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September 6, 2014

Cody Kessler

Steve Sarkisian

J.R. Tavai


COACH SARKISIAN:  Obviously a really exciting win.  You know, I have all the respect in the world for Stanford.  They play the game hard, they play it right.  They don't give you much.  You know, you got to earn everything you get in all three phases.
We had a feeling as a team that this game was going to be this type of game.  We just kept talking about continuing to fight through it and continuing to fight on and keep playing and keep playing through the adversity, which we were anticipating getting.
The players did it.  To their credit, there were a lot of things we could have easily, if we weren't a strong‑willed team, folded our tents in.  The guys wouldn't do it.  They refused to see it.  They kept battling.  In the end we made critical plays in the critical moments.
Couldn't be more proud of our defense in the red zone.  I think we held them to one touchdown in five trips in the red zone, which was a huge point of emphasis coming into the game.  J.R. will tell you, we kept talking about how important our red zone defense was going to be.  That showed up.
We just said we were going to run the football.  It wasn't always going to be pretty, but we had to dedicate ourselves to running the ball, which the teams, in my opinion, that struggle the most against this defense are the ones that give up on the running game and allow them to tee off on your quarterback.
Probably stubbornly at times we ran the ball more than people anticipated.  We just had to hang with it.  We knew what type of game it was going to be, especially at halftime with the number of plays and possessions that Stanford had, this was going to become a possession game.  The guys responded, execution was great.  Proud to come out of here with a win.  That was a very good football game.

Q.  What went into your thinking on the field goal at the end?
COACH SARKISIAN:  We were trying to draw them off‑sides.  That didn't work.  Cody was trying to get him snapped off so he could throw a pass to convert it.  I felt like the coverage wasn't what we were looking for.  Felt good about Andre kicking the ball.  That's why I called the timeout and kicked it.

Q.  With the wind?

Q.  What can you say about Buck Allen, his performance?
COACH SARKISIAN:  Well, you know what, I think for Buck is he's starting to get a feel for this system.  It's a little bit different than what he ran a year ago.  He's just starting to get going.
He's sure a tough runner.  He has a lot of versatility to his game.  We still haven't probably utilized him enough in the passing game.  But he did run the ball hard.  He ran the ball between the tackles.  He ran the ball in the perimeter.  He broke some critical tackles there in the fourth quarter and that's what great runners do.

Q.  How about Su'a's play on defense?
COACH SARKISIAN:  He made an unbelievable tackle on the far sideline there early in the fourth.  The big almost interception at the end of the first half.  I really think he causes the turnover there late in the third, probably say middle of the third, when they fumble.  I think he kind of disrupts Kevin's decision.  It was his own read with a throw.  Su'a really got between both of them.  I think he caused that one, too.
I said it all along, his versatility is what makes him unique.  One play he can be playing a deep half safety, the next play an outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage.  That's his versatility that helps us, we can disguise things a lot with him.

Q.  What was the explanation you were given on the objection?
COACH SARKISIAN:  It was helmet to helmet.  That's the rule.  When you target helmet to helmet.  The rules are the rules, for player safety.  When they showed the replay, I had no argument at all.

Q.  How important is it confidence‑wise to know you could get a win like you did last week and then this one?
COACH SARKISIAN:  It's huge.  Remember, this team is the reigning PAC‑12 champs for the past two years.  Haven't lost in this stadium for 17 games.
As much as it is about just today, it's about just overall getting prepared, coming to play this style of game against this team which, in my opinion, is very good.  No telling, we might see them again here in a couple months.
I think it says a lot, that we can come into this setting against this team in this environment, the game not really going our way, not really in our favor, just for whatever reason, and find a way to win it in the fourth quarter I thought says a lot.

Q.  (Question about talking to the officials.)
COACH SARKISIAN:  I got a unsportsmanlike penalty.  I was incorrect.  You can't be in the white on any play during the game.  I was in the white at the field goal.  At the time I vehemently disagreed with the call.  By the letter of the law, I was incorrect.
I didn't feel like I was in position to continue to discuss that with the officiating crew in risk of getting a second penalty.  I felt I was better off getting Pat in between, talk it through to make sure everybody understood and move on.

Q.  You got compliance to text up?
COACH SARKISIAN:  I didn't ask compliance.  Maybe that's how it got to him.  I just felt like it was the right thing to do.  I was in a frame of mind, I was in a competitive mode.  I was disagreeing with the officiating crew.  Quite honestly, I was incorrect, I was wrong.

Q.  The fact Pat had some health issues and came down anyway.
COACH SARKISIAN:  He's a Trojan.  What else do we expect out of Pat?  Are you kidding me (laughter).

Q.  J.R., describe the final sequence there.
J.R. TAVAI:  I just had one more opportunity to play.  Everybody believed in our defense.  Our defense was holding them up.  I'm just overwhelmed right now.  When you have it, you have to take it.
COACH SARKISIAN:  This is J.R.'s first press conference.  Give him a hand for that (laughter).

Q.  (No microphone.)
J.R. TAVAI:  He was elusive, a great quarterback.  He did a great job of running away from me.  Couldn't run away that last play.  Just happy about that.
Go in the film room, see what I could have done better those last plays, work on my technique better, and go from there.

Q.  J.R., was there a chance of you switching to the defensive line during the game?
J.R. TAVAI:  Whatever the coaches need me to do, I would have done.  This is a full body team, whatever we decide to do, we talk to each other.  Coaches really do depend on us.  We just say, Yes, sir.

Q.  Leonard leading you in tackles again.  Ankle seemed to be bothering him.  What were your thoughts?
COACH SARKISIAN:  A warrior effort.  He obviously wasn't 100% tonight.  Literally we're getting ready to go on the bus, Greg Townsend gets diagnosed with chickenpox.  Leonard, you know, probably getting on the airplane was like, I can play some, I'm not sure how much.  For the amount that he played tonight, I thought Chris Wilson did a great job of rotating the interior guys.
In the end, Leonard, I've said this before, at 70, 80, 85% is a lot better than a lot of people.  His presence I think, too, helps.  It's motivating.  Especially when Hayes got kicked out, you look around for leadership.  To have guys like J.R., Antwaun, Leonard, those veteran guys on the field I think is uplifting for everybody.

Q.  J.R., what was your feeling when you got him down?  Did you know what happened?
J.R. TAVAI:  I just heard everybody screaming.  Ran to the sideline.  Coach was hugging me.  I guess something good happened.

Q.  You had no idea?
J.R. TAVAI:  No.

Q.  What did it feel like?  How did it feel?
J.R. TAVAI:  It felt like a normal play.  It felt great.  Making a big play like that comes once in a while.  When your opportunity comes, you got to take it.  I'm just still happy, so happy right now.

Q.  Can you put into words how much has changed in a year.
CODY KESSLER:  It's awesome.  This team has gone through so much, dating back to last year.  These guys have been through a lot.  You always hear me talk about it, but I'm so proud of these guys because of everything they've gone through.  Every team could have buckled down, hustled.  When things were going our way offensively, we could have shut down.  These guys kept fighting.
At the end of the day it wasn't the prettiest win, but these guys fought so hard and never gave up.  As a quarterback, that's all you can ask from your team.

Q.  When you get the ball at the end, your final drive, what is going through your mind?
CODY KESSLER:  Like I said, our defense did a great job of giving us one more chance.  I said to the guys, Let's finish it there.  We got stopped on the third down.  But we got a look.  Coach Sark put us up there, didn't like it.  Trusted Andre to come in and pretty much do what he did last year.  Answered for us, did a great job.
Like I said, what Coach Sark has done for this team, got these guys believing not only in him but each other, everybody involved in the Trojan family is unbelievable.  I'm so happy to be a part of it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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