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December 27, 2015

Lance Anderson

Pasadena, California

Q. As far as what Iowa brings to the table. The guys here said there probably won't be too much surprises because they're so fundamentally solid. Is there anything that kind of stands out to you?
LANCE ANDERSON: What they do is they run the football really well. And in some ways they remind me of our offense because you're going to see multiple tight ends, and they have a couple of really good tight ends. They're going to use fullbacks, and they got a couple really good fullbacks. Physical players. We gotta be able to stop the run, be very disciplined for the play-action pass, make sure the guys' eyes are in the right place, they're doing their job. Our first challenge is we gotta be able to slow them down from running the football. They do that, that makes their play-action game that much more effective.

The quarterback, Beathard, they're not a team with a lot of quarterback-designed runs but he makes a lot of plays with his legs. When things break down, he can tuck the ball under and run really well. It's amazing watching the film, there's a 50-yard run or 44-yard run. Guys gotta be disciplined in terms of their rush lanes. We gotta be able to finish and tackle on him when we get there. He is a good athlete.

Q. The defense this year is kind of up and down, but you finished on a really high note in that second half against USC. What did you preach at halftime or a little bit after halftime that the changes really came in? What changed to make it work?
LANCE ANDERSON: You know, we played a pretty good first half, solid first half in the Pac-12 championship game. Came out and they ran the football on us a little bit and got right back in the game. And then getting the guys on the sideline, just talked about getting back to the fundamentals, making sure that we're using our hands, we're playing physical, we're knocking guys back, we're fitting in the correct gap, we're tackling. We missed a lot of tackles on those couple of drives in the third quarter. So a lot of that was just getting back to sound, fundamental football, be able to stop them from running the ball, get them in the situation where they could throw it, and we had a chance to get some pressure in the sack, fumbled. The return for touchdown was a huge play that changed the momentum of the game.

So I think more than anything it's just getting back to fundamentals and finding a way to get the run stopped.

Q. Your previous defense had so much experience. Did you have to change the way you approach and practice more on the fundamentals?
LANCE ANDERSON: We really haven't. We knew that going into the season that really, you know, nine new starters, only returning three guys who have ever started a game before, that we really had to make an emphasis on fundamentals, technique, doing things right, and going back to square one to teach guys what we really wanted, what was important. Also, when you're playing with a whole new group of guys, guys learning to play together and developing that chemistry and understanding, be able to trust each other much.

So it's been a process and yes, we've had to get back to the fundamentals, but guys played with great energy and responded well. Our challenge as we've gone along is trying to find out what do the new guys do well, what do they play best. And at times this year we've had to take some things out and cut some things down a little bit to find things that our guys have confidence in playing and they can play well and they can play fast.

There's been some ups and downs but overall, I'm really pleased with the group and the progress they've made.

Q. Did you find that this year as opposed to the last three you were leaving the office later, having to look at more film because you can't rely on your seniors and those veterans as much?
LANCE ANDERSON: It was a little bit of a challenge. I think the biggest thing was just trying to identify those things that we were best at doing and trying to find enough things where we would match up well with the opponent. So yeah, there was definitely some time spent watching film and going back watching our stuff, what do we do well, what matches up best with our opponent.

The biggest thing we wanted to do is we wanted our guys to be confident in what they were playing and be able to play fast and give them enough tools where they could have the success that we needed.

It's been a challenge. There have been ups and downs but like I said, the guys have worked hard all year and responded well. I am happy to be where we are at this point.

Q. You mentioned the first quarter at the USC game, it looked like last year's defense. When the guys see that on film, is there a kind of connection that happens in their head?
LANCE ANDERSON: I think so. I think so. I think there really is. And that's been -- at times we have played really well, and when we've done things right, the results have been great. Now, we're just looking for that consistent performance, that consistent effort where we're doing it for full games, for four quarters, 60 minutes. I think with a young group it's hard to find that consistency. You know, when the momentum starts going the wrong way or going bad, it's hard to get that turned back around sometimes.

But like I said, when they see themselves doing things right, I think that does give them the confidence, the understanding that yes, we can be successful if we just do things the right way.

Q. And you talk about seeing and doing things right, Alijah [Holder] told me that he actually, pregame, visualized that pick-6 he had against UCLA. Is that something all the position units you have them do?
LANCE ANDERSON: I think it's more of an individual thing. They sort of find out what works for them. So that's kind of been the challenge all year long, especially with young guys playing for the first time, going to find out what works best for each guy or each position group.

Q. [On what they can do to prepare for the Rose Bowl...]
LANCE ANDERSON: There are definitely things that we can draw from because our last two times here as been similar offenses, just like it is going against our offense in fall camp, spring ball. There are some similarities that we can draw from. I think that experience does help.

Q. [On is it important having players that have played in all three Rose Bowls for the Cardinal...]
LANCE ANDERSON: I think so. I think even our guys, many of them have been here before, so they understand the routine. I was really pleased with the practices that we had back at Stanford. I think the guys really understood how important that is to accomplish as much as we can, get as much of the game plan in as we can. Let's get good at doing what we're going to do this week and running those calls, running those defenses, because they know that when we get down here, there are some distractions, there are some other events going on.

Q. Besides their running game is there anything else you think would be a high priority?
LANCE ANDERSON: Those are the big keys. No. 1, it's stop their running because they're a very effective team running the football. Just being able to contain [C.J.] Beathard and some of those big plays that he makes with his feet.

But then some of the shots down the field, some of the play-action shots or shots down the field by the offense, we can't give up big plays, and that's what they'll do is they'll run the football, run the football, run the football and all of a sudden it's a play-action shot where it's a big gain down the field, and that's what we gotta eliminate. In the championship game, it was back and forth, a hard-fought game and then all of a sudden Iowa scores an 85-yard touchdown. And that's the stuff we gotta eliminate, the big plays as well.

Q. I asked you this a couple of months ago about Blake [Martinez], the value he has had this year compared to other players. Just given how much inexperience there was around him, does that seem like now the season is over it was appropriate?
LANCE ANDERSON: Yeah. You start to look at it, you wonder where you would be without a guy like him. He has just made so many plays for us, and with so many young guys, you're not always sure what you're going to get, how they're going to respond. It's great to have a guy like that where you know what you're going to get every week. You're going to get a guy that's going to play well, understands the defense, that understands his role. He's going to play fast. It's great to have that because it's just one less spot that you have to worry about.

Q. Have there been times when you felt like you needed to say something that he has taken that role before you needed?
LANCE ANDERSON: I think a lot -- the great thing with this group of seniors, it's a great group of leaders, whether it's Blake, whether it's Kevin Anderson, whether it's Ronnie Harris. I mean, those guys have learned from some good role models before them. Those guys have played a lot of football here. And the biggest thing, not only have they developed as good football players, those guys have developed as great leaders, and I can't tell how many times that's happened. Before we've even said or do anything, those are the guys that step up and said, That's not how we do it. Pulling guys aside, This is what you need to look for, this is what's important.

Q. Coach Shaw said it took him just a few minutes when Blake was at your camp to realize, This is a guy we gotta offer a scholarship to. I assume you were at the camp. Do you remember seeing that same stuff Dave did?
LANCE ANDERSON: Oh, yes. I recruited Blake. You know, he was -- I think sometimes, you know, just being from Tucson and wasn't the most heavily recruited kid, I think he was under the radar a little bit. He had some good scholarship offers, but we wanted to get him to camp first. Really we were -- we weren't exactly sure what position he was. A lot of schools recruited him in a lot of different positions. So actually Jason Tarver and I were working linebackers in camp, and we had Blake in our stations, so we were taking him through all the movement drills, all the linebacker drills and sleds, and yeah, it was apparent really quick that this is a pretty good sized kid this guy moves really well. He's got some pop. He's got some explosiveness. He's tough, he's physical. It did not take long to say, yeah, this is a guy we need to recruit.

Q. What other position beside maybe linebacker?
LANCE ANDERSON: Oregon offered him as a tight end. A lot of schools -- he played running back as a senior in high school and had a really good year. I think some were projecting him as like a whole back or an H back.

Q. I was trying to think, even with Shayne [Skov] in there, had been anybody whose had high value?
LANCE ANDERSON: Yeah. His stats this year, too, his number of tackles compared to the next guy. It's amazing. I don't know if I've been around a defense where there's such a discrepancy there. It just shows you his play-making ability. And he plays so much football. Now he understands the defense really well. He plays fast.

Q. [On Brennan Scarlett...]
LANCE ANDERSON: We've been so thin on the defensive line this year just in terms of numbers that his addition has just given us a huge boost. In some ways he might be playing out of position a little bit where he might be better suited for like an outside backer or 4-3 end. He has come in and knocked, just done whatever we asked him to do. It's a new position. It's new techniques, things he hasn't done. But he's worked hard to grasp those. And he's been huge for us. Like with Blake, it would be hard to imagine where we would be without Brennan this year.

Q. Is there a moment or two where you can point to where maybe [Brennan Scarlett's] previous game experience, his previous college experience he was able to sort of overcome his maybe lack of understanding in the position or what he was supposed to do in the defense?
LANCE ANDERSON: Right. I think it was pretty evident from the very beginning, from the first time we got pads on, saw him in fall camp, it was a guy where you could see, okay, maybe he hasn't played this position. These are some new techniques, but he's played college football. He understands the game. He understands how to play fast. He understands how to play physical. And that I think really helped him through, really sped up the learning process for him where he picked up the stuff faster than maybe a young guy who had been here the same amount of time but didn't have that actual game experience that he has.

Q. Do you sense anything different about him going into the big game going against Cal?
LANCE ANDERSON: Not really. And I was kind of curious to really see what he thought and what his feelings were, but he stayed pretty much like he treated it as a normal game week, and I think that was great. He didn't want to get too emotional about it, get too caught up in where he'd come from and where he was now. And I think that really helped.

He performed very well. Very well that week. I know deep down that game had a lot of meaning to him, and it was the first big game he'd played in. He battled so many injuries. He never had that opportunity to play in a big game.

Q. I covered him at Cal for a couple of years --
LANCE ANDERSON: This was his first one. I think it was pretty special for him. He did a pretty good job of keeping his emotions under control and in check.

Q. And in terms of just the locker room dynamics and the leadership, a guy coming in, where outside of his brother I don't know how many of these guys on the team he knew coming in. How was he able to sort of navigate those dynamics?
LANCE ANDERSON: You know, it was all pretty smooth and it all happened real fast. That's what you wonder sometimes. But I think it's both a reflection of Brennan and the type of kid he is, his character, just what a good down-to-earth kid he is, and it was an easy transition, easy adjustment. He bonded with the guys really quickly. But I think it's also a reflection of our locker room and the kind of guys that we have in there that they -- coming from the rival, but they brought him in, welcomed him in right away, and it just seemed like a seamless, smooth transition.

Q. The graduate transfer thing has been so controversial, specifically quarterbacks. Based on the experience with Brennan, what do you think about the rule and what it says about that opportunity that's out there for players? Do you like it?
LANCE ANDERSON: Well, in his case, I absolutely love it. You know, I don't know if it gets to the point where there's a lot of control over what it is. I think it's sort of a neat opportunity for those kids. I look at Brennan where he'd been somewhere else and maybe he wasn't completely happy with his entire experience or just wanted something new, just wanted a change of scenery, and this was able to provide that for him. And not only did he come in and start and play at a high level, but ends his college career playing in the Rose Bowl, had a season where he's basically healthy all year long.

Regardless of whether he goes on and plays in the NFL or how long that lasts, this experience is something he can remember for the rest of his life and it's going to help shape those things for the rest of his life.

I look at some of our fifth-year guys who have left here and gone onto other places where they had a great experience, they had a Stanford degree. Maybe they weren't playing as much as they would like. Maybe their role wasn't as big as they would like. They felt like they had given everything they had here and they had gone to a couple of places where they ended up playing more, and I think they ended their college career on a high note, having the great experience they had at Stanford but going somewhere else and maybe getting a little more playing time. And I think those have been positives.

So I think there are some positive out comes from that transfer rule. It's just -- what you don't want are as soon as a kid faces a challenge or some competition or a little opposition, it's easy just to walk away and move on to the next place. But I think there have been some real positives from it that I've seen.

Q. Thank you very much.

Q. Ronnie was talking a little bit about a players-only meeting after the Northwestern game. Did the coaches know about this?
LANCE ANDERSON: No, we did not know a lot about it. We've heard little things trickling out afterwards, but I think that was where we had such high expectations because of the way that we finished last season, then our approach going into the off-season, how we knew we had to get back to some fundamentals, doing things the way we'd previously done things. And you know, just doing things right. We had a great spring practice, with a great fall camp. And then to come out first game of the season and play like that, a lot of guys were disappointed, on a lot of levels.

But I think the team just -- there were a couple of different ways they could go. I mean, but they responded great to that and the rest is history, you know, what we've accomplished this year. And maybe that probably was a key moment. Maybe that was what we needed. Maybe that was the wake-up call. Maybe that brought guys together even more.

Q. Great. Thank you.
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