Stepfan Taylor seemed to play beyond himself in Stanford’s 21-14 upset of USC on Saturday.
The book on Taylor is that while he is a hard-nosed, low-to-the-ground runner with good vision and excellent balance, he’s not really a threat to run by too many defenses. Yet there he was ripping off a 59-yard, first-quarter touchdown run against the Trojans thanks to a nifty series of moves followed by some surprising speed to get to the end zone. It was probably the best run of Taylor’s career and a harbinger of the game that he and the Cardinal were about to have.
The senior from Mansfield, Texas, rushed for 153 yards on 27 carries and caught five passes for 60 yards (including a 23-yard, third-quarter catch to tie the game) as Stanford beat USC for the fourth straight time.
For his efforts, Taylor is our Heisman Player of the Week for Week 3.
If Taylor can build upon this performance in the games ahead and help keep Stanford in the mix for the Pac-12 title, he’ll be sure to move up in the Heisman race. Remember: A Stanford player has made it to New York as a Heisman finalist each of the past three seasons. Taylor has a chance to make it four in a row, which is something no school has done since the Heisman Trust began inviting finalists to the ceremony in 1981.
Check out my Q & A with Taylor after the jump…
Congrats on your big win on Saturday. So what’s the buzz been like on campus since then?
Thank you. It’s not really different. We still don’t have anyone on campus yet since school hasn’t started. It was an excited feeling in the locker room after but it’s over now. We watched film of the game yesterday and broke down and corrected our mistakes. Now our focus is on Washington so we have a mature enough team to understand that that game is over.
You and your team came out and just took over the game against the Trojans. Did that surprise you?
It didn’t surprise me at all. If you play as a team, the team wins. Everyone was doing their job. Even after watching film I feel like we made a lot of mistakes out there, especially myself. We left a lot on the field. It wasn’t surprising for any of us. We feel that if we trust in each other and trust in the scheme we can be successful against any team.
Your 59-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was pretty impressive. Tell me about it.
It was blocked up front well. Cameron Fleming made a great back block and I just cut inside of him and Drew Terrellmade another key block downfield and after that it was just running to go score, not too much thinking.
Have you been getting a lot of media attention since the game?
It’s about the same. I try not to look at things like that online. You’ve got to stay level- headed. That game is over. It’s what you do in the next game that matters. You’ve got to be mature about it. I’ve got great teammates, we’re all mature about it. I think everyone is handling it well. Nowadays it’s hard not to see stuff with social media. People just send it to you and put it in your face. I know about it, but try not to look for it. I can only control what I can control and not think about it.
There’s a lot of depth in the Stanford backfield but you’ve dominated the carries so far. Was that the plan heading into the season?
I think they have a plan for me as the season goes on for maybe more carries. I told them that I am willing and able to have as many carries as they feel I need. In high school I was getting 44 carries sometimes. I’m a competitor and of course you’re going to want the ball as competitor. So, I’ve let them know that and I’m just going out there and playing my role. The more carries come, the more carries come.
What did you do in the offseason to prepare you for this expanded role?
I needed to get more flexible. The more flexible I got, the stronger, more faster, more balanced and more quicker I got. I put on some more pounds, the pounds I used to have that I kind of lost when I got out here. I wanted to get back up to 215 and be able to hold that weight. The main thing was getting more flexible because that leads to being stronger and faster.
So what did you do to become more flexible?
We were out here as a team doing workouts. But I had yoga classes and I either did it in my room or on Youtube. I was stretching as much as possible.
What’s your favorite yoga pose?
Probably when you’re done at the end, just laying there on your back and relaxing, because all the rest of it is kind of hard.
What would your friends back in Texas think of your transformation into a Bay Area yoga practicioner?
They really can’t say anything because me and my friends did it in high school before I came out here!
What do you have to do to win the Heisman?
I need attention to detail. I need to pursue 100 percent execution and focus on the game plan and the scheme. I need to trust in my teammates’ blocks and go out there and make great plays when they present themselves. I think we’ll be fine with that.
Stanford is one of only four schools–Miami, BYU and Florida being the others — to send Heisman finalist to New York in three consecutive seasons since the Heisman Trust invited finalists beginning in 1981. You were around for Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck. Has Stanford developed its own Heisman culture and level of expectations about the award?
Some would think that. Me and Ronnie [assistant coach Ron Crook], we always talk: Let’s go get it, or whatever. Being in college, you’ve got to want those things, but you’ve got to know how to get there. You don’t want to go and just pad your stats for your own well-being. You want to get to places the right way and I think if you do things the right way to the best of your abilities, success will come afterward.
You’re tied for fifth in the latest Heismanpundit/CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll. What do you think of being in the Heisman conversation?
It’s an honor, especially with all the great players out there. I owe it all to my teammates. Our offense is totally based on everyone doing their job and executing it, so if one person messes up, the play can go wrong. We have a collective effort out there, so a lot of credit goes to my teammates as well.
What running backs are you watching, trying to learn from these days?
I haven’t seen too many NFL games this year, but I like the way Frank Gore runs, especially since San Francisco runs the same offense as us. He’s a hard-nosed runner. I like that.
Maybe you’ll be reunited with Jim Harbaugh next season…
If it happens, it happens. It would be great.