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November 5, 2006

Sunday Conversation with Bobby Bowden

Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden spoke with the media on Sunday morning following his team's 33-0 victory over Virginia. Here is a transcript of that conversation:

Q: You've said all along that you think the talent is there and that you are really close. Does yesterday give you a glimpse of what you've been seeing?

A:
Yeah. Instead of them getting all the turnovers, we got all the turnovers. Our kicking game won yesterday. We blocked a punt. They didn't block anything. They didn't return anything. We didn't have any turnovers in the kicking game. We won the kicking game and got some turnovers. At Maryland, we didn't get any turnovers and they won the kicking game. So you're that close. There have been times in the past - not lately - where we won all that and still lost the game because we weren't good enough back in the old days. But now we're good enough to win. If y'all make mistakes and we don't then we'll probably win. That's all we harped on last week was turnovers. We said you can do anything you want, but we're going to win if you don't turn it over.

Q: Do you remember one of your teams going this late into the season without a turnover-free game? It's the ninth game of the season before you had a game where you didn't turn the ball over at least once.

A:
That's all it takes in a close game. When they play the Super Bowl, it's all about turnovers and nothing else. They are so good that whoever turns it over is probably going to lose. I preached that to our boys a lot. But you have to make it happen.

Q: Did you watch the Wake Forest game?

A:
I saw most of it.

Q: How surprised are you that Wake Forest is in this position right now?

A:
Naturally, the name is the surprise because you don't expect them to be up there. Now I haven't studied them that much, but you can take Vanderbilt and you can take Wake and you can take schools with less resources than Oklahoma and Texas and us and Miami and Florida. They can bring a freshman class in, if they wanted to do it, and redshirt 'em. Then the next year, play them and get whipped. And then play them again the next year. By the fourth year, they are going to be pretty doggone good. Just maturity. They've gotten them stronger. Playing together. Things like that. I have a feeling this is one of those cases. I haven't studied their personnel, but going into the season it seemed like they had more guys coming back than anybody in the conference. How many of those guys are seniors? I don't know.

You can have talent, but it can be immature. We've got a lot of talent. These young guys are going to be good. But they are learning to play. They play great and then they will make a mistake that in a close game will cost you.

Q: Is that the only way for a team like Wake to close the gap? To put together a team that challenges once every four or five years?

A:
I think that's the way he's chosen to go. I understand that he redshirts all of his freshmen. I'm amazed he can do that, because most of us can't afford to. What would we do this year if we couldn't play all the freshmen? With all the injuries we've had, what could we do?

Q: You mentioned several times how much you respect Jim Grobe as a coach. What sticks out about him?

A:
No. 1, if you go to the University of Ohio and win all your games that's pretty good. Nobody was doing that and he goes in there and wins all his games. Then he leaves and it goes back down. Then you play against him. You see how hard he is to defense. And you see how hard he plays defense. You say that guy really does a good job.

Q: You mentioned on your conference call last week that the kind of redshirting he does is something you could never do here because of the nature of the athletes you have.

A:
That's true. Florida is a great example. You've got the state of Florida and you can say the same thing about Texas. You can say the same thing about California and you can probably say the same thing about Georgia. I think California, Texas, Florida and Georgia are probably your leading producers of college football talent. So there are a lot of players down here who are going to get scholarships, probably 150 a year in [Division] I-A. Let's say here in Florida you've got 20 outstanding receivers, which you probably have. Take us next year - we're going to lose Chris Davis and [Robert] Hallback, who was a walk-on. So we'll probably try to bring in two wide receivers or we may try to bring in three. Florida, I don't know how many they lose but I know they lose at least one or two. So they may try to bring in two or three. Miami, how many do they lose? They might lose one. So now if we brought in two and Florida brought in two and Miami brought in two then that's six and there are 14 others who are pretty doggone good. Where do they go? They go to Ohio State or Notre Dame or Texas or so-and-so. They might end up better than what you took. You made a choice. You'd love to have all of them but you can't do that.

So, now, they don't want to redshirt. Some of those guys you say, 'Son, you come to our school and I'm going to redshirt you your first year. I'm going to hold you out.' They say, 'I can start up yonder. I'm going to go over there.' So with a lot of our guys, if I tell them they are going to play then I've got to play them. And then with their talent they probably aren't going to be here but three years anyway. Now, you get a guy like Ernie Sims. Are you going to redshirt him? You tell him, because I'm not going to tell him. [Bowden laughs.] And you say would you ever redshirt him? Yeah, if he gets hurt. You can say the same thing about Texas and Georgia and Notre Dame and the schools that have been at the top.

Q: Do schools like Wake Forest have to be more thorough in recruiting? Do they have to find diamonds in the rough?

A:
That's probably where they are sharper than anybody else. I'll never forget when I first came to Florida State back in '76. When we first got here, we couldn't get the great athletes to visit Florida State. Visit Florida State? No, I'm going to visit Georgia. I'm going to Alabama. I'm going to so-and-so. We had a hard time getting them to visit our school. I was mentioning that to Bill Yeoman, who was the head coach at Houston. I said, 'You're fighting Texas. How do you get those kids that Texas wants?' Because Houston had just gotten into the conference out there and had won it a couple of times which was unheard of. He said, 'We try to get guys who want to go to Houston. We try to get guys who want to play for Houston.' And there's something to that. You get a loyal kid who will fight and all that. He loves Houston. And that's maybe better than bringing in a star that comes there and says, 'What are y'all going to do for me? Look how lucky y'all are to have me.' They must do a great job of getting kids who want to go to Wake Forest and they can see the potential.

The other thing you have to remember when you are signing 17 year olds, they aren't through growing yet so it's a guessing game. This kid over here is 6-foot tall and when he's done growing he might be 6-foot-3. I always think of Wadsworth, who came here and walked on at Florida State. He was probably 6-2 and 218 or something like that. He left here 6-5 and 285 and ran a 4.6 40 and got drafted in the first round.

Q: Do you have any concerns that your kids don't realize that even though Wake Forest doesn't have the name recognition that they are pretty good?

A:
I think we've played against them enough to know that. There hasn't been a year we played them where it wasn't a battle. We went up there four years ago and got behind 14-0 in the first quarter. I don't know how we came back and won that one but we did. Then last year we were up on them by about 10 and then they came back and might have even been ahead of us. They ran that darn reverse for a touchdown. I think our kids know that. Then with our record we sure can't afford to think we're something.

Q: A few weeks ago before the Boston College game, Tom O'Brien wouldn't say whether or not his starting quarterback was healthy enough to play against you. Do you want to be at the point where you keep things a mystery all week long about who you are starting at quarterback?

A:
I don't usually play that game. Some coaches don't want you to know because they think you will prepare wrong. I've always felt like my boy needed to know. I haven't always done that because sometimes I wasn't even sure, you know? But if I do know, I feel like my guy needs to know. I want him to know, 'Hey, son, you've got the ball this week.' And I want my team to know. This is the guy we've got to do it with. Then sometimes, I might want the other coach to know because their team might say, 'Oh boy, the first-team quarterback is out. They're starting the second-teamer. We've got them.' That's a bad attitude to have. I've never tried to hide that. But, again, there might have been times where I wasn't even sure myself. With some coaches, that is vital. That is just their nature. Their nature is to deceive you as much as they can. It's just human nature. I could probably name some.

Q: Feel free to name some.

A:
I can remember going up to play Pitt when Marino was a sophomore. We beat him here and I think it was the next year we went up there. He got hurt the week before. Sprained his ankle. The news all week was Marino wasn't practicing. Marino can't play. Marino is a question mark. So we go up there and warm up and everybody is looking at Marino to see how bad he's walking. He can't hardly walk. He can't hardly walk. [Bowden laughs.] He starts the game and there ain't nothing wrong with him. He'd gotten over it. And Jackie kept it a secret the whole time.

Q: So, do you know who is going to start at quarterback on Saturday?

A:
I wouldn't say until I talked to our coaches about it. The way I see it, we've got one quarterback more dangerous than the other. We've got the other quarterback more consistent than the other. Then you also have two quarterbacks who aren't at their best yet. It's ahead of them. They still are going to get better and better. It makes you not sure. So I'll have to talk with my coaches. Once I'm sure, I do like to announce it. If you don't get an announcement, it means we're not sure yet.

Q: Talk about the rationale of putting Drew Weatherford in when you did at the end of the game yesterday. Did the thought cross your mind that Xavier Lee needed work coming off the goal line?

A:
That part didn't cross our mind. When we got to the middle of the third quarter, I talked to Darryl and Jeff upstairs. I said, 'Should we put Drew in the game or should we protect him the rest of the game?' The question is if he's healthy then he deserves what we did for Xavier. We put Xavier in the fourth quarter when we got a lead and let him have the game. Should we do the same? Now it's on the other foot. I said, 'Y'all think that over real good. Let's not mess that up.' I'd hate for him to go back in there and re-hurt himself. But I felt like if he's healthy then we ought to play him. So the coaches felt like that was fine and we did. Now, if the doctor had said he would be better off if y'all would rest him completely then we would have not put him in there. We had Tommy Keane who could have cleaned up.

Q: You said last night something to the effect that 'it's likely' that Xavier would start next week.

A:
Yeah, I left myself some room with 'likely.' [Bowden laughs.]

Q: Has he played well enough to keep the job?

A:
Like I said, it gets down to with this guy anything might happen when he gets in there. Anything. He might bomb you to death. I thought he was cold at the first of the game, which I thought might could happen. But, boy, once he got to the groove then his arm really showed. But the other guy is likely to execute better but he can't escape as good. He's more susceptible to a sack. I think [Virginia] led our conference in sacks. I think.

Q: They led it going into the game yesterday.

A:
Boy, I tell you I haven't seen a better defensive tackle than that Long guy. Did y'all see him up close? I looked at the film on him all week. I thought he might have been 6-foot tall. He looked like a giant. He's got big ol' legs. He was good. He was good. Then you start thinking about how are you going to push him around.

Q: You said with Xavier and Drew that one is more dangerous and one is more consistent. With Wake Forest coming in, they have a certain style. They want to play the game tight to the vest. Would you want to get them out of that type of game to get them out of their comfort level?

A:
I'll look at film all week and we'll decide.

Q: Some teams like to dictate their style of the game. Boston College liked to work the clock. [Wake] just has a style about them.

A:
What I think it is, is guys who are mature and know what they are doing. Their coverage back there, the way they overlap each other - you saw that last interception. The corner rolled up and [the receiver] got by him and the quarterback thought he was free and there was a safety rolling right over the top and he got the interception. They play good like that. You can tell there ain't any rookies back there. I imagine, unless there is an injury involved, that we're playing against the same secondary we played against the last two years. They are very sound in what they do. But I did notice this: The whole last drive, they blitzed every time. They came after them every time. Put the pressure on.

Q: Do you already have enough information about the quarterbacks to make a decision and it's just a matter of sorting through it or do you still need to see something in practice this week?

A:
Well, I think I've got them pretty well classified. Now if one of them was having a terrible day of practice it might affect what we do.

Q: Is there a danger with the rest of the team if you start to go back and forth?

A:
You have to remember this: They want to win more than anything. They want to win more than anything. Still, either one of them could wonder 'should he do this?' They could always wonder that. But they are pretty good kids about that.

Q: Regardless of who is under center for you, how much do you need a third wideout to step up?

A:
We dropped how many passes yesterday?

Q: Not that many.

A:
We missed 'em more than that. No. 80 had one he should have had down there for a big play. But, yeah, Fagg gives us more balance.

Q: How close was he?

A:
He could have played with a limp. That wouldn't have been good enough. He's got a chance to be completely healed this week if he doesn't get re-hurt this week in practice. He's got to practice this week to get his time there. If he doesn't get re-hurt, he should be okay.

Q: Can Lorenzo Booker get snaps in the slot?

A:
He can be just as dangerous coming out of your backfield. You can use him coming out of your backfield. We use him for screens and things like that. It's hard to work him out there and over here, too. You get a back and make a wide receiver out of him and he can run two things. He can run a take-off or he can run a stop. You have a hard time teaching him all these other things. What do you do if a corner plays here? What do you do if a corner plays there? What if you have a linebacker inside? What if they have a guy here? What if they roll toward you? You don't have time to teach him all that, you know? But you can say, 'Run down there five yards and stop.' Or you can say, 'Take off.' You can tell them that. We've done that some. Not much.

Q: Do you have a chance at getting Geno Hayes back this week?

A:
There is a chance. I saw him out there last week. He wasn't running, but I saw him walking without that brace on. I sure would like to see him back. He's a big-play man.

But I tell you, Dekoda sure has done a good job in his place. I don't know how. I don't know how a freshman can do that. I mean, look at McNeil. We signed McNeil out of Kingsland [Ga.] and he's a heck of a player. He turns in all of his academic stuff. We don't think he's going to be a problem, but somehow something on the transcript doesn't ring up. That thing got hung up, up there where they approve it. It got hung up. They've got thousands of those things and they might sit on a desk for two weeks. Then they look at it and it looks good and they send it to the NCAA. That guy was out on vacation probably. He's running up and down the Alps with that thing sitting on his desk. We liked to have never got it approved. We could tell there was no problem with it. We had all the transcripts from the high school. As soon as they got it, everything was okay. So now we're two weeks into the season. School has already started. I thought, 'Should we even let him in school now. Is he going to be too far behind?' They didn't feel like he was too far behind. So I think he played about half a quarter of the next game. Now, he got two sacks yesterday and played really good. I'm surprised by how well they are doing under the circumstances.

Q: Did you see the replay of Coach Paterno getting hurt on the sidelines?

A:
You watch me on the sidelines. If the ball is down there, I'm up here. If the ball is up there, I'm down yonder. I want a 30-yard recognition if a guy is coming at me. That's all I need. Just give me 30 yards. [Bowden laughs.]

Q: Did it used to be 10 or 20 yards?

A:
I used to jump up and dodge 'em. I got knocked down three times in the last 10 years. I was coaching in the Hula Bowl and somebody came to the sideline and I didn't know there was a little wall behind me. I started backing away and I fell over the wall. The pile came. Then a Duke guy hit me about three or four years ago. I saw it coming and I just rolled over on my back and he knocked me down. I did a somersault and I came right back up. If I had stood there and tried to brace it, he might have knocked me out of the dad-gum stands. I had another one where a guy hit me on the sideline, but I was ready for it and got far enough away from it where he didn't pin me. One thing about Joe is he doesn't need to worry about golf knees. He doesn't play golf. I'm worried about golf knees. I don't think I can swing a club with a knee in a cast.

Q: You have 30-year-olds who are boosters calling for your retirement. Do you at times feel like you've created a monster here?

A:
If you watch the history of football, it's always been that way. I'll never forget reading a book that, I think, was called "When in Doubt, Punt" that was written by the president of the Oklahoma University. It was written about Bud Wilkinson back in the '50s. Bud came to Oklahoma probably in the late '40s right after the war. He won 47 in a row. Then he got beat and he won 31 in a row. Just a tremendous run out there. The whole thing about the book is when he first went there he had to get it going. And people complained if he got beat, but he didn't get beat much. Then they complained if he didn't beat the spread. Didn't beat the spread - 47 in a row, but you didn't score enough points. As long as we can look back on football, that is true. If you don't win enough games - well, you have to set a standard first. We set the standard and have not been able to reach that standard lately. It will happen again. I don't know if anybody will ever win 14 in a row. Texas looks like it has a shot at it. I don't know if it will happen again, but it might. But, now, everybody think it's time for you to retire? No, that doesn't surprise me a bit. They can read. They know my age.

Q: That was the great line with Wilkinson. When Notre Dame beat them, somebody called the AP office and said, 'See, I told you that son of a gun was going to lose one.'

A:
I always remember that game. Notre Dame beat them 7-0 up there. But, again, you look at my age and you lose and it's an automatic answer: He's too old.

Q: When you finally make a decision on a quarterback, will you stick with that quarterback all the way through or will you have a quicker trigger?

A:
The one thing I didn't want to do [yesterday] was have a quick trigger. I didn't want to put him in there and him thinking, 'Y'all are going to jerk me if I make a mistake.' I didn't want that in his mind. So, he was missing those guys and I'm asking Daryl, 'Daryl, did that come close to that receiver? I couldn't see down there? Is that one close?' [Dickey would say,] 'We're okay. We're okay.' 'How about that fourth one? Are we okay?' 'Yeah, we're okay. We're okay.' So, anyway, I didn't want him to think one mistake and you're out. He got over that hump, thank goodness. We went in there at half and settled down. Quit throwing the ball so hard. Just get 'em the ball. He went out there in the second half and threw it pretty doggone good. Those are all learning experiences that these quarterbacks have to learn. That's not a problem that Drew has. Drew throws the ball about right. He can't escape as good as Xavier.

Q: Garvin had a great game yesterday. Is he emerging as you see him in practice?

A:
Yeah. You know, he played as a freshman. He's one of the fastest on our team. He might be the fastest, I don't know. He's run down touchdowns a couple of times this year. When the kid from Clemson broke that long one and nearly scored, I think Garvin finally ran him down. Then he ran down someone [against Virginia] on the kickoff return.

Here's the thing about it and I've probably said this before, but yesterday we got another chapter on it. Your special teams going down on kickoffs and going down on punts are usually linebackers or defensive backs or some nut over there on offense who doesn't know he's crazy. You hate to tell his momma he's a nut so we put him on the kickoff team. But those are the kinds of guys who make up your kickoff team. Now all of our linebackers have been hurt. Defensive backs have been hurt. So we've had to put in some fullbacks and we've had to put in some walk-ons. Now they are your special teams. We had to put Hayes on the kickoff team because the week before we had a kickoff returned on us that might have beat us. N.C. State returned a kickoff about 70 yards when we had a 10-point lead. We said we've got to get some of these starters back on the kickoff team, although we can't afford to lose them. So what does he do the next game? Covers a kickoff and he gets hurt. Hasn't been back since.

Now, who gets hurt the other day? Gallon. Then who's the next one? McClure, another guy we put on kickoffs. We had a guy on the street asking people if they'd come in and cover a kickoff for us. I can never remember not having enough players for our specialty teams. Man, I can't believe it.

Q: After the game, you said that somehow you've got to figure out a way to be fair with the quarterbacks.

A:
Fair would be for both of them to be starting.

Q: Is one of the elements there that Drew has 20 starts and that you know what he can do and now you go with Xavier so you can see more from him before you head to the spring and let them battle it out?

A:
Not if Drew is better. Whoever is best at that time is who we will put in there. Who is best for the situation?

Q: With the emphasis you put on the running game in the preseason, how do you assess the line?

A:
We do work as much on the run game as we do on the pass game? We do. Do we run block as good as we pass block? No. We do protect the passer better than we do the run. In run block, you have to fire out and move a guy. In pass protection, you block back and get in his way. Don't be offensive now because he'll sling you and get to the passer. Get in his way. Make him die slowly. It's two entirely different things. It's hard to be good in both.

West Virginia is a pretty good example. Boy, they can run block. Now, pass blocking is a little bit different. Their quarterback is a pretty good scrambler, so they don't have to have that good protection.

But, anyway, there is no doubt we pass block better than we run block. We still work on it. We still think we need it. But don't think with modern-day football that you have to run the ball. It's been proven too many times. I jumped up and down with elation Monday night when the New England Patriots played the Vikings. New England's quarterback came out throwing. And he kept throwing. And he kept throwing. And he kept throwing. The commentators said something about Belicheck making the statement that 'I ain't going to run the dang ball when I can throw it better.' He made some statement like that - 'I ain't wasting my time running.' And he moved it up and down the field. And that's kind of the way I've always looked at it. If I was better at running, I would run it a lot more. But if I'm better at throwing and your weakness is there, I'm going to do that. Why beat your head against the wall? Maybe one of these days we'll be good enough to run better. But you don't have to run it.

Q: There was so much talk in the preseason about your linemen being stronger and more physical

A:
And we might be a little bit. But not like we'd like to be. But I will say this - we do protect the passer better. That's blocking too.

Q: Are you a more dangerous team with Xavier at quarterback?

A:
If he's on, then you've got another runner back there in your backfield. That's what I mean by he's more dangerous. He might take off and run the darn ball.


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