"I told our players how proud I was of how they battled, how they played, and I apologized to them for how we got our team ready to play. We were obviously not ready to play today.
Give Stanford all the credit in the world. Obviously, tell them they're a championship team. We weren't ready today. Didn't have our team ready, and the first half was obviously embarrassing. Our special teams unbelievable amount of mistakes there. I've got 12 guys on the field on the fourth down at the end. Just inexcusable, and it's my responsibility.
I'll tell you this, our guys showed unbelievable character. Jaelen Strong, Chris Young, our guys, we've got good players. I apologized to the players after the game, because we let them down as a coaching staff. We didn't have them ready, And you have to give them credit too. That staff on the other side is really special. Obviously, they had their team a lot better prepared today than what we did.
But I am proud of our guys. I'm proud of how they battled. I'm embarrassed the mistakes we made as a coaching staff. Those things run acceptable.
We got a punt blocked. We got a New York punt blocked with our quarterback. We've got 12 guys on the field. We've got two kickoffs ran back to midfield. You'll have a hard time winning any games doing that. That's my responsibility, and we didn't have our guys ready to play. We did not come out ready to play. That's about as bad a disaster in the first half as you can possibly have.
But I am proud of how our guys battled and how they came back and how they never quit. They had the fight in them the whole way and they showed great character.
Obviously, you've got to put this one behind you. We've got USC next week, and to win the south, you've got to beat USC. So we've got to regroup, get these mistakes corrected, because you're going to have a hard time winning any games like that. That's, again, I feel like I let our players down and our fans down by not having them prepared."
Q. How do you fix it before the USC game? That's a lot there that you're talking about to fix.
COACH GRAHAM: I think a lot of it ‑‑ having 12 guys on the field, I can guarantee you that's going to be fixed. That's unbelievable that that happens. Obviously, that's my responsibility, but that's just first time in my career that's happened in a situation like that.
These special teams issues have been issues for a couple weeks now, and we've got to go to work to get those things corrected. The punt game has been an issue. Our kickoff cover team has been really good, and we gave up two big ones to midfield. We started off the first half, I think they had the ball on the 50 and on the 20 on the 40. I mean, you just can't play a team like that. Then we had critical errors. We did have critical errors where they came out and hit us on three play action passes that just we didn't play them.
We had great players on those plays. It was disappointing. But I am proud of our team. I'm proud of how they played. They deserve better, and we need to do a better job to prepare them to play.
Q. What adjustments did you make at halftime? The team played better in the second half?
COACH GRAHAM: We really came out very flat. I think what started a lot of that was we go out and they get the ball to the 50 and we hold them, okay? Then they drive down there and it's 3rd and 10, and we give up the screen on 3rd and 10 which we knew exactly what they were going to run, and they score on it. So I think field position was huge in the first quarter there. The ball got rolling against us, and it kind of snowballed.
To come in at halftime, you're going to find out about what you're made of. We ain't playing for pride, we're playing to go win. Just keep chipping away at this thing, keep chipping away. Got an on‑side kick there. On that we had a current player. The guy is supposed to be blocking the guy that caught the ball, and he didn't do it. So we didn't have our guys prepared. We stepped up at a championship level team today, a team that's a Rose Bowl champion, and we obviously didn't meet that challenge as a coaching staff and as a team.
Q. What happened on the punt block with Taylor? What happened on that play?
COACH GRAHAM: We had a three‑man pass rush. Looked like they just let them run straight through there. That's one of the things we've used a lot that's been very effective for us. Just about everything you could have happen, happened in that game. You know what, when those things ‑‑ all the things that happened, the first thing that has to do with is Stanford. They've got a good football team and they showed it tonight.
Q. What happened to Jaxon Hood, and how much did that set you back?
COACH GRAHAM: It did set us back quite a bit. I did think Mo came in late in the second half and really played well. We've got to get him in shape. Jake Sheffield did a good job of filling in. But he tweaked his hamstring, and I don't know anymore than that right now.
I felt like we had really held up well on the run stuff. It was the play action passes. We were blowing coverages that we've worked on the whole time. But I think our guys were very rattled and they did some things that we had not worked on. And you're going to have people that do that, and they hit us on some things.
But, you know, our guys played hard. I mean, they played very physical, very hard up front. We just didn't play very good. We had some breaks in the secondary and things like that that hurt us. But they made plays.
Q. You talked about preparation. Are you talking about X's and O's or mental preparation for your players or is it a little bit of both?
COACH GRAHAM: I don't know. I felt like we had a good week of practice. We had a great week of practice. But I never feel ‑‑ you never can get a gauge from that. I thought we were very, very well‑prepared, and we weren't. We came out very, very flat. But what happens to you, some little bitty things like you kick the ball off. They run it back to the 50, and then you're behind the whole time.
We couldn't get much going offensively. Their defense, you've got to give them credit. I don't know how many times they sacked our quarterback, but they hit him almost every play. We did not protect our quarterback.
I'm not just talking about defense, but I'm talking protecting our quarterback. We didn't do a very good job. It took us a while to getting about. But once we did, the character that Taylor showed and Jaelen. But we had some drops. We had a critical fourth down drop. That could have been another seven points on that drive right there and we got the turnover. Proud of how our guys came back in the second half. Get a turnover, get a turnover. Thought we had another one and got it reversed.
But you just can't come out and have a quarter like that and a half like that. I can't make any excuses. We didn't have our guys ready to play, and we played a championship‑level team and got blown off the field in the first half, and we had some inexcusable mistakes, and that's my fault. You can't have 12 guys on the field like that. That's unbelievable.
We have people who are supposed to be calling in, and we do. We run quite a few different groupings. But we'd been running that grouping all night long. So that was very disappointing.
I apologized to the kids and told them we did a poor job of preparing them. It's our job to teach them and prepare them. It's one game. It's not a season. We have the Pac‑12 South next week. It's embarrassing. I obviously, you know, to our fans that showed up here, I'm very sorry that they had to see a team that wasn't prepared like that. We'll do better.
Q. What are teams doing to keep you guys out of the back field, harassing the quarterback?
COACH GRAHAM: It's just the type of teams we're playing. We're in the back field. We're just running. They might have thrown the ball 14 times, 12, 14 times. It's power running. There are four solid three tight ends on the side. But our guys got in the back field and did some things. We did a lot of complex things audible‑wise that worked great. I think we had a lot of great stuff tonight.
Chris Young I thought played incredible. I thought Will was solid inside. I thought Mo did some good things. We were just inconsistent and we just gave up big plays. Gave up big plays in the play action game.
"If we had just came out in the first half with the same intensity we came out in the second half, it would have been a different ballgame from the beginning. We didn't execute our plays. We had a lot of critical errors on both sides of the ball. We had a lot of things on special teams.
The upside of this is they're in the Pac‑12, and we'll see them again at the end of the year. We'll be working as hard as ever."
Q. You're sure you're going to see them again?
JAELEN STRONG: Yes, we will see them again.
Q. Your night, you looked like you were in a zone out there. Just talk about you and what you were able to accomplish?
JAELEN STRONG: I had a lot of plays I should have made as well. I could have had probably more yards, and I could have probably helped my team out a lot more than I did. At the end of the day, I'm just thinking about the loss. But I tried and I did everything I could do.
Q. How do you bounce back from USC? It's a quick turnaround and in your division. It's a huge game at home?
JAELEN STRONG: We're already off this game. We're already on USC right now. Like I said, we'll see them again, so it's not really ‑‑ this is upsetting, but at the same time we're already on to the next week and game planning for USC. That is the south game, and that's more important. You can't win the Pac‑12 South without beating USC, so we have to beat USC.
Q. What can you say about what happened here tonight?
TAYLOR KELLY: Stanford's a great football team. They're well‑disciplined, and we couldn't get things going in the first half. Penalties, dropped balls, missed reads, my turnover was huge. We've just got to bounce back. We've got SC and then the South. That's one of our biggest game this is season to play SC. Hopefully, we'll see them again in the Pac‑12 Championship.
Q. What happened on that play that was intercepted?
TAYLOR KELLY: I was trying to throw it away. I just couldn't get enough on it, and I should have just put it down at the feet of the running back.
Q. What was the message Coach had for you guys afterwards?
TAYLOR KELLY: He's proud of how we worked and how we fought back from adversity. Gave a lot of credit to Stanford and how well they're coached. They've got a great football team, great program. They've got good things going for them right now.
Q. Why do you think there was such a contrast between the first half and the second? It looked like almost two different teams for you guys.
TAYLOR KELLY: We just had to get first downs. That was the big thing. We just couldn't get things moving. Once we started getting a little tempo going and finishing drives, we had that second score, and guys just kept getting that momentum and kept feeding off each other.
Q. It seemed like you guys couldn't get the running game going. How much is that hurt you now?
TAYLOR KELLY: It's hurting us a little bit, but we've got great wide receivers on the outside. They've got to pick their poison what they want to stop. And Jaelen is one of the dynamic receivers and he's proven himself. Same thing with Chris Coyle and Marion and D.J., we've got to keep giving them the rock. They keep stacking the box on us, so they have to pick their poison.
Q. What was it with you and Jaelen tonight? You really had something working.
TAYLOR KELLY: He's very ball friendly. He knows how to give me and save me room on the sideline. We work after practice every day just on fades and curls. Just timing routes. So he's going to be something special.
Q. How encouraged were you by this game for you guys even though you guys came back to get the win?
TAYLOR KELLY: I'm very proud of my guys. They fought back being down 39‑7 or something like that. That's one of the big adversities and how our team handles it. We fought back, and got the momentum going in the second half. I'm proud of my defense and offensive line. We've just got to get ready to work and get ready for SC.
Q. I know you guys put a lot on this game. It's kind of the first big game. It's a letdown, but you don't really have time to sulk or anything. How do you put this behind you and move on?
TAYLOR KELLY: We've got to move on to SC. They're behind us. They're in the North. So it doesn't affect us too much. But it's Pac‑12 play. We've got SC and they're in the South. So that's the big game further. We've got to focus on that.
Q. How physical were they up front?
TAYLOR KELLY: They were very physical. They got a great front seven. Their D‑line is fast and big, and we had some problems with it, but we've got to ‑‑ they've got a great football team.
Q. Are they doing anything different tonight?
TAYLOR KELLY: They were doing some good things with their twists up front, and just kind of bringing the pressure a little bit. But they're just well‑coached.
Q. The response in the second half, does that give you guys anything moving forward versus had you just kind of maybe collapsed in the second half?
TAYLOR KELLY: It does. It's how our team is. Once the fourth quarter is ours, so we've got to fight back. Our team ‑‑ I didn't ever think that we were going to not get going eventually. Our team fights through everything. That's something different than last year. We've just got to keep going and move on to SC.
Q. What happened on the punt you had blocked there?
TAYLOR KELLY: I just put it too low. Just kind of low. They kind of got back. It was my fault. It was a bad punt