to do, to buy into every little detail that it takes to be successful ... We are nationally ranked in turnover ratio. You're not playing great defense unless you're getting the ball turned over. There's no excuse to be lousy in turnover ratio. The more our team talks about it, the more our team realizes the rewards we have reaped in the last two weeks. The more firmly it becomes entrenched in the mindset of Stanford Football, and that's the way it has to be [because] more games are lost than are won."
On some of his coaching strategy
"Players win football games and coaches try to help them win football games. That's something that I learned a long time ago playing for some of the great coaches I played for, and then coaching under some of the great coaches I've been honored to coach under."
On why the team has had very few penalties
"Painstaking attention to details ... that's what it is. There's a right way to play the game. I have been the sidelines for a lot of years and have not gotten a penalty (knocks on wood), and I won't get a penalty (knocks on wood, again), so they shouldn't either. We've got to play the game the way it's supposed to be played. I would really have trouble if we had an undisciplined football team that had a lot of penalties ... It's just too hard [if you make a lot of penalties]. It's hard enough to win football games. That's something we've tried to emphasize in every game we've played."
On Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller and Arizona State's offense
"He's got a really good arm, and he's big and strong. They have an excellent scheme. Coach [Dirk] Koetter knows a lot about how to throw the ball, and they've got weapons."
On the team's defensive play at Arizona
"You win championships on defense, and we played like champions last week. That's the winning edge. You score points to entertain the fans on offense and you win championships on defense. We played like champions on defense against Arizona, and offensively we didn't beat ourselves."
On last year's close loss at Arizona State
"[That was a] tough one with the Hail Mary before halftime and then their last drive. That was a heartbreaker."
On winning three close games this season
"We prepare for the fourth quarter. In my mind, we're five games into the season. Five games tell you a little about the season, but they don't tell you everything. We'll know a little bit more about ourselves by the end of the year. Hopefully, we'll continue to put ourselves in position to win close games."
On the team's defensive philosophy under defensive coordinator Tom Hayes
"He teaches great fundamentals, and that's what we need ... We need to do what we're coached to do and buy into the lessons learned."
On the team's turnover ratio and few penalties
"The turnovers and penalties last week for sure [made the difference]. Football is a relatively simple game. If you don't turn the ball over, you don't give up so many points. If you don't hurt yourself, you give yourself a chance to win. If you do the right thing, you force other teams to do the wrong things. It's those little things. Until we can play at a level where we can afford to hurt ourselves, those things are going to help us tremendously."
On what the team needs to do to win at Stanford Stadium
"This is our home and our house. We need to protect it and defend it. We need to come out and play even better than how we have played on the road and be really excited to play here. I love playing at Stanford Stadium; it's the only place I've every wanted to play. To come here and have the opportunity to say thank you to the fans, try to show them that we do care, and that we want to win for them. We have two big home games coming up, and we need to put our stake in the ground at Stanford Stadium and say `This is our house'."
On the level of importance of Saturday's game versus Arizona State
"If we can win it, it'll make a statement to us. It's a very big, and I'm excited about it. For us to come together and defeat a team like Arizona State, it would prove to us a lot of things ... I want to play in a bowl game. It's something that drives me. It's a purpose. As a leader, I have to make sure that are attitudes and goals are in the same place. Arizona State is huge for us."
On the painstaking detail the coaching staff places on minimizing penalties and turnovers
"It's pretty painstaking (laughs). We approaching things like that with such a focus, it's hard for it not to become a habit. We work so hard on things like that on practice. We have a special period at the beginning of the practice where we work on the little nuances of the game. It's so important, because it affects everyone on the team. When you don't do those things [right], the coaches make sure you hear about it, and that you don't do it again."
On Stanford's defensive prospects versus Arizona State
"We know that they have tremendous talent on offense with the quarterback, receivers and running backs that they have. We know it's going to be a challenge, but what's exciting about our defense this year is that we love this situation. We know that a lot of people don't think we can necessarily match up against the sort of people we play, but our defense knows we deserve to be on the same field with these guys. We know we can hang with them, and we're just excited and looking forward to the challenge they are going to present. They do have a lot of good football players on offense."
On last year's close loss at Arizona State
"We definitely haven't forgotten about the game last year down at Arizona State. It was a situation where we felt the offense and special teams played well enough for us to win, and in the end on defense we just couldn't hold them on their drive at the end of the game. For me personally, it's definitely a game that has stuck in my mind, because it's one that I felt we gave away at the end. We still remember it and will use it as a point of emphasis, knowing that we were right there with this team last year and gave it away. We need to play better on our side of the ball than we did last year."
On defensive teammate Jon Alston
"Jon Alston is a tremendous athlete. When I am covering receivers, and then I look up and everyone's congratulating Jon, it makes my job so much easier. When he's rushing the passer, we know that at the very least he's going to pressure him and force him into tough situations. When you have guys like that up front, who you know can pressure the passer, it just makes the secondary's job so much easier."
On the lessons Stanford's defense learned against Oregon earlier this season
"We learned a lot about ourselves and about what we needed to work on after that Oregon game. I think we have definitely improved since then."