Harrison, Hooper Big Game Post-Game

We have talked all year about the youth on Stanford's defense, but two seniors led and held the group together, finally finding success the last half of the season. We talked with free safety Brandon Harrison and strong safety Trevor Hooper one final time Saturday after Big Game about the pride in the defense, the future of the defense, their emotions, Walt Harris and more.

Senior free safety/cornerback Brandon Harrison

Walt Harris says that he has a meeting Monday morning with Bob Bowlsby.  Do you think that Harris should be back coaching this team next season?

"I think that Coach Harris is a very good coach.  It's kind of a shame that we haven't played well enough at times, on all sides of the ball, to really do justice to the coaching staff.  I think that he's a good coach, and I don't think that he's deserving of some of the blame that he has getting this year."

If you had another year of eligibility, would you tell Bob Bowlsby that you would want to play next year for Walt Harris?

"I absolutely do not want to change anything about this team.  We have a good core group of young guys, and I think that if I was coming back...  With this team, we can win.  That includes the staff.  That includes the players that are here.  It's not so much on the coaches, like people want to make it sometimes."

Is the program in better shape than when you arrived?

"I think we've had a rough couple years since I've been here.  I think the belief in the team amongst the team is probably at a higher level than when I got here.  We had kind of a tough situation with the coaching change when I got here, but what I think Coach Harris has done is instill a belief in the program and a belief in ourselves that doesn't necessarily show up in the win column this year.  But I think he's done a good job developing the belief amongst the players."

What was the emotion like for you, walking off the field and knowing this is the way you go out?

"It's been pretty tough for me all week, just knowing that this is my last game and all that kind of stuff.  During the game, it wasn't too bad.  Toward the end of the game, I realized that I probably wasn't going to play anymore.  It still wasn't too bad until it was over and we lost the game; then I felt like I maybe let some guys down by not being able to play.  That's what really made it tough.  Win or lose, walking off the field proud of how we played - I could have done that without too much problem.  I think it was just tough for me, not being out there too much in the second half and really wanting to help.  I think I could have helped in some situations.  It made it tough for me to end my career like that."

We saw you running on the sideline coming out of halftime.  What happened to you today and when did it happen?

"Sometime late in the second quarter - maybe six minutes left - they ran a little reverse play or whatever.  I was tackled by #11 along the sideline.  I took a funny and pulled my hamstring a little bit.  I got it worked on at halftime, rode the bike for a while and played a little bit for the first couple series.  I just couldn't go.  I felt like I was going to hurt the team if I stayed in."

This was obviously your last game, but what did you see out of some of the younger guys that leads you to think that next year might be a more improved squad?

"Unfortunately for some of those young guys, they got tossed into the fire a little bit this year, maybe a little earlier than they should have.  But I think what it's going to do is make them a lot mentally tougher than they would have been otherwise.  We have some guys who are redshirt freshmen, true freshmen and sophomores who really are going to be good football players, and having that experience this year I think will help them become that player sooner.  Bo McNally, Richard Sherman - these guys are going to be key to Stanford's success the next 2-3 three years.  I think that maybe we've developed them a little quicker, so that they can be ready to go next year a little bit better."

Brandon, any regret that you cannot be here in 2007?  Maybe if you had redshirt that first year here...

"That's a long time ago.  I don't really think about that too much.  There is no telling how different things might be if I had redshirted, for the good or the bad.  Who knows?  I don't really think about that too much.  I just wish I had 10 more years here because I'm not ready to leave.  I really wish I could be part of the team meetings tomorrow and that kind of thing.  It's just a tough situation leaving like this."

Fifth-year senior strong safety Trevor Hooper

As a senior are you disappointed that you lost but proud of the way that you guys came out today?

"Yeah, I really am.  This season has obviously been tough on everybody.  To be a 1-10 team entering this game as 30-point underdogs, which is such a slap in the face, in a rivalry game in the Big Game - the guys just stayed on the path the last two weeks of practice.  We came out here and said, 'Don't give them an inch, and let's execute.'  I really felt in my heart that the guys were out there doing that.  I am very proud of this football team.  Very proud of them."

The offensive guys have said they felt like in the second half there were some missed opportunities.  Did you guys feel like you had your missed opportunities in the second half?

"Yeah, we let up a couple big pass plays in the second half.  I think there were a few third downs - I have to go back and watch the tape.  There are always going to be plays you had hoped you had made or regrets of things here and there.  There were a few missed opportunities because if we had made those opportunities, we would have come out victorious?"

Trevor, what direction is this defense now headed, having success at the end of this season but losing you, Brandon and Michael Okwo?

"You know, talent-wise I think that this team is very much headed in the right direction.  Brandon and I and Michael, and the rest of the seniors, I think that we did a good job of leadership on the defense, but I know that our front is basically all coming back.  They're really the reason we had success today and the last few games because they've been doing a great job against the run and really stepping up.  And those guys are young.  This defense is going to be a force definitely.  I'm happy to be a part of that and kind of help groom that along.  I'll be glad to watch that blossom."

How about the overall program?  What hands would you say it is in if Walt Harris comes back?

"I think the program is in great shape.  I think that we've done a lot this season to improve ourselves as football players.  In off-season, we improved ourselves as football players.  But it hasn't been seen in wins and losses.  I think Coach Harris has implemented a great program, and this is going in the right direction.  With positivity around it, we're going to be okay."

Is your vote to Bob Bowlsby, if he asks, that Walt Harris should be back in 2007?

"Yeah, I think that some continuity needs to be maintained.  If seen really two coaching changes since I've been here, and that's tough on everybody.  Whatever decision is made, I obviously have no idea what's going to happen.  But I have really enjoyed Coach Harris and his program.  I think that they're headed in the right direction."

What do you see in him or his program that people on the outside maybe cannot see past the 1-11 record?

"That is the only thing that people see - the record.  But he's done a really great job.  First of all, I can't speak too much offensively; he's our offensive coordinator.  I think just from going against him in camp, he has a very good system.  Speaking with our defensive coaches, they really respect what he does, his playcalling and his knowledge of the game.  I really admire that and his offensive mindset.  That's a great thing that he has brought to the program.  I also believe that he has brought in toughness, and he has preached the things that transcend all of football, as far as finishing games and execution.  He's preaching the things that are going to make us successful.  He has really formed a strong program, and I've been happy to be a part of it."


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