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December 27, 2015

Lance Anderson

Pasadena, California

An Interview With:



Q. Coach, when you look at the offseason, you go back last year to February, when did this team start to come together? What did you guys do to rally from last year to get where you are now?
COACH ANDERSON: I think it started as soon as last season was over, as soon as we started those workouts of the offseason before we even started spring practice. Sure, there was a bowl game last year, there were some good things. We set our standards a little higher, we wanted to accomplish a lot more this year, and I think we identified some things that we needed to correct and get better.

These guys just did a great job. As soon as last season was over, really putting in the work and doing the things necessary for us to get to where we are today.

Q. [On reorienting with a new starting core...]
COACH ANDERSON: I think it kind of started as soon as the season was over, and I think we realized as a staff, and a lot of the players felt it, we really needed to get back to fundamentals, getting us back to what got us to that point of -- was it a fourth straight BCS Bowl, or just the hard work, tough, physical, you know, no excuses, never settling for anything less than the very best. We got started in the weight room with Coach [Shannon] Turley really pushing those guys. So that was a real starting point.

As we got into spring practice, we knew that offensively we had to get back to running the football, being physical. That's kind of where we built our reputation, where we had our success. I think a year ago we got away from that a little bit. Defensively it was -- we had a very veteran group last year. A group that played very well. This year we knew that we were coming in with pretty much a whole new group, really only returning three guys who had ever started a game before. And it was a great time for us to get back and focus on those same things, those fundamentals, the things that help us be successful. It worked well.

Q. When you look at the first time you turned on the tape of Iowa, what were some of the things that stood out?
COACH ANDERSON: Physical football team. They run the football very well. The quarterback is a guy that can make plays. He makes plays with his arm, makes a lot of plays with his feet as well, buys time. Looks like a real leader, real competitive guy.

Also the thing that jumps out initially watching them is that they're probably more like us offensively than a lot of other teams we've played. They'll line up with the tight end and two running backs, they'll line up with two tight ends and get into some of the bigger personnel groups that we don't see as often in the Pac-12. It's just hard-nosed, smash-mouth football. It's going to be an exciting match-up.

Q. In preparation, have you guys done a lot of ones-versus-ones?
COACH ANDERSON: We have, yeah. Just especially last week where as soon as we started the bowl practices, we've done a lot against our offense. Like you said, there is no better way to simulate that. There are some definite similarities there.

Q. Do you have a star? Did you think you were going to have that, a star, at the beginning of the year?
COACH ANDERSON: A star? We knew we had some pretty good guys coming back. Just as a team we knew that Christian McCaffrey was something pretty special. He's a guy that we wanted to get the football to. He's shown the nation, he's shown the world what we thought he was.

Defensively, Blake Martinez has had a phenomenal year for us. It's amazing to look at his stats and the number of tackles he has. He's been a real leader for us on defense. He's a guy that's come in and played well every single week. It's great to have those -- some dominant players, guys who are special players that can help lead the team and other guys look up to.

It's great when your best players are also some of your hardest workers, the guys that practice the hardest and work the hardest in the off-season. Guys like Christian McCaffrey, Blake Martinez, those are those kind of guys.

Q. Have you been able to pinpoint one critical area in this game for your defense?
COACH ANDERSON: As well as Iowa runs the football, we know that we've got to be able to stop the run. It's got to start there. Got to be able to stop the run. They're a good team, so that will be a good challenge for us.

Q. So it's like how every other defense probably game plans for your offense?
COACH ANDERSON: I think so. I think very similar, yeah.

Q. How has Blake [Martinez] had the type of season that he's had?
COACH ANDERSON: I think he's got such good experience at this point. He's played a lot of football now in his fourth year, and he's just such a great fit as an inside linebacker in our defense. He's strong, he's physical, he runs well for a guy his size.

I think at this point he has a really good understanding of the defense and where he fits, what his job is, how it fits in with the other ten guys on defense. He's just let himself go and just played fast and as a result made a lot of plays.

Q. Injuries, are you in good shape?
COACH ANDERSON: I think at this point we're in really good shape. The secondary the last few weeks of the regular season and even the Pac-12 Championship game we had some guys beat up. We were missing some guys.

But I think the time off has really helped. Defensively, we're about as healthy as we've been all season long.

Q. What was the best defensive game that Stanford has had?
COACH ANDERSON: Looking back I think Colorado was one of our better defensive efforts. We let them drive and score early in the game. But after that we've responded and really played well the entire game. That was a week going into that game where we talked about how we had played well at times. We had played well in spurts. We had some good quarters.

Our challenge was to put together a good drive, and after the first drive of that game, we played pretty well. Still looking for more consistency. That's always the challenge.

Q. Yeah, isn't everybody.
COACH ANDERSON: Exactly, exactly.

Q. What do you coach your guys to do against play action?
COACH ANDERSON: They do a really good job running the football. So that's what makes the play action so effective.

So what we try to find is, we try to find little keys where maybe the linemen give something away where it's a little bit different in the run as opposed to the pass. So we'll try to make a lot of the cutups and show this is pass, this is the play action. It's still hard, especially in the flow of the game. But we try to pick up on those little keys as much as we can.

But it's one of the reasons we always talk about one of the first things we need to do is stop them from running the football. You stop them from running the football or at least slow them down, and the play action doesn't become as effective as if they are really running the ball well. So you've really got the attitude that we have to sell out to stop the run and we've got to get up in there, and all of a sudden there is a play-action fake and the ball goes over your head.

So it's a good challenge. It's a challenge. Yeah, they are very similar to us. That's one of the first times when you put on their film, you see using multiple tight ends, using fullbacks. We haven't seen as much of that in the Pac-12, but very similar to our offense.

Q. Coming into the season, I'm sure you've heard this all year, you guys lost nine starters. How are you going to do that? It seems that you've made the chip on your shoulder and you've taken to it, and it seems like your guys have grown throughout the year and become the team that now has 11 starters.
COACH ANDERSON: Exactly. It's a young defensive group. So we've had our ups and downs this year defensively. There have been some growing pains, but I'm very pleased with the group and the effort that they have made and the progress that we've made.

We're still playing with a lot of young guys that are playing together for the first time, so we're still maybe not quite where we'd like to be. We're still looking for that consistent effort throughout the game, playing at a high level. But I'm pretty pleased with the progress we've made this year.

Q. When did you think you -- I don't want to say turned the corner -- but when did you think this group's consistent, we're doing the right thing? When did you see that?
COACH ANDERSON: I don't know. Defensively especially the Colorado game kind of stood out as we're really searching for consistency. We've done some things well all season long, and our challenge that week was we need to put together a full game. We need to put together four quarters. We let them score early in the game, drive down the field and score. But after that we really responded and played well the rest of the game.

And I think that was to the kids that meant something, that hey, we can put a full game together. We can do things right for a full 60 minutes. When we do, the results are pretty good.

Q. What do you think of C.J. Beathard? He's kind of lived through this offense, and some people kind of say he's a game mechanic, gets them in and does what the team needs to do. How do you attack him?
COACH ANDERSON: He seems very talented. I think he's a guy that does whatever's required to win. It's amazing. He makes a lot of great throws. He's very talented. He has a great feel for the pass rush. I think he moves around the pocket well, buys time. When needed, he makes a lot of plays with his feet.

It's amazing sometimes looking at, here's a 51-yard run by Beathard, or here's a 54-yard run by Beathard, and it's a two-minute situation that gets the drive going or it's a third down, they're packed up and gets them out. He does a great job of running that offense.

So we've got to be very aware of our rush lanes. Don't give him time to get a little extra time to get the receivers down the field. Don't let him scramble, get outside and make some plays. We've got to be leery of our rush lanes, be very disciplined there. When he does throw the ball, we've got to be able to put some pressure on him and be able to get him down when we get there.

Q. Is it coincidence that with Stanford and Iowa here, Stanford has played Wisconsin and Michigan State in the Rose Bowl -- I think Michigan State?

Q. Tight ends, fullbacks. Is that a coincidence or is that just --
COACH ANDERSON: It's pretty interesting. This is a brand of football that we've had a lot of success with. Those teams that we've matched up against, whether it's Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, they've had that same success.

Q. Does that start with strength and conditioning coach? Iowa, I know, is based on that.
COACH ANDERSON: Yes, no question. Going into this season we talked about this a little earlier. We knew that with our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Turley, we wanted to get back to the fundamentals, get back to doing all the little things right. Getting back to being a tough, physical football team.

Yeah, I think that mentality starts in the weight room and then it continues on to everything that we do. We do it in spring practice. We make it an emphasis that we're going to run the football, we're going to be physical. We're going to practice hard. It's going to be tough. That's what we do.

Q. Does it almost feel defiant, a defiant sort of attitude in the wake of what Washington State does, what everybody does with the spread and running around?
COACH ANDERSON: It's a little different because there are so many spread teams that are four, maybe five receivers, or if they use a tight end, they're spreading them out. So it's different when teams want to use a tight end or multiple tight ends and fullbacks.

Q. [On how to line up defensively against a quarterback that can also run the ball...]
COACH ANDERSON: That's definitely a challenge. Especially when the quarterback is a legit threat as a runner, it puts an extra guy there in the box that can run the football and you're a little bit short. So teams like Notre Dame that really wanted to use the quarterback as a runner, you've got to account for that. You've got to be able to put an extra guy in the box to account for him, and it can be a challenge especially when those teams, too, have the ability to throw the football. It's a numbers game for them. If you put an extra guy in the box, they're going to throw the ball.

Q. I was just talking to some of the players, and they talked about the quarterback run as a challenge?
COACH ANDERSON: For him it's a little bit different because a lot of it is not the quarterback-designed runs you'll see. It's him just making plays with his feet when nothing's there. So it's very tough. Just mentioned, we've got to be very disciplined in our rush lanes. Guys have to be tuned in to doing their job, making sure that they've got their responsibility covered.

Because if something breaks down or a guy gets out of position, he can really make you pay with his feet. They've got some quarterback draw, which is some longer yardage situations that have been very effective for them. So it's definitely something that you've got to account for.

Q. [On Iowa's back end as an opportunity for different play calls...]
COACH ANDERSON: It's something we've worked ever since we started practicing with these guys over a week ago, we've tried to give them a little, we're going to work the run. We've got to be able to stop the run and also giving them the variety of formations. They can give you a big personnel group but spread you out and run you empty on this group. Or they're going to play-action pass on this group and get the ball down the field.

So with the secondary, they've got to be very good with their eyes and making sure their eyes are in the right place and very fundamentally sound.

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