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November 4, 2013As far as fumble recoveries go, Khalil Wilkes' snag of a loose ball on the Autzen Stadium turf in overtime of Stanford's 17-14 win over Oregon was one of the more memorable in Stanford football history. The recovery allowed Stanford to retain possession and set up Jordan Williamson's game-winning 37-yard field goal two plays later.
A little less than a calendar year later, Wilkes and Stanford will face Oregon in one of the most hyped games of the college football season. Wilkes spoke with Cardinal Sports Report after Monday's practice as Stanford prepares for its Thursday night showdown against the Ducks.
Cardinal Sports Report: What are your strongest memories from the Oregon game last year?
Khalil Wilkes: The win. Williamson kicking it through the uprights. It was such a physical and hard-fought game on both sides. Their defense really came out to play. To tell you the truth the thing I mainly remember from that game is how many mistakes we had. We had a lot of mistakes on offense. Our defense played absolutely unbelievably and we understand as an offense we have to play better and limit some of those turnovers that we had from the last game.
CSR: Oregon's defensive front lost two guys to the NFL with Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan, along with Michael Clay, yet is still playing at a pretty high level. Have you noticed any change in the way their front-seven is playing on defense from this year to last?
KW: Well, they lost some guys but they also kept a lot of key guys for them. No. 66 Taylor Hart has played for them for a few years. Last year their defensive line was very banged up. Their nose guard was out, Hart had an injury and Dion Jordan was hurt too. These guys are all healthy and like our coach said, this is probably the best d-line that we've faced this year. And we're up to the challenge. Their linebackers are playing really well. They're very athletic guys and on the outside they have very athletic guys. But the main thing is for us to strain through blocks against the d-line.
CSR: From day one when he returned to spring practice to now, has there been anything with Tyler Gaffney that you've noticed in terms of the rust falling off? Have there been one or two areas where you've seen improvement or was it really essentially the same from day one to now?
KW: Since he came back I've been so surprised at how fast he was able to come back. The guy didn't play one touch of football playing baseball a whole year and then came back playing the level that he's played, competing against a bunch of other great running backs in Remound and Wilkerson and the list just goes on. I'm really proud of him and what he's been able to do this year. And you just look at the stats, he's been able to get over 100 yards (in a number of games) and I think he probably leads the nation in least amount of negative yardage. He's just a great back for us. He makes sure that he gets those yards and he can break one if we let him.
CSR: Aside from making the calls, from a physical blocking perspective, what is the difference playing center compared to guard?
KW: Center is snapping the ball and hurry up and get your hands on a guy. It's very tough to snap the ball and be able to get that movement. At guard a lot of times especially playing against these 3-4 teams such as Oregon you don't really have a guy on your nose. But in the Pac-12 with a lot of these teams having somebody at least touching the center you have to be very quick off the ball. Outside of the physical part, the mental part is a huge aspect also.
CSR: Aside from Peat and Garnett and Murphy who have played a fairly significant amount this season, are there any of the younger offensive linemen who you think have really come on this year?
KW: Yeah, I think a lot of the guys have done really great. Johnny Caspers had an unbelievable first spring. And Josh Garnett and all those guys continue to just get better and better. We have guys like Nick Davidson that's also getting better as a young guy, and you also can't forget guys like Brendon Austin. He's been a lot better over the past few years, improving, improving, improving. I'm really proud of those guys and how they've been able to play.