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Quoting the Cardinal

Dec 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES - Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football David Shaw and the entire Cardinal team spoke with the media Sunday at The L.A. Hotel.

Head coach David Shaw

(No microphone.) Yeah, it's going to be not just running and flowing, but both defenses are very good and they're going to make it tough on both offenses. Special teams is going to play a big part in field position. Besides that I think it's going to be a fun game to watch.

When you talk about Stanford being in four consecutive bowl games (inaudible) what's been the key? I think there are a lot of keys. For us this being our fourth BCS game in a row, it starts with people. I think we've got great coaches that understand Stanford and understand the game of football. You have to understand both. But I also think it comes down to the kids that we have. Flying these young men from around the nation who were nationally recruited, kids that fit Stanford University on the football field and in the classroom, finding tough kids and smart kids. But I give a lot of credit to these seniors, the kids that came in four or five years ago wanting to establish something at Stanford. There have been peaks and valleys in Stanford football. The goal was to build something that could stay, and those guys are a big part of that.

(Inaudible) has an NFL element to it in the schemes that you're coaching. Oh, very purposely, absolutely. NFL football is different than college football for the most part, but both of them have the same basic ideas. If you can run the ball and stop the run, you have a chance to win every week. On defense if you don't give up a lot of big plays, that helps, also. But I think it helps us in recruiting. You can show the transition between the NFL playing in college and going to the NFL. We've got guys that keep the same technique and run similar schemes, coaches on our staff that have a lot of NFL experience.

How many coaches do you have like that? Right now there's three of us with a few guys that are around the program, one being my dad, with a lot of NFL experience, also Ron Lynn with our player personnel, because it's not just about playing football but it's about that mentality that it takes to go from this level to the next level. On top of that, walking out with a Stanford degree, it's hard to pass up that opportunity.

How do you apply the NFL principles to the Pac 12 where you have such a variety of offenses, particularly Oregon? They seem to be the yin to your yang, they seem to have all the bells and whistles. Well, it's hard. Oregon does a phenomenal job, especially on our offensive side, actually both sides of the ball, really good. For us defensively you've got to slow them down and you have to stop the run, and people think that Oregon does all these other things. Oregon is a running football team. If you can slow them down running the ball you have a chance. And then you've got to stop the pass, which is still tough against those guys. For us our entire philosophy is it starts with running the ball and stopping the run.

And I guess the defense has to be versatile and flexible enough to handle all these different types of offenses? Absolutely, and I would say in the last three years honestly the biggest difference in our team has been the athleticism of our secondary. We've been good up front for years, but Wayne Lyons is coming along, our two safeties, one of the best safety combinations in the nation, use with a coming in and playing nickel for us, those guys are making the difference between being a good defense and a great defense. You look at Michigan State and it's extremely similar. They're tough up front. Those guys play great. If you can stop the pass and play good with your front seven, you've got a chance to win every week.

These are 300 pound guys. Was that a purposeful thing or is that just what you had? A little bit of both. Really started with Greg Roman when he was at Stanford three years ago, really using more of our backup linemen to play tight end just to get bigger bodies. They're used to doing those combinations. In years past we've gone back and forth between (inaudible) and those big jumbo tight ends, also. I mean, it's no secret. We're not trying to trick anybody. They're listed in the program who they are. They're offensive linemen, so we put them in there just to be effective in the running game and also to help us in the pass, as well.

Talk about the advantage of having been here before for your football team. You know, honestly it's just during the week, just the guys understanding what happens during the week and not being surprised by anything. But come game day it doesn't matter. It's going to be a football game whether you've been here before or never been here before. It's going to be a great environment, very similar to games that they've played in against Michigan and Ohio State. It's going to be a big, loud environment, similar to games that we've played in with a lot of fanfare, Oregon, Arizona State. Yeah, that experience only lasts until game day. Game day is going to be very even.

(Inaudible)? Well, we tweak our offense every week for game plan wise. But we have to run the ball. We run the ball. That's who we are. That's what we do. We will throw the ball, as well, but we want to be a 60-40 run team. That's just who we are right now. And the fact that they're extremely good against the run gives us pause to a certain degree, just to make sure that we're doing the right things running the ball. But we have to run the ball. That's just who we are, and same thing with Michigan State. We're really good against the run, but they're going to run the ball, also. It's just part of who these teams are.

Is it hard to figure out (inaudible)? Oh, yeah. It's an outstanding scheme. You see that 4-3 alignment and the alignment doesn't change until the ball snaps and then the guys are moving laterally, they're coming at you, they're crossing, they're moving from the outside, from the inside, then it's these two guys, then just one guy. It gives you a lot to think about, but for the most part we've tweaked some of our rules, but we give our guys a lot of rules and then we work those rules. That's the only way you can play. You can't try to anticipate everything. You have to trust your guys and trust your technique and go play.

(No microphone.) Well, the biggest challenges always are things that make you good. Obviously, one of our biggest challenges is our academic standards, and we don't lower our academic standards. Every year we're going to have a tough time finding those 15 to 20 guys that can get into school and play our caliber of football. At the same time it narrows our scope. Every year we can find those great players that are great students, every year we bring in great kids and we can do that consistently over time, you take the peaks and valleys out of Stanford football. There will be years where you have a great recruiting class and you don't have another great recruiting class for years. I think we've had really good recruiting classes honestly for six years in a row. I think we've got the people here that know how to play the game of football, know how to do well in school and know how to hopefully maintain a high level of performance on game day.

(No microphone.) Honestly that's the easier part, to recruit tough kids. You don't make kids tough, you recruit tough kids. That's the bottom line. That shows up on game day. That shows up in the classroom. It shows up after school when these young men are successful. Toughness is the underlying factor because they don't falter when games get tough. They don't falter when life gets tough. They're tough, intelligent kids that can be successful.

(No microphone.) You know, I'm not one to just hold on to the tradition for tradition's sake necessarily, but I'm a West Coast kid, and New Year's Day for me has always included the Rose Bowl, and it's always been Big Ten against Pac-10, or Pac-8, Pac-10, Pac-12. That part is really cool, so you have our best against their best. Schools that don't see each other a lot, don't play each other a lot, have a chance to look forward to coming out to Southern California, playing in the granddaddy of them all, that tradition is really special. I think it's one of the things throughout the year you can always count on. You can always count on the Rose Bowl being the Rose Bowl. A lot of games have changed venues and changed sponsorships and all those things. This is one that's been consistent, and I think the people at the Rose Bowl believe that it's special and treat it as such. The hospitality is phenomenal, and people live the Rose Bowl 364 days a year until the next Rose Bowl. I think that shows in what happens this entire week.

How about the playoffs? Absolutely we're looking forward to it, and not because we might or might not have been included this year. As a football team we're looking forward to it because at the end of the season in every sport you want to feel like you have a chance to earn that, you want to have a chance having been through a tough time, you want to take the best teams and put them in a pool and say, okay, whoever survives is the winner. Does it make the season long? Absolutely. But at the same time we want everybody to have that sense of satisfaction, that a true national champion has been crowned.

(No microphone.) I think college football, being a likeness to a certain degree, my dad was a college football coach, I've been around it my whole life. Everything goes in cycles. There was a time when the Big Ten was on top and the Pac-10 was down. There were times when the SEC has been on top. There were times when the SEC was down. Everybody wants to forget about those times, but I think they go in cycles. I don't pay too much attention to it. I'll tell you right now watching that Big Ten Championship Game, Michigan State and Ohio State can play with anybody in the country. There's no question about it. I think the top teams in every conference can play with anybody in the country.

You look at one conference as a whole, a few years from now it might be flip flopped, you never know. I don't put too much credence into it because I watched the Big Ten Championship Game and I saw two great football teams.

(No microphone.) Well, we've never changed our philosophy. We've had some coaches leave us. I think Pat brought some things to us that we obviously kept and stayed and helped us get to where we are now. But I think we also tried to de emphasize the individual, individual players, individual coaches. We have a philosophy that we stick with, and we have I call it we owe each other. We owe each other every single week to do our best, and if something needs to be changed then we change it. If a guy leaves us we pat him on the back and we bring somebody else in and keep going. For us it's a mentality of knowing we're going to lose seniors, we're going to lose a coach here and there, but for us who we are does not change.

(No microphone.) What do you think is going to happen next year with the playoffs? You know, my philosophy, and I don't know if people like it or don't like it, but my philosophy is we're still going to concentrate on the Rose Bowl. We're still going to concentrate on our conference. If we can win our conference again, that would be great. If we get invited to the playoffs, that would be great. But once again, that's another thing that's outside of our purview to a certain extent. There's going to be a committee and I'm looking forward to it. That's going to be great. But for us just to have that as a goal, I don't believe that helps us. I think what helps us is still concentrating on our conference, trying to survive our conference again, which is the toughest conference to play in in the nation, and once you get to the end of the season, if you get invited to a playoff, great. If you don't and you're just going to the old Rose Bowl, let's gear up, let's go do it.

For us we just concentrate on us and concentrate on our conference.

Next year the Rose Bowl hosts (inaudible)? Yeah, probably. Probably. I think we all get a little uneasy whenever that happens, especially this school more than any other, because it is so special. It is so different. I think the tradition is one of those that's a better tradition in college football. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

(No microphone.) I think the biggest thing is mentality wise I believe we're very similar. Play great defense, run the ball, make big plays in the passing game, be smart on special teams, play field position. To me the fact that we have to that in common with Michigan State is really cool, but to me that was the way I was brought up in this profession. There are other places or other teams that don't necessarily put things in that order. There are things that are flashier, things that are more exciting honestly, there are things that create more stats than that, but we don't get enamored with that. We pride ourselves on doing things that win football games. We play field position, run the ball, control the clock, get first downs, get in the red zone and try and score more touchdowns than field goals. That's worked for us the last several years and I know that's worked for Michigan State, as well.

(No microphone.) Schematically it's different. The mentality is the same. It's tough to prepare for because it's a great scheme and they have great personnel. To me that's the trick of having a great defense. You can run any scheme you want. If your personnel doesn't fit it then it doesn't work for you.

Our scheme is different than Michigan State's, but our personnel fits our scheme just like Michigan State's. They've got big guys, physical guys up front. They've got guys in the secondary that can run and can cover, so what they do fits their guys perfectly.

(No microphone.) I think Oregon was tough defensively but they were much different than these guys. This is one of the best units we've seen in a few years. It's going to take every minute of the preparation we can muster to get ready for them.

I think it was back in August (inaudible) exceeded the expectations. What have you seen in his growth throughout the season? I've seen him prepare like an older player, which I think was one of the best things about him was he started to prepare like David Yankey, to truly study and have great questions for Mike Bloomgren about who they're playing and how we're going to do this. He's worked extremely hard, so when you have a guy that prepares and works extremely hard and is blessed with unbelievable physical tools, you've got a great player.

Offensive linemen are hard to give national awards to sometimes because you don't have stats to go along with them, and until people know his name it's hard for him to win a lot of awards. But I'd be surprised to see that there are many left tackles better than he is in the nation.

(No microphone.) Yeah, and we haven't had to help them. We haven't had to jerry rig our protections. We just let him block, we let him play. I think he's done a phenomenal job. When it's all said and done I think he's going to be one of the best linemen in the nation. I think he's one of the best linemen in the nation right now. It's just he isn't a household name. He hasn't gotten that cache right now nationally, but the people that watch football and study football, NFL scouts, et cetera, those people know, and he's going to be a special one.

What are your impressions of Calhoun? Very athletic, very physical, the initial move is not always the one that gets you. It's the secondary move, and that's the sign of a really good player. A lot of guys can beat you with their first move and get to the football, but with this guy you'd better watch out for that counter move because he'll get to the quarterback. He can run plays down the field, you see high effort. We have a lot of respect for him going into this game.

(No microphone.) You know, it's flexibility, too, always trying to make sure you're getting more flexible with stretching and really working a lot of biometric and dynamic movements because when you're that tall in order to access your power you need to be able to bend. He's done a great job all year of being able to do that.

I want to ask you about Ben Gardner. His role as a team leader, as a guy (inaudible)? There's no question. Guys are putting his number on their arms and on their tape, et cetera, because he's meant so much to this team, not so much this year but the years leading up to this year. He's been such a great captain, such a great team leader. We're going to dress him for this game even though he won't play but just to get him back in his uniform with the rest of the team I think is going to be phenomenal.

(No microphone.) I think it's going to be physical. I think it's going to be old school football. When you used to watch the Rose Bowl years ago, you saw two teams cram it up there running the ball, and the team that could make some plays from the passing game and find a way to create field position on special teams is going to be the team that has an edge.

(No microphone.) That's a great question because it's really a combination of both. These guys schematically, they don't look like they do a lot of things but there's a lot of subtlety to what they do defensively. For us it's a lot of scheming, but at some point, a guy's got to block, a guy's to tackle, a guy's got to get open, a guy's to make throws and make catches in order to be successful.

(No microphone.) Bowl preps are always fun because you're able to go back and rest some of the older guys. One of the things we did was ones on ones and did good guys on good guys and got back to getting physical, got back to we're going to play against a real big, physical, tough defense so let's make sure that both sides get to work against a big, physical, tough offense also. We get heated a couple times, got a little physical, just to give ourselves a reminder of what we're getting ready for.

(No microphone.) I think during the course of the week, yeah, especially the older guys knowing what to expect, knowing the rhythm, oh, this is the day we do this, this is the day we do that.

(No microphone.) Just watching the young man play. He's one of those guys that's really getting stronger as the game goes on. He's been such a physical presence for us. That Oregon game I think was just phenomenal what he did there, 45 carries. You know, I'm excited all year about giving him more opportunities. But there's still that balance between letting Ty Montgomery and (inaudible) have opportunities as well as well as the development of our quarterbacks. And we've been back to running the ball, absolutely, but we need to be able to throw the ball in order to play the game we want to play.

(No microphone.) Absolutely. It's just great. People laugh at me. I think I have the best job in America. I love my job. I love where I am. I love where this team is. I love where this team is going. All the attention I think is great. I think it's fun to look at. I don't look at it as a burden at all. I think it just gives more attention to the program, but I look at being here for a while.

(No microphone.) I think it's being a head coach but mostly being the head coach at Stanford. Every day walking into work, that feeling of I love where I am going to work, I love who I'm working with, I love the young men I'm working with, these are young men that are going to be successful in football and out of football. I love writing recommendations for business school and graduate school and job applications. I think that's really cool. We've got a couple more guys that are leaving that are not going to play football at the next level, they're starting out with six figure salaries. This is what college is all about. You're supposed to be getting these young men ready for life. They're walking away from great football experiences, four BCS games in a row and becoming businessmen right away, those two things going hand in hand I think is really phenomenal.

(No microphone.) I'll tell you what, he's one of the smartest football players I've ever been around. He studies the game. He studies schemes. He studies players. He has great anticipation, and he's a high effort guy. You see the plays that he's made in the past is not just because he throws guys down on the ground. Last year in the Rose Bowl to make that big goal line stand, just crossing (inaudible) at the last 2nd and taking a sack will for a loss, game after game, his entire career, he's made those plays.

 Senior RB Tyler Gaffney

What was it like to be at your first Lawry's Beef Bowl, not your second, as so many people loved asking in those interviews? It was awesome. To see tradition going back more than 50 years, to be a part of that. They really make a restaurant become really Hollywood really special. And I think all the guys can appreciate that, whether my first year, their second year, this is what you play for, for opportunities like that.

You were down here for the game last year? I was.

What was the week like for you? Were you down for a lot of the festivities? I was only down here for two days, like the 31st and the 1st. It was sweet, to be a fan here, this is a special place as a fan. They really get you going, they get everybody together and you can feel the emotions from the fans.

How is the body feeling now, tear down itself after that ASU game? The body's feeling good. I'm ready to play. We just have to wait until the 1st at this point.

What do you think the emotions are going to be after you step out on the field after such a long wait? I know a big reason why you came back was to win a title and get to this game. This is why you come back. This is why I guess anybody plays the game of college football.

To step out on that field finally after ASU is almost a relief. You almost feel little training camp esque of beating up on each other for too long everybody trying to get. At this point we're ready to go.

You don't wear the noncontact jerseys ever? No, that's not my style I can't be part of the yellow jersey crew.

What would you say to Toby Gerhart that he does? Everyone has their own liking. Just not my style.

What do you think about him coming back? I think it was a great call. Coming back, it was a great call. For any college player, I think that's why you play college football, why you show up every day in the grind, to have these type of opportunities.

Did you tell Coach that you wanted the ball more in your hands? You know, I never told him specifically that I want the ball more, but I let him know that I'm not tired. I haven't been tired. Whenever he chose to take me out, it was his decision; it wasn't because I wasn't physically able to go back in. I think it was just one game it broke through that I wasn't going to be tired throughout the game, and we kind of went smooth sailing from there.

How great is your O line? The offensive line is unbelievable. Coach Bloomgren does a great job with them. They know – they have to be the smartest offensive line in the country, knowing exactly how the scheme fits, knowing where the other four are going to be.

Once we all got on the same page, the same mesh, I think they know, they can feel myself running behind them and they can – I feel exactly where the front five are going to be.

What do you think about running the wildcat? I love the wildcat. It gives you an opportunity to be an athlete. You get the ball, you see there's not just one hole drawn up. There can be multiple. You hit it with everything you've got and hope for the best.

What strengths do you see in Stanford’s defense? I see a big physical defense that plays team defense. They really trust each other. They believe in their scheme and they're not going to shy away from it, to go outside of their own job. They know as a unit they're going to be successful.

As the week goes on, the media buildup, how has it changed your perspective? It just makes the game a little bit – more higher touted. You really realize what the Rose Bowl is. When you first got here you saw the festivities, but as the game gets closer, you can feel the energy of the Rose Bowl, of the tradition.

We went to the Beef Lawry's Bowl yesterday, and 50 plus years of great teams, great NFL Hall of Famers that have been through that, to be a part of that is something special.

What's the most asked question every single day? Every single day, most asked question is what about baseball, something about baseball. I've heard that question far too many times.

How was the weather? You're a California guy. Unbelievable weather. A little warm, but that's all you can ask for. I think Michigan, the guys from Michigan are enjoying this type of weather.

As you stood up here by yourself, is it different looking out over the room? No. These are my guys. Any one of them could be up here. We have a bunch of studs. I just happened to give I guess good answers that the media like.

Any strange questions that have stuck out in your mind that people have asked where you're like, Really, dude? Just pretty cliche questions, asking me if this is the right decision about coming back. And I'm in the Rose Bowl with the Stanford Cardinal, with my brothers, and I think it's a pretty obvious question this is the right decision.

Did you get to go home to San Diego at all? I did. They always welcome me with open arms. They have great facilities. The trainer, Tara Hall, is awesome. She does wonders and helps me out. It's a great place to be able to go back to. People from San Diego know that that school is damn near a small college campus. This is pretty unreal.

What made you chose Stanford? I think once you get accepted to Stanford it's a no brainer. The school is an Ivy League education. The sports are top tier. They win the Directors Cup pretty much every year.

The weather, the weather's unreal, not too far off San Diego. And it becomes a no brainer from there. The other schools are – playing two sports was also a big part of that, and Toby Gerhart had been doing that, for example, and I couldn't shy away from that.

Being from the West Coast, how important is the Rose Bowl? I think anybody who comes from the West Coast, goes to a West Coast school, especially in the Pac, has the Rose Bowl in mind. That's why you play football, just to be in the granddaddy Rose Bowl.

It's something special. Probably the most special game I'll be a part of in my college career.

Lots of running backs from San Diego? San Diego running backs, there's a stable of them. I'm glad to be mentioned in the top tier of those athletes. You can't ask for much more.

What’s going to be the deciding factor of this game? I think it's going to come down to being tough, being physical, executing. They pride themselves on stopping the run. We pride ourselves on making the run happen.

It's going to be a wearing battle, and I look forward to the challenge.

What’s the most important thing you can do to prepare? It's a mentality. I physically prepared myself to be able to carry the ball. The O line helps make my job a little bit easier. Once it comes down to that, it's all heart and soul from there.

What’s the biggest threat of Michigan State? They know exactly how their defensive linemen are going to fit into the O line. They know they can trust their DBs. They have the top two corners in the nation, I'd say.

And they know exactly where they're going to fit in. There's never two of them in the same spot. So they know that they trust each other.

How do you think the loss of Bullough is effecting their team? We don't feel – we know he was the heart and soul and captain of their defense. But we have to say they're going to have 11 guys on their field. We have to expect they're going to replace a guy who is going to do the exact same job.

What have you seen out of them the way they get after running backs? They play to make their linebackers make the play. They're taking up double teams. They're staying in their spot. They're not getting out of their own jobs to make the play that way being able to – they have a defense that plays team defense. And they trust each other, and their linebackers especially know exactly where they fit in.

Do they remind you of any other teams you’ve played this year? I'd say they remind me of Notre Dame. They're big, they're physical. They're smart, and they do their job well.

Strength on the outside corners, kind of mentioned, maybe something to the advantage for you to have more of a workload? I think guys like Ty Montgomery, Michael Rector, Devon Cajuste are rather excited for this type of challenge.

You can only get better by playing the best in the nation. You can really see where you're graded at there.

I think those guys are going to step it up. Obviously I'm willing to take the workload, but this is going to be a team game because they stacked the box and they stopped the run relatively well.

What happened in that Notre Dame game? It's just one of those games you can't really explain. Things got away from us. We weren't playing how we played most the end of this year. And this is just one of those games that we definitely didn't overlook it. We prepared just like we prepared for any other game. But stuff happens and we had to rebound from that, and I think we did relatively well on that.

Was there anything that you really thought led to that loss? You can always wonder, if they make the completion and it's a touchdown, Coach is the greatest guy in the year; if he doesn't, it seems to be wrong. Either way he's going to be criticized if it was successful or not.

Doing anything new for the Rose Bowl in terms of game plan? I think we're going to stick with our same game plan, but obviously it's going to be adjustments. They run one front. They run one style of defense. And they do it well. So we're going to have to adjust to them because they're not going to shy away from what they do.

Do you mentor any of the younger players? Give them advice? Yeah, mentoring the young guys is something I've found out that I have really enjoyed doing. There's a lot of nicks and knacks about the game of football, about being a running back. I feel I've been here long enough to have picked up some of those and stuff that you don't really just learn by the coaches. You have to learn by playing. And I'm more than happy to help the young guys.

I think they've made significant strides, day and night, from the beginning of the year to now.

What’s the biggest difference between these two teams? The difference is heart. They're big, physical. They stop the run. We're big and physical and we make the run happen. It's going to come down to who is going to crumble, who is going to stay strong.

Talk about this is your first Rose Bowl experience. Last year you were sitting in the stands. What has the experience been like? This experience is unreal. I've heard what – I grilled the guys last year about this, how was this, how was that, how was Beef Lawry's Bowl, how was the Improv, the whole experience. It's more than what they told me. This is real special. To be in the 100th Rose Bowl, to be in the Rose Bowl as a West Coast kid, as a Pac-12 player, this is what you ask for as a college football player.

What do you think you gained most from playing at Stanford? I'd say I gained the appreciation for the game. I think everybody – I've told all my class guys that: Look around. Stanford – we have tourists every day at Stanford looking at our school that we just happen to wake up at every day. 99 percent of college football teams aren't here at the Rose Bowl, aren't here being able to do what we're doing.

I told them embrace this opportunity because I can tell you when I've been on a ten hour bus ride from the middle of nowhere in New York to the middle of nowhere in Connecticut, this is royalty compared to that.

Who else were you looking at out of high school? Was Stanford a slam dunk? I was looking at USC and Notre Dame as well. Those two schools were on my – part of my top three list along with Stanford. Notre Dame, baseball coach wasn't too high up on me playing baseball, so had to nix that right away.

Once you get into Stanford, it's a no brainer. They offer you everything. It's really a lifetime decision. For the next 40 years, you're going to be in a good spot with a Stanford degree. Playing for a top tier baseball team, playing for a top tier football team is all you can ask for coming out of high school.

With baseball, I know you were going back and forth, stuff like that. Which was your focus going at? Were you a baseball player playing football or were you a football player playing baseball? How did you see it? It depends who you ask. To some people, a football guy trying to swing a bat. Other people I was a baseball guy who happened to be able to run.

I consider myself one or the other depending on the season. I have an on switch and off switch. No other gear. When I'm in baseball mode, I'm a baseball player. And same with football. I'm going to be fully vested in the sport I'm playing.

Stanford has a history of kind of the dual sport guys. I'm sure that was part of the recruiting pitch as well, both? It was being able to do both was a huge factor in me in any of the schools I was choosing. They had a guy, Toby Gerhart, currently doing both, currently being successful at both, and I thought that was a perfect example. If he could do it I could do it, and that helped solidify my decision.

Last year you get to watch it; this year you get to play in it. What's the difference besides the obvious? The biggest difference was the adrenalin. Every day it gets closer, the adrenalin rush is getting there. As opposed to as a fan, I didn't even notice until the day before the game.

But the emotions, I can tell you the fans bring emotions like I've never seen. Stanford fans are out of the woodwork, and you really feel a part of the game up in the stands. But I can't wait to be on the field and actually be a part of the game.

Seems like this team and this program always has the ability to control their emotions. Why is that and where does that come from? It takes a certain individual to be here at Stanford, and I think what the older guys preach to the younger guys kind of instills in them.

Like I said, it takes a certain individual to be here, and they control their emotions. They know that even keeled is the best way to be. You could never be too high or too low to be successful in this game.

Were you here when Kevin Hogan came in as a true freshman? Yes.

Think back to what he was like then and now where he is currently. Where have you seen the biggest jump in his game? Kevin Hogan has always been a playmaker. We like to joke around he was a young Brett Favre, the gunslinger just slinging the ball around.

He knows what to do. He knows how to read the defense and not just making plays. I think the making plays aspect really helped him to where he is today because now he's smart about what he does.

Late in the game you know it's going to be competitive, you know the defense is arguably the best in America. How do you see this playing out in your mind as you visualize the ball? I see a lot of bruises, a lot of blood, a lot of dust. It's going to come down to who is tougher, who is going to execute more, who is going to crumble, and who is going to stay strong.

Speaking of staying strong, we heard there was a very strong singing performance last night. Could you talk about the performance, and where would you grade it on the scale of performances? I wouldn't say it was one of Wilkerson's best, but I've seen him sing many times, so I think I have a bit more advantage than the common eyes. He's very entertaining nevertheless.

If you guys win, are you going to start chanting his name in the locker room? If we win, I think you'll hear the whole team singing a song. It's going to be an exciting time.

Bloomgren said the other day that you talked to the whole team about what the game means to you? How did that come about and what were you seeing? Bloomgren asked – Coach Bloomgren asked me to speak in front of the team, kind of tell them what the game means to me, especially as somebody who stepped away from the game and came back.

I feel honored to talk in front of these guys. I've done plenty of public speaking in my life. That's something I've looked into after sports are done.

And getting in front of my brothers, was almost speechless. I couldn't believe that I was having this opportunity. And I'm glad to help rally these guys. I'm glad to share the wisdom I've had. I've been here four plus years, to really let the young guys know how special this game is, how lucky an opportunity we have, I think, is big time for the old guys to let them know.

Off the top of your head or prepared remarks? I usually go off the top of my head. I usually have a couple bullet points I like to talk about, but I think from there it means a lot more if you can hear from the heart as opposed to you're just reading off maybe an iPhone or something.

When you decided to come back, it's like January or February, how were you able to enroll in school? Was that pretty seamless in terms of getting back into spring semester? Yeah, it was a little bit of a different process. Coming back from baseball to football was about the same. There's a little longer hiatus.

In terms of actually getting enrolled and starting, when do classes start that spring semester? Classes started in early April, I believe. Maybe end of March. So I missed the first half of spring ball because I wasn't enrolled in school yet so wasn't allowed to. But it was Stanford made it an easy process. They told me where I had to be, what I had to do, where to sign my name.

The coaches were involved. Everybody made it very welcoming process for me.

And then decided you wanted to keep it, would you still have been able to do that or are you on the clock or could you have come back? If you put it off one more year, decided to play two, could you still have come back and played the final year of football? With the logistics, yes. I think you can play up to six years. Physically, you know, I'm not sure if I stayed in the baseball mode where I'd be at physically.

That was definitely something, consideration, if I was going to do it, it's going to be now, where I've only taken a year off as opposed to two years.

But logistically I think that you're allowed to because I think once the clock starts it's six years and that would have been my sixth year.

I thought it was a great statement that the game comes down to they stop the run. How do you make them crumble, make sure it's not you? I don't think this team has a crumble personality in them at all. I think that's what we preached. I think that's why we came to Stanford, being around these guys.

If you have that in you, we'll whip it out of you, I'd say. We practice what we preach. And if you are going to have that mentality, you're going to get exposed in this program, you're going to have to pick it up or you're going to have to – we're on the same track, you're either with us or you're falling behind.

(Indiscernible) in the meantime you're going to be done with a double major, is that what I read? Yeah, I should. It's going to be a little bit of a crunch, but I should be done with sociology and psychology.

And outside of sports, where do your interests lie? What do you think professionally Outside of sports I'd love to be something along the public speaking, broadcasting, lobbying. I'd love to tell people what they already know in a different manner.

I think I do fairly well in front of crowds, talking. Which isn't an easy trait I've heard from most people, public speaking. And I'd love to do it. It's something that I've done throughout my career but I'll really focus on when sports aren't an option anymore.

Do you remember watching the 2007 game, the SC Stanford game? Yes.

Did you watch that? Yes.

What do you remember about that? I remember it being 42 point underdog or something along those lines. And at halftime the game was very close. And I couldn't believe it. I was like, wow, they can do this.

But you have your doubts that – I was pretty neutral at this point. But to see my coach, Coach Tavita Pritchard, not that I knew it yet, but he – to make that happen is unreal. The biggest upset in college football history.

You mentioned that you had spent pregame with Stanford fans. Were you sipping wine, eating shrimp cocktails? What was the pregame experience like? It was the whole tailgating experience. We were having a great time.

What do you remember eating? They had everything – every type of food, prime rib. Mexican culture. They had Eastern culture. Everything. So it was all three. I was walking around, stopping here, stopping there. All you can ask for.

Fifth-year senior OLB Trent Murphy

Can you talk about developing your strength and your moves? Your moves are different on each side, mostly because it depends on whether you're on the quarterback's backside or not. If you are on his backside he can't see what you are doing. Some have a feeling for you, but if he can't see you and you cut inside you can lose contain easier. So sometimes you have to go right through them so you can play inside and outside depending on whether the quarterback wants to step up or get out of the pocket. You work that in practice.

And do you have to sort of change up your approach once you get there, trying to knock the ball loose? Definitely. It depends on who you are going against and what the offensive tackles want to do because they come into the game with their game plan as well so it really just depends.

What is your approach when you're facing Oregon or UCLA you're good about not losing your gaps and giving the quarterback space. How is it that you approach that? Most of it is trusting your team mates that they're going to do their job. A lot of times you want to cowboy and do your own thing because you can take the inside and maybe get home.

But you're risking that you're going to be able to do that and you can't loose your teammates so really, that's what it comes down to is everyone doing their job and playing their role and keeping the box to keep the quarterback in there.

I imagine you have gone up against Andrew a lot in practice this year, what are his strengths? Physically as a player turning fat into muscle. You get those guys from high school they have the size and they need to turn it into raw power and I think that's what he has been able to do.

Talking to David the other day he said because he's so tall sometimes he gets a little too upright. Have you seen him getting better in that regard as far as keeping coverage? Definitely he's gotten better with his level and strength while passing it. He's made a lot of improvements.

(No microphone.) He's the head man, he can handle it!

(No microphone.) Yeah, not too bad. It's been exciting, a really good run.

(No microphone.) Yeah, after that story it was like, man! (Chuckles.) He's a celebrity now.

(No microphone.) Oh, yeah?

(No microphone.) I was thinking I need to pass rush and block him later, see what I do.

(No microphone.) I threw discus in high school, I was pretty good at disk, yeah about.

What did you throw? 193 in a meet.

(No microphone.) Yeah, it was awesome.

(No microphone.) I was really doing football and it was a joke and one of my high school coaches said you're not coordinated enough, don't bother coming out to track and I was like, all right, so I went out and brought it.

(No microphone.) No, just discus, really.

(No microphone.) It was more natural for me, the shot put, I couldn't get it. I don't know if I was too long for the ring or what. I couldn't really do it.

(No microphone.) Last night a little bit, but it's just because we had activities and practice all day and I like to watch a decent amount of film at least an hour a night and didn't have any downtime to do anything because by the time you get back to your room you're exhausted or you need to do something, so ...

(No microphone.) No. It's a vacation for the younger guys, like the red shirt guys, they really enjoy it I think. They take it all in.

(No microphone.) Exactly.

(No microphone.) Yeah, last two were here.

(No microphone.) Yeah.

(No microphone.) I know the drill, I'm an "old pro" at this now.

Where are you from? Arizona.

So your family is close? Yeah, they're going to probably all drive out. Got to find tickets for all of them.

(No microphone.) Yeah, casual.

(No microphone.) The 22nd we had practice that morning and then you could go home and had to be back on the 25th. So it was nice to get home for Christmas Eve and stuff.

(No microphone.) Yeah, it was really funny. The way it should be for us.

(No microphone.) Yeah. People last night or I think tonight is the down night.

(No microphone.) Yeah, do a little preparation, maybe.

(No microphone.) Do you go to USC now?

(No microphone.) What year are you?

(No microphone.) Do you know the Orange brothers?

Yeah. They're like my best buds.

(No microphone.) Really?

(No microphone.) He's in water polo? They go in the morning sometimes so I don't know how that will be.

(No microphone.) I mean, that was the goal and expectation for us to go to a BCS Bowl, when Coach Harbaugh recruited us, he said we're going to recruit good guys and work hard and I believed that. I thought we could be as good as this or even better. Every game I look back on I could see where we could have been better, things we could have been better at and we definitely didn't play to our full potential. By no means am I surprised by our success.

How does it feel to win the Pac-12? Yeah, definitely. I haven't been as reflective on it yet as maybe some guys, but there is a lot of talent in college football, those guys are on scholarship, too, they're encouraged to do that and it's definitely tough to win in the Pac 12, teams are getting better and better each year but consistency and hard work and Coach does a good job with us in our off season and we don't accept losing or never get used to it and it's a feeling that burns deep in the pit of our stomachs, so we are definitely committed to winning everything we do.

More fun this year? More.

You know what to look forward to, get to do at all? Absolutely.

Great job this year. Thank you.

Hard work! Yeah. Definitely hard work. Trying to get in all my work this week, practicing and stuff, through all the activities and stuff

It's a nice problem to have. Definitely! (Chuckles.)

Are you excited to be back? I'm extremely excited to be back here at the Rose Bowl. There is no better place to be. Myself and the team included. We couldn't be more excited to be playing in the Rose Bowl again.

Are you having more fun this year or because it was new was it more fun last year? More fun. Last year we were hesitant, we weren't sure what we were doing and this year we're taking it all in and loving every minute of it.

As you look at Michigan State what jumps off the screen? What do you see when you look at them? Connor Cook had a great game in the Big Ten championship team. They're a great team, probably the best we've seen up to now, there is no secret why they made it to the Rose Bowl. But what jumps out is their offensive line, there are some big boys up front and they play a physical style of football and they want to run the ball and pound the rock and I see that line of scrimmage getting moved down the field, sometimes 5 yards down the field and it makes it hard for the running back who is also a phenomenal player and makes plays down field. We will have our work cutout for us.

People don't realize you're a modern day cowboy. How do you play football and steer wrestle? Playing football and steer wrestling, it's a hard nosed job there, you have to look the steer in the eye and wrestle a 600 pound animal to the ground. To get to the quarterback he's a few hundred pounds less but nonetheless. It's been a while since I have steer wrestled, but I will try and do that, utilize it in the pass rushing of the game.

(No microphone.) That's clever, have a little thing like that, brand yourself or whatever.

(No microphone.) For two years. Yeah.

(No microphone.) Yeah, he – I mean, I think it was really the perfect recipe for success, because I think that Coach Harbaugh is exactly what Stanford needed at that time. He was extreme, blue collar, hard worker.

(No microphone.) Exactly. He was pretty entertaining, too. He said some funny stuff. Sometimes he was hilarious.

(No microphone.) Yeah, how long can it keep goin'.

How were you introduced to the game of football? When I was a freshman in high school and I was trying to pick what sport I wanted to do and stick with it as long as I could. I got pulled up to varsity my freshman year and was part of the first state champion team my high school had ever won and since that I loved it and bought into the program and committed to football ever since.

(No microphone.) Pregame traditions? Probably a pregame tradition anymore for me is actually not listening to music and I think everyone on the team listens to music and gets excited and I sit there quietly, the calm before the storm and think about my job and what I'm going to do.

(No microphone.) Yeah, I mean, they're a physical football team up front and they want to move the line of scrimmage. I've been impressed watching film watching how well they can move guys off the line of scrimmage.

Then they mix in some gadget plays and shots down field to keep you honest and get you not playing fundamental football. Their attack is pretty sound.

(No microphone.) I mean, you really have to limit the explosive plays. I think that's where they have been strong. They almost haven't been in too many goal line situations because they have had explosive plays down field. So that's the biggest thing, our safeties playing top down and everyone doing their job, stayin' in their gap and keep 'em from doing that.

Connor Cook, talk about him. He's a good quarterback. I have been surprised and have been impressed with how well he moves around and how often he keeps the ball, more than I thought he did or would and he runs well out of the pocket and makes good decisions. Definitely a good quarterback.

Overall does this team remind you of any team you've faced? Some guys the on the team have been saying Oregon State, for me it reminds me of Wisconsin, which doesn't seem that long ago now, but not too much as far as Pac-12.

USC, Utah, what was the difference in those games? I don't think it was that, I think it was we didn't play our best football and they played better. Those are both good teams and we played on the road and it's tough to get a win on the road and we didn't play our best ball.

What's different? They're a physical team. That's their style and there are not too many teams that take that brand of football, they want to hit you in the mouth and pound the ball. That's what I can see.

You have had a week in between your last game and now. Is it hard not to look into the future and focus on the Rose Bowl? The Pac-12 championship ended and we had a few weeks of preparation and a week of school and other things, school might have been done, but I took a couple of days to think about it and get that out of my system so I knew when I got down here I would focus on the game and not worry about anything else.

How important is your tape? I think it means a lot. I think your tape is your resume and it's definitely a big stage, a lot of people will be watching and how I play and what I put on tape speaks to my play as a football player and how I play in big games.

It will probably definitely have an impact.

What has been your message to the rest of your teammates, about concentrating, not getting caught up in the hoopla? What is your message as the captain? My message is really just to prepare. Prepare as much as or more than you do in a normal week. I think a lot of guys it hits home with them because we have all these activities and different things so it's hard to find time to watch film and do your regular activities but it should be no different than a normal week of preparation and if not more because it's such a big game and we have had a long time to prepare. That's the biggest message.

You were able to get the touring out of the way and the first time distractions, is it nice to know you've been there, done that, and now you know the reward of winning the Rose Bowl so you can focus better? Absolutely, we have been here before, by no means are we not going to enjoy the week but at the same time if you have downtime you feel less inclined to see the beach or go to In N Out, something like that, we've been here, we've seen it, so it's fun to watch film and get that win because this experience isn't going to be as enjoyable if we remember it with a loss at the end so we want to get our work in.

(No microphone.) Who is the big procedure and the little brother? The outside line backers, definitely, I'm the big brother. No question about that. I think inside backer Shayne is the big brother in that room and out of us two we're probably cousins that get together and we're the big brothers of the family.

What has been your favorite activity out here? My favorite activity is probably the improv comedy, those guys were really laughing and you can get your ears knocked back and forget football and I enjoy that experience.

(No microphone.) No, last night was the Beef Bowl and the night before was improv.

How did you do out there? Two plates, tried not to get too carried away, prime rib, I had two, and it's delicious.

(No microphone.) There probably was. There were some guys who need to be gaining weight anyway so that was a perfect event for them. I don't know, I had my money on Josh Garnett but I guess he only ate one or two, so he was not as impressive as I thought, but there were guys that wanted to be ready for practice today so I don't think they got too carried away.

(No microphone.) I mean, I haven't heard yet.

(No microphone.) A lot of teams have either a brand for their spread offense, they want to spread you or they have a running team and they want to pound the rock and that's all they want to do and what's unique is they want to pound the rock and move the line of scrimmage but they like to mix in gadgets and explosive plays so it's an interesting combination of the two and you have to stay honest with it.

Fifth-year senior ILB Shayne Skov

It's only fitting that we start with the defense of Stanford. Shayne Skov, inside linebacker, over here, just a lot to get ready for. Yeah, I think we look forward to the football aspect of things. Obviously, do our part in terms of connecting with the media, but, yeah, we've been putting in some work. So I'm a little bit tired this morning, but ready to go.

Shayne, let me ask you, when you take a look at the offense that Connor Cook and the Michigan State Spartans are going to present here in Pasadena, what jumps out in terms of how you defend them? They definitely define how they run the ball. They've done a great job in limiting turnovers. That puts the job on us to create and generate some turnovers. At the same time, trying to disrupt their flow offensively. So we'll be ready.

Is there a point in the game where you finally get a handle on, quote, unquote, what they're doing? Not necessarily whether you prepared for or didn't prepare for, but you get a sense, all right, this is the way they're going to play this game, and then if that happens and it's not according to plan or what you had game planned, how comfortable is this defense in making adjustments? I think we've kind of faced that all year. Teams tended to break away from their tendencies when they played us. I think that's the style of football that we play. So we've kind of gotten used to it. It usually takes one or two drives to figure out what the game plan is for the opposition, and we adjust from there.

Going into this game, we've analyzed and broken down what they did throughout the season, and obviously, we're going to focus on the little things for us because we can't obviously predict what they're going to do with such a large timetable.

I need a little help. See if you can explain to people who have not been inside the locker room of the Stanford Cardinal football program, define for me the personality of, A, the team, and then if it's a little bit different, B, defense. I think it goes – our team is entirely the same. I think it's high energy. It's incredibly witty, but also very tough. I think that makes for an interesting combination.

I think that we have a very unique locker room at Stanford. We all love it. That's the biggest reason a lot of us came here is the guys in that locker room.

Let me play Joe Pesci for a second. Witty, how? What do you mean funny, how? If you take 100 jocks but also take some of the smartest students in the country and you combine those together, you're going to get an interesting combination of individuals, different personalities.

There's tons of pranks going on, discussions on, I don't know, sometimes politics, maybe current events. So you never – kind of a grab bag of what you're going to get in there. We're always just having a good laugh.

What's the best prank that's been pulled all season? All season? I'm trying to think. You put me on the spot. I can't think of any right now.

So much for being witty. You caught me off guard. Maybe come back before the interviews are done, and I'll have one for you.

[ No microphone ]. I think that, in order to win – I can't speak for our offense. They're their own entity. But defensively, we'll just stick to what we've done all year, that's attack and control the line of scrimmage at the point of attack and limit explosive plays. That's been our mantra since day one.

We have to stick to that plan. I think, when we do that, we're going to be successful.

[ No microphone ]. I think just playing hard. I think we had our ups and downs, but we've got an incredibly tight knit and close team, and as a result, despite – I mean, the two losses we had, we stuck together, and we kept fighting, and we won the games we needed to.

Great offensive control running the ball, and then defensively bringing pressure and attacking opposing offenses.

What have you seen of the Michigan State offense? What have we seen? I think that a team that likes to run the ball and knows how to control the ball and limiting turnovers. I think Connor Cook has done a tremendous job in that regard. And also creates explosive plays with gadgets and play action.

So I think that they're definitely a formidable opponent offensively. I can't speak for the defense, but their offense certainly has done things to win games.

Their running back Jeremy Langford likes to be a closer. What are some things you can do to slow him down so he doesn't come up big in the fourth? I think defensively we pride ourselves on playing four quarters of dominant defense. So it's attacking the line of scrimmage, playing gaps down in the run game, and from there letting guys make plays. I think it's more predicated on us trying to be aggressive and following through the four quarters.

Shayne, how does two teams who are physical like this and both pride themselves on physicality, how important is it to set the tone? And how does the Stanford defense feel about that? If we pride ourselves on being a physical front and being a physical unit, it means everything. I think it's what both teams kind of hang their hat on. And so we have to go out there ready to play and expect them to come out aggressively. They're not going to pull any punches.

That means from the very first snap to the very last one, we have to bring it. There's a mentality that none of us can back down. We'll be ready to play.

Hasn't every team come in against Stanford saying they're going to be just as physical. Has anybody managed to do that this year? I think some people have challenged us in terms of the run game. I think Washington did a good job trying to run the ball. Notre Dame tried. I think certain teams tried because that's their mantra, but at the same time, we're going to make our best effort to stop the run because that what we do and that's what we take pride in.

Michigan State remind you of any pro style teams you played in USC and [ inaudible ]? I think they do things differently in terms of play action game. So like maybe Oregon State of last year. Oregon State kind of threw the ball more this year. No, I don't think we faced an opponent that does the same kind of personnel groups and the way they utilize their players.

When did the face paint start for you? When you think of Stanford football, your face paint kind of seems to be there. When did that start for you, and what does that do for you? I think it started my freshman year. It's something I even did in high school, so it's nothing new. I think it's just the mentality. We all kind of do it differently.

Murph's got his own way of preparing. Gaffe's got his own way of preparing. Everybody on our defense is intense and plays a certain way. That's just the way I take the field.

What have you seen in Connor Cook and the way he extends the play? He's definitely a better athlete than people give him credit for. He's mobile and can throw on the run. At the same time, he's incredibly accurate. So it's a dangerous combination.

When you've proven that you can use your feet, and at the same time, after you've left the pocket you can still accurately deliver the ball, there's something to be said for that.

Does he remind you of any quarterback you've gone up against? I don't want to make any analogies off the top of my head.

Michigan State has broken a lot of big plays, but most commonly, it's the offensive linemen because of their motion, because of their shift. Do you think this is an advantage that you guys are a very veteran, and obviously intellectual unit, maybe they won't get through the defensive line like other teams? I think they're talented and they're smart about what they do offensively. It's going to put pressure on us to come prepared. I think we'll be ready to stand up to that challenge and be able to attack what they do. But at the same time, they present their own challenges and difficulties. So it's upon us to kind of prepare for that and communicate defensively.

[ No microphone ]. I don't think so. I think we were certainly hungry last year when we came here for the first time. The beauty of this team is we're always hungry. This is our fourth BCS game in four years. This team is hungry as ever.

In order to be successful, we've kind of had to acknowledge that and push each other to strive for better and to move forward. I think both teams will be incredibly hungry and highly anticipating this game.

[ No microphone ]. I disagree with that, though, because I think that it takes – I mean, it's not – it's more than just a football game, but it's hard to measure – put a finger on how that impacts a team. Some teams step up in the spotlight and relish and cherish that moment. Other teams get overanxious and too jumpy.

It really depends on the teams, and I can't speculate as to what's going to happen to Michigan State, but I'm sure they'll be ready.

[ No microphone ]. The people. I think that people have come and gone. We've had a lot of turnovers over four years, but what remains the same here is the people. We've got highly motivated and very passionate people about the sport and high character people.

I think that, if anybody has the opportunity to go to work with the caliber of people that I've had the opportunity to play with the past four years, it's something you cherish, and it's something that it motivates you to do better and to improve.

So I think that that's – this is the by product of the type of people our coaches recruit and our university hires.

[ No microphone ]. That's not for me to say. I would return the question. I don't know how many teams have gone to four straight BCS games. So it's not for us to decide. We're just going to keep winning games.

That kind of intrinsic motivation and internal perspective is what we want as players. We just come into every season trying to prove ourselves, and it's about setting the standard for ourselves and kind of living to that standard.

As you get closer to the game and the media grows, how does it change you and the team? I don't think we change at all. Since the season started, we've been really internally motivated, and I think that's what generates our success. We're going to stick to that. Obviously, we know the height and the importance of this game, and we're not going to turn a blind eye to that or try and ignore that, but at the same time, it's about the guys in our locker room.

In football, every game means so much. How big is this one? I mean, it's the end of our season, and this is the last game you remember for the next nine months. So it's incredibly important. And so we acknowledge that. We've had now like moving on four weeks to prepare for the game. So we want to put our best foot forward on the national stage.

All around you, you drive on the buses, go to different events, 100th anniversary, 100th anniversary. There's only one of them. You guys are in it. Perspective? I think for us it's a little difficult to have full perspective on that because our focus is on the game. It sounds cliche to say, but whether it's the 100th or the 99th for us as players, if we want to win, we have to have the entire focus and heart on the game itself.

We're aware it's a momentous occasion, but at the same time, we have to get ready to play because that's what really matters as part of the team.

There's so much media around you. How strange are the questions? Nothing too strange. Over five years, you get a feel for a little bit of it all. We've become accustomed to it.

For you, you say five years. How do you go to that game and say, Okay, last time I'm going to wear this jersey? I think we've got 13 fifth year seniors. It's a really senior laden group. We really take it upon ourselves to leave this place with the right legacy. We want to make sure we leave the right message for guys that come after us.

Hey, you've come through a lot of tunnels in five years of playing football. Have you thought about what it's like coming out through this tunnel New Year's Day? I think so. It's a highly energetic atmosphere, and it's a rare and momentous occasion. So there's some anticipation for that.

[ No microphone ]. I think that we start every single season with – we've got a list of things, objectives we want to achieve, and winning the Pac-12 is the first one. I mean, so getting here, having that opportunity is incredible. I think that it's very rare. We've been able to do it now for the second time in a row. I think it's even more incredible.

So for us, it's a humbling experience, but at the same time, we want to put our best foot forward.

[ No microphone ]. I don't think so. I think that every year the game's different. I said it earlier. You can't really measure how being in your first time really impacts the team, whether it's a positive or negative impact. I think for us, we've got a very responsible, mature group. I think we're just as hungry as we were the year before. We're going to come prepared.

[ No microphone ]. Oh, totally. Nobody ever takes for granted these opportunities. I think that especially – we came here, when we got here, those guys were 1 11. We had some rough years, and then we won the Orange Bowl.

So we've always had that kind of perspective in mind. We recognize and acknowledge this is not a normal occurrence for most teams. To have the opportunity to do it twice is incredible.

[ No microphone ]. I think it will be interesting. I think it gives an opportunity for teams to – there's something to be said for tournament style playoff play.

You can speculate with numbers, who's No. 1, who's No. 2, but actually lining up removes any excuses you can have over who's the champion. So I'm anxious to see it when it happens.

[ No microphone ]. I don't think there's much difference. It was new to us last year, but I think our team's success is largely predicated on guys always being hungry. So I think that obviously we've been here last year, so we kind of have an expectation for what goes on, but at the same time, we're really eager and really excited to play.

[ No microphone ]. I think any time there's something to be said for when somebody provides us a challenge to take ownership of a team. So as he's kind of matured and progressed, the expectations for him have also risen. So it's great seeing him kind of develop a command for that offense.

I mean, he was young. He only had like eight or seven starts last year, and now he's here in his first full season. It's been great seeing him blossom and kind of take control of everything.

[ No microphone ]. He wins games. He does what we ask him to do. When the game plan predicates we need him to air the ball out, he does. Look what he did against Cal. And when he needs to – like, make run plays, he does. I think we do what is asked of him, and his record speaks to that. To a degree, the greatest testament to a quarterback is the win loss record, and his is almost impeccable.

[ No microphone ]. He kills it. I think that he's probably our most – our leading vocalist on this team. We have some other guys that think they can sing, not too well.

It's fun. Any time he takes the stage or grabs the mic, the whole team is into it. So we were roaring for him.

[ No microphone ]. I think probably last year was the best because it was fully impromptu. We didn't know what to expect. He just hopped on stage, and we all went wild. We were definitely having a blast. This time, instead of playing one song, he did three. So he upped the ante this time.

[ No microphone ]. Why I wear my eye black? Not so many random questions so far this year.

Why do you wear the eye black? It's just something I've always done. Nothing really special to that one. I've done it since high school, and that's kind of the way I prepare for games.

[ No microphone ]. I think that being back for a second year, there's nothing really we changed in terms of preparation. Maybe the team is a little bit calmer in a sense, like not relaxed at all by any means, but maybe a little bit sense of calm.

We just know which events are fun and which ones to enjoy, and when we need to relax, it's just a little bit more maturity and understanding as to what goes on during Bowl week here.

[ No microphone ]. I think that their offensive line play has been very good throughout the season. At the same time, I think their team – throughout the season, you kind of see them establishing an identity as a unit. And finally, it kind of hit full stride about the last five games or so, running the ball and then obviously play action passing game down the field.

So I think you can now tell that they're comfortable with who they are and what they do. They've done a great job, and they've won football games by a large margin.

[ No microphone ]. I think you can tell their growth as an offense is largely dependent on him and the confidence he gained as a player. I think that every single week he's improved. He's shown amazing accuracy on the run throwing the ball. So he's definitely running that offense, and between the offensive line and Langford, they have some weapons.

[ No microphone ]. I think that it presents a challenge. We take pride in what we do and the way we play football. So whenever we face an opponent that kind of matches those ideals and that mentality, we acknowledge that it's going to push us and kind of test your character and who we are as a team. So I think we'll be ready to go, and it should be exciting.

[ No microphone ]. I think that, despite all the success, it's always kind of been our goal. We still kind of acknowledge and recognize it as a rarity, that this is not the norm. So because of that, we don't take any opportunity for granted. I think that we cherish every time we're here or every time we have the opportunity to play in the postseason, so to speak.

So obviously, afterward, we'll look back on it all, but in the present, in the immediate, we want to leave this season with the right mark. So all we can do is prepare for this game, and afterwards become nostalgic to think of it all.

[ No microphone ]. Oh, certainly. I think that our senior group kind of takes pride in the fact that we want to make sure we teach the guys behind us what it takes. We don't want to leave this place kind of empty or unaware of the effort and the intensity that it takes to get to where we are.

It's been difficult. It certainly hasn't been easy and takes a lot of hard work. I don't want – maybe the guys that didn't play or weren't actively involved this year to lose on that kind of message and that learning experience.

[ No microphone ]. I think just being pushed to new lengths, new depths. I think that, as a student, kind of making that next jump to the university level and being surrounded by people that are really brilliant in certain ways kind of leaves you in awe.

That's what I'll never forget, just kind of that challenge and having to rise to that challenge and being surrounded with people that made me better and pushed me to new lengths in terms of my intelligence and my academic ability.

[ No microphone ]. I was introduced, I think at the age of 12, I actually learned to play Pop Warner football in Mexico. That's where I started playing. I was really a basketball player before that leading up to it, and I just kind of fell into the game.

Do you have any crazy superstitions? I don't have any superstitions. I usually give a speech to the team before the game. I have a little routine I do, but I get breaks on it. It's nothing special. If I get thrown off that rhythm, it doesn't really matter.

I listen to some music, go catch a ball outside before, and that's about it.

Senior OG David Yankey

When you guys came in did you foresee the success of being in four straight success bowls? No, I'm not going to lie, there aren't many teams in the country who have gone to four straight BCS bowls, so it's an honor and a testament to all the hard work we put in.

Is that something you talked about as a group? We talked about it and after making it to the Orange Bowl we were red shirt freshmen most of us and then going to the Fiesta Bowl it became an expectation where we were working toward that every year.

(No microphone.) We just hung out. My family got in town the day before yesterday so I hung out with them at the hotel and stuff.

(No microphone.) Yeah, it's always a good trip down here. No complaints from me.

(No microphone.) Now you see what I was saying earlier, I'm along for the ride. There aren't usually too many questions for offensive linemen.

Where are you from? Georgia.

(No microphone.) Yep. Those were the big draws. I got on campus and I knew I wanted to go there.

How many cuts did you eat last night? Just one. I was exhausted from last night.

(No microphone.) Yeah? Not me. I was done.

(No microphone.) I have not been able to wear them yet. I really want to. They're floating around here somewhere, I think. Hopefully at some point during the week I will.

(No microphone.) Hey, how's it going?

Everybody talks about defense. How about the fellows up front. Talk about your "O" line. Our offensive line is excited for this game. We have a lot of talented young players and guys who have a lot of experience as well so I think we're going to get a chance to play a lot of guys and go up against a Michigan State front seven.

(No microphone.) I don't know, I just kinda sit up here, not too many people want to interview an offensive linemen, but it's fun.

What is it about offensive linemen? They seem more bonded? Yeah, it's a brotherhood, we have to communicate on the field and end up hanging out off the field as well.

Stanford offensive linemen, seems like you guys are always a step ahead. Is it because of the literal IQ? I think it's a combination of all those things. A lot of times we're in the meeting room and it's almost like a think tank we're brainstorming with Coach Bloomgren how we want to best attack a situation and he gives us leeway and freedom to use whatever technique we feel is best to be successful.

How is it like to play with Kevin Hogan? He's absolutely awesome. I've loved him since day one and last year he stepped in and was just – kind of getting his feet wet, playing really well but he wasn't completely there as far as leadership and in the off season he took it upon his shoulders to be a leader of the offense and the team in general and he's done a great job of growing, and I love the way he plays and the way he commands the huddle.

Speaking of the huddle, last year at the Rose Bowl, what was Kevin like in the huddle calling the plays, what do you expect to see this year now? He's always calm, cold blooded, ready to compete. I think I remember his first ever start at Oregon last year, just no butterflies, really, if he does you can't tell at all. That's the way he's been since day one.

What are the "O" linemen like? Joking, or all business beforehand? On game day it's all business, in practice we can joke around but on game day it's all business.

Everybody wants to talk about skill positions, but what about the guys like you? Do you have a special name? I don't know about a special name but everything starts at the line of scrimmage and starts in the trenches and we take that very seriously.

How difficult is it for an offensive linemen? It's vital to an offense. It's the only way the offense can get started. We talk about getting a play started and getting our assignments handled so that the running back can go and do something special. You get guys like Tyler Gaffney out in space on safeties and some cool things happen.

Are you aware when he goes by you and he's out in space there? A lot of times you can feel it. You feel the defensive linemen or line backers try and react to it, get off the block and a lot of times you will feel him brush by as he's running.

Take me inside. Talk about being in the huddle. They're going to be excited but we're always excited and businesslike once Kevin gets in the huddle. We know he's running it and he's going to get the play in and we will run it.

(No microphone.) Definitely. Sometimes even as simple as the flow of the game. How much you're out there. A game like Oregon we were out there for almost three quarters for time of possession and we got to go out there and keep running plays and you start to feel really smooth out there, you understand how the defense is playing and it's nice to be in the rhythm as an offensive linemen.

(No microphone.) We went last night and it was excellent. I'm not going to lie I only had one, I went really light.

Wait a minute! You're carrying the Stanford offensive linemen and you only ate one? I know, it's embarrassing but it was so filling! They had great sides, creamed corn and mashed potatoes, it was beautiful. I held myself back. I held myself back.

Who was the guy that carried the team last night? We put it on our freshman and charged them with having a competition of who could eat the most and I'm not sure who came out on top but I'm sure all of them were feeling it this morning.

Opinions on the Michigan State Defense ... The Michigan State defense is really aggressive. They're a penetrating defense, they give the offensive line a lot of issues right off the bat.

(No microphone.) Just a lot of preparation, physical practices, because we know they're a physical front and we love physical games and we're ready to go. Just play after play, bash heads a little bit.

How excited are you to be playing a team that kind of matches you guys? I'm excited. Anytime we get to play a team that has a physical mentality, it's always a fun game because you go in play in, play out and really, really test your will against a very good defense, one of the best in the nation. Number one in a lot of categories.

What are some things that stand out? They're physical, they're athletic, they're well coached and they've got a lot of veteran guys. They have fourth and fifth year players and they have sophomores and juniors sprinkled in but they are veterans, too, and they do a good job week in and week out.

(No microphone.) I don't know about the hype but I've seen him on film. He's listed at 250 but he looks bigger and plays bigger.

What about Hoover and Reynolds? Those two guys are the guys I'm primarily looking at and they're both good defensive tackles, probably couple of the better guys I will go against all season. Hoover is huge! Really long, big guy. And then Micajah Reynolds, No. 60, he's playing nose for them and he's really good. I had no idea he played offensive linemen last year, obviously a versatile guy.

Does Michigan State remind you of anyone you played this season? They remind me a lot of our defense but in a completely different scheme, you know? Veteran guys who know what they're doing, really physical and who know how to make plays and they happen to be in a 4 3 instead of a 4 3 4 arrangement or scheme.

Utah and USC, have you guys learned from those games and bounced back? I think we definitely have. We always talk about it doesn't matter what the other team does as long as we're prepared and doing our job. I think those are the bigger issues in those two games as opposed to what kind of style offense or defense we were playing.

What have you seen from that line backing core? They fly around. It goes along with being veteran guys. Like I said earlier, they will literally hold their position and wait. You have no idea it's coming and as soon as the ball is snapped, they are creating havoc.

What does this game mean to you? This is a huge game. Anytime you get to play in the Rose Bowl it's a big honor. It shows that we have worked hard to win the Pac-12 and we want to finish the season right.

How do you get this team "pumped" and not over the top? There is no question about getting up. Everyone knows how good it felt last year and to give up that feeling or to walk away with a loss would be absolutely devastating to us. We're all fighting to get that trophy right there.

(No microphone.) I think that's definitely where it started, the mentality they brought in from 2007 and Coach Shaw has done a great job of not letting that go. That's at the heart of what we do here. We want to be a physical team year in, year out.

When you were in high school and thought about Stanford football, what were your impressions then? I had no impressions of Stanford football back then. I was going to high school in Georgia and, you know, was just beginning to think, all right, there is a chance I will probably play college football because I started getting recruited and didn't hear about Stanford football until junior year, obviously I knew about them as a school because of the academics.

I guess things are different than they used to be at Stanford. How physical is the football really in practice, not just in games? Yeah, in practices, it's just about as physical as ever. I think we're a team that has some of the most physical practices and that's why it translates on game day, it's hard to just teach yourself to suddenly hit on game day, play in and play out. I think practice is a big part of that.

Is there kind of a term for that dichotomy? You guys are tough on the field, I've heard Coach Shaw call it physicality, does he pound that into your heads? No, it's something we talk about "Nerd Nation" type of thinking.

The fact that you guys are playing Michigan State, this is the 100th Rose Bowl. How cool is it just to think about that? It's incredibly cool being here last year thinking, oh, this is the 99th Rose Bowl, wouldn't it be cool if it was the 100th? And low and behold we end up here again and it's the last of the BCS games, there is a special quality to it. Like you said, the Rose Bowl will still go on but it's kind of an end of an era, in some sense and we're excited to be part of that.

Does it lose anything next year, you think. I don't think so, it's the granddaddy of 'em all so they will keep that status.

(No microphone.) I think we need to go out there and be the more physical team and consistently move the ball and keep our defense rested. If our defense is rested they can be really, really good, but if they're on the field for a long time it's tough for any defense to be good.

(No microphone.) Just week in and week out. The Pac-12 is a tough conference. We have legitimate opponents every week and you can't ever let up. It was that determination. We got lucky while Oregon losing to Arizona and getting back to the Pac-12 championship game and we were able to take care of business.

What do you think is responsible for Stanford's football success? I think a lot of guys who want to be really good in the classroom and really good on the football field, you know? Those are the type of guys that Coach Shaw recruits every year. They want guys who are competitive, firey and who are going to try to exceed all the time.

It's been said some places that because of the type of person – there are some people that can't get into Stanford and that might be part of it. How are they able to succeed in football and in the classroom? You are playing guys in the Pac-12 that can't get into Stanford. It's that type of competition, we have to compete in the classroom as well and it's not just being on the football field. We realize it's an investment in your future and getting a Stanford degree is one of the best in the world.

Did you submit to the draft board? Yes.

Do you have a response? No.

They don't give you much time. No, it's pretty tough. I think I'm going to talk with Coach Shaw more after this.

Talk about Trent Murphy. I don't know. He's crafty. He's very crafty on the field.

How is he off the field? It's a combination of both, his personality and – we like to have a lot of fun with Trent.