- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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After missing six games with a knee injury, Stanford defense end Henry Anderson was back on the field for the Cardinal’s big win over Oregon. He took a few minutes to talk with the Pac-12 blog about being back on the field, his plans for next year and the growth of the Cardinal program since he’s been there.
How good did it feel just to be back on the field regardless of who the opponent was or the magnitude of the game?
Henry Anderson: Yeah, it felt good. Watching our games the last few weeks has been tough because we’ve been battling through a lot of injuries. We weren’t able to get our normal rotation going where they could come off and catch their breath and go back in fresh and ready to go. It was good to be out there, especially with Ben (Gardner) going down so I could provide some reinforcements for our guys.
Coach David Shaw had expressed some concern about your conditioning level. It probably made it easier that Oregon only had seven offensive possessions.
HA: Yeah. That was nice. I think it was less than 20 minutes in time of possession. It was definitely nice. But they fit quite a bit of plays into their possessions. There were still some points in that game where I got tired. Anyone would get tired playing against that offense because they go warp speed. But I’ve been working hard on my cardio and trying to get my stamina back during rehab. But Oregon can wear anybody out.
You guys are a veteran team. You’ve been through the big wins and the tough losses. How do you not come into this week too high after what happened against Oregon?
HA: Some people say after last year’s USC win we went into Washington still thinking about the USC victory. This year we’re completely focused on USC. This team has been playing really well. They’ve got a bunch of playmakers on offense. It’s a really good defense. We know we need to have a good week of practice and be prepared to fight pretty hard to earn a victory. All of our focus is on USC. We’re not thinking about postseason implications or anything like that.
The last three games with USC have been decided by a touchdown or less. You guys have a ton of experience in close games. How much of an advantage is that?
HA: Playing those games helps because we know what it feels like when things are close. You know that feeling that every play could be win or lose. That definitely helps. We’ve had a few games, like last week, where a team gets back in it. But we know how to keep our composure. Kevin (Hogan) has always been real composed on offense. We know we can win games even when things aren’t going our way.
Do you feel like there are some parallels between this year and last year? You mentioned the Washington loss and the Notre Dame loss. A lot of people counted you out and you came back and beat Oregon and went on to win the conference. Same thing this year. You dropped the Utah game and then came back and beat Oregon and put yourselves in position to make another run at the league title.
HA: I think so. The Utah loss feels a lot like the Washington game did last year -- a game we feel like we should have won and ended up losing it. I think there are some parallels. Hopefully we can make another trip down to Pasadena. We’ll see.
I remember your debut against San Jose State -- recovering a fumble and stumbling 37 yards before being brought down at the 1-yard line. Can you reflect on the growth of the program from then until now?
HA: (a good 10 seconds of laughing) We’ve become a lot more confident. We’ve gained confidence, especially defensively. We have the mentality that we are the best defense in the country and we can beat and dominate whoever we go up against. That first few years we were building the foundation of our defense. That foundation has been laid and we’ve got the mentality that whether it’s Oregon or USC, we can beat those guys and shut them down.
You have one year left if you choose to take it. How much will the injury play a factor in your decision to come back or leave early?
HA: For a while now I’ve been thinking that I’d be here for five years. If I’ve got an extra year of free education at Stanford I might as well take it. Some people have been saying that I could get drafted. To be honest, I haven’t thought about it too much. I talked briefly with my parents. But after the season I’ll see how things play out. I wanted to have another good year. But unfortunately I did get injured and miss six games. I don’t know how that will effect what the NFL thinks of me. But I’ll just wait until the end of the year and see where I stand.