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September 28, 2008
Sunday Conversation: Bobby Bowden
On Sunday, head coach Bobby Bowden talked to the media about yesterday's game against Colorado, preparation for the rivalry game against Miami, and about no longer playing in the Orange Bowl against the University of Miami.
Q: With all of the difficult games you have played against Miami, you said that last year's stung just a bit more. Why was that?
Bowden: That was the thing about it, it was a game that you thought you had won. I don't think they had but a minute and a half on that last drive and then they had their second team quarterback in there. You don't expect the second team guy to do it but he did it in three plays. That was very discouraging.
Q: During the post-game, you talked about how this was such a big game nationally for years and now you are both trying get back to it.
Bowden: It seems like it runs in cycles. It seems like from about '83 to about '92 Miami was kind of the dominant team. Then the rest of the '90's was more Florida State. Of course now it seems like Florida is in the run. We are both trying to get back up there. We haven't had the success the last four, five, or six years that we had back in those days but we are both striving to get back up there.
Q: Do you find it unusual that the contrast between these two teams is that Miami is predominantly young on defense while you guys are on offense while for them Randy Shannon is a former defensive coordinator and Jimbo Fisher is the offensive coordinator?
Bowden: It looks like it. You wonder why it happened that way. I don't think we ever planned it.
Q: How interesting is the match-up of youth against youth for your offense against their defense?
Bowden: Well, it does match up. So instead of youth against veterans, it is youth against youth. We kind of had that thing Saturday except we were on opposite sides of the ball. Their offensive line was so young and our offensive line is so young. Somebody had to win that dadgum contest and we did up-front.
Q: What do you think are some of the main factors why you guys and Miami couldn't sustain your dominance longer?
Bowden: The big thing is that nothing lasts forever. We had a run of 14 years and they had a run of 10 years, if you think that is going to go on forever you are mistaken. It doesn't go that way We both had great runs. It is just something that just can't keep on. It is kind of like you are stopped, get a breath, and then you rebuild and try to come back. Why it happens that way? I don't know. That is pretty much true for most programs. It is not like everybody dominates for 20 years at a time. I think parity has a whole lot to do with it.
Q: Antone Smith has shown signs of breaking through before and becoming the kind of guy that a lot of people thought he would be.
Bowden: You are exactly right. What we saw last night is what we were hoping for throughout his career. He can't do it without some blocking. We had good blocking but he still, he made a lot of things happen on his own. One of our biggest things that concerned us the most was that it seemed like when he ran he could get what was there but he didn't by anybody. If you had hole opened and blocked for about eight yards, he would get eight. Last night, if you had it open for two, he would get six. If you had it opened for six, he would get 12. That was real good running on his part.
Q: You are currently averaging more rushing yards than passing yards.
Bowden: That is good.
Q: Can that be the identity of this team even though your line is so young?
Bowden: It is suprising. When you look at the nature of our offense, where the offensive line is the most inexperienced, you would think the thing you are less likely to do would be able to run the ball as consistently. I think that even against Wake Forest we got a 100 yards rushing. So that is a good sign. If you can run the ball, you can always fake it and throw it. Now if you can't run it, all that faking don't do any good. I definitely think it is a good sign so far.
Q: Some of the young offensive line talked about going out and proving they could move people off the line, is it mental as well?
Bowden: Oh yeah, there is no doubt about it. They are young but they are a very positive group. You can tell some of these boys are going to be mighty good football players when they grow up. Zebrie Sanders is a good example. Here is a guy that played high school football last year but you can look at him physically and tell he has all the tools to be an outstanding football player before he leaves here. They come to college and there is an intimidation factor playing against college people instead of high school people and can they psychologically get over that barrier and play like they are capable. Most of them can't. Most of them it is just too big of a jump. That is why you redshirt them and bring them along slow and the last two years they have it made. We are calling on ours right out of high school and with maybe a redshirt behind them.
Q: You mentioned last night that winning with a power running game is so un-Bobby Bowden like and you mentioned you used to be that way, when did that change for you?
Bowden: When I first started, when I say used to be that way I am going back 40 or 50 years ago. When I first started coaching that is all we knew. This is back in the '50's and early 60's. You ran the ball and threw it if you had to. I might go a whole ballgame and throw six times if you are successful. That is the way I was raised. That hasn't been my nature lately, by lately I mean the last 30 or 35 years. It has been to throw the ball and run it.
Q: Was there a point in your coaching career where you decided to make that change to more balance?
Bowden: Yeah, sure was. When I came to Florida State as an assistant coach in 1963. Bill Peterson was the head coach and he ran the pro offense. I had never run the pro offense. I had run the wing-t and the option and stuff like that. Bill Peterson was one of the first coaches to put in the pro offense in college. When he did everybody said that it can't be done, even we coaches said it wasn't going to work and we can't do this. We did and we had success with it. In '64 we beat Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl and won about nine games or maybe 10. That was Florida State. Peterson stayed there until '70 and they continued to feature the pro passing attack. I remember back in the day there weren't but three schools doing that. One was us, one was Baylor, and one was Tulsa. It was kind of like we were odd people throwing the ball all over the field and using two wideouts all the time and using the pro passing attack. That is when I started it, when I learned it and just kept using it.
Q: With your running game picking up and Miami being very good against the run, how do you see that playing out?
Bowden: Yeah, it's going to be tougher. You had Colorado coming in here, and we felt like with it being a hot day, we had a chance to wear them down and to an extent we did. Also to an extent, we blocked them. Now, playing the University of Miami, you are going to take people that are raised in the heat, they are used to it just like we are, and they are very good athletes. That's really the thing you are going to find with the University of Miami, Florida State, and Florida. You are going to find good athletes on the field. Some are more mature than others, you know, and that separates us. It will be difficult to sustain a running game against them, I'm sure we will have to mix in the pass more.
Q: How much do you think the weather played into your favor yesterday?
Bowden: Well it should have helped. It should have helped. Now, we went out and played in their environment last year and beat them. But we felt like them coming here from that high altitude, now that don't hurt as much. The thing that I have found out is that teams from the higher altitude, when they come to a lower altitude, they have a lot more endurance, a lot more oxygen because they aren't used to having a lot of oxygen. When they come down here where there is a lot of oxygen and they can just run all day. That is something I found out years ago when I was coaching and we played the University of New Mexico which is about 7,000 feet high. Those kids came up to play us and they could just run all day long. I don't think they have humidity there, which we do have humidity, and of course up there the ball kicks further and things like that. We did feel like the heat would be an advantage.
Q: How do you prepare Christian Ponder for making his first start against Miami?
Bowden: Well thank goodness you will have four games under his belt, two from 1-A schools, and two from 1-AA schools. At least he has got four games under his belt. Of course their quarterback does too. Their quarterback and our quarterback are at very much the same stage. We're both learning. We're both – every time we walk out there it's a learning experience. We have been pleased with Ponder so far. The first ball game was real deceiving. If you look at the statistics, I mean the Wake Forest game, man we had so many first and twenty-five's and first and twenty's and things like that. It was hard to judge a quarterback under those conditions. This week we didn't have that and he did enough to help us get some points on the board.
Q: You have been able to recruit well in Miami over the years, what has been the key to recruiting in another team's backyard?
Bowden: The thing about the area down there, and it's the same thing up here in our area even though our area is not as big, is there are some kids that just want to play away from home. They want to travel, they don't want to stay at home and play. So we always have got a shot at those kids. Then there are some that are attracted to Florida State otherwise. The University of Miami does have a tremendous advantage right there in Miami. Miami will sometimes come up here and get kids, they have always done that because there are some kids that don't want to stay here. They want to go off and play. There are just more of them down there then there are up here.
Q: What is to blame for the penalties this week and last week against Wake Forest?
Bowden: Sometimes it's youth. Sometimes it's emotion. Sometimes it's just not using your head. You say, "Men, under no circumstances do you do this." Then those circumstances arise, and some of them will go ahead and do it. Such as, you are fixing to block a guy head on, and he turns his back to you and changes direction, and you end up blocking him in the back. We say, "If he turns his back to you, if you can't get your head to the front numbers, don't touch him." It's too inviting, too tempting. So a lot of it is just not using your head. A lot of it is inexperience. A lot of it sometimes is aggressiveness too. It was being too darn aggressive.
Q: How much of a factor were penalties against Colorado if at all?
Bowden: Most of it was our defense, not our offense. Our defense, I'm pretty sure, check this to see, but I am pretty sure that every time they scored a touchdown on us, we had them stopped but they got a penalty. I remember when they got us on a pass interference on a third and 18, gave them a first down, and they went ahead and scored. Then they got down on the goal line, and we stopped them again, pass interference, and they scored. On the first touchdown, that long pass that they had, I think we had a penalty there somewhere, we got a big penalty there somewhere. We had them stopped and we got a doggone penalty, probably interference or something and gave them a first down. Those penalties hurt worse than the ones that happen on offense.
Q: The Wake Forest loss was almost like two, because in the head to head (Wake wins) if you end up tied. And Miami's in the same boat now with that conference loss. What do you do going forward? The loser's in pretty tough straits.
Bowden: There's not a doggone thing you can do about it. All you can try to do is win the game. That takes care of whatever's out there. It might be you win all your conference games and Wake Forest doesn't lose anymore, so they win the division (on the tiebreaker). There's not a doggone thing you can do about it. There's only one answer and that's to win, win, win, win and hope that the numbers match.
Q: After a third of the way through the season, are you guys satisfied with where you are overall? What's your read on where you guys are?
Bowden: We really needed that win the other night, because if we lost that ball game to Colorado, you'd be saying "Wait 'til next year.' It looks like the same old deal. By winning that game, it still gives us a chance to be better. It gives us a chance to be better. You look at Southern Cal, Georgia, Wisconsin, you look at Florida, they all lost a ball game. Losing one ball game is not that abnormal. If you lose it, you hope you lose it early and hope you can get something going. Now, I don't know if were that or not. We'll find out more about out team every time we play.
Q: When you have a quarterback going into his first career start against Miami, is there any type of wisdom you like to impart or anything above and beyond what you'd say for another conference game?
Bowden: No, you just study the film and you show them what good athletes they are and you try to see if there's any weakness or any flaw to them and spot it and coach them just like you coach them all. Protect the ball, don't make mistakes, things like that. Miami's just about in the same boat we're in. We've got two football teams that, during the '80s and '90s, were two of the most powerful football teams in the United States. And now we're not there, neither one of us. We're both planning to get back. I know Coach Shannon's planning to get back. I plan to get back.
Q: It was only just a couple of seasons ago you were preparing Drew Weatherford for his first Miami start as a redshirt freshman. Are there any similarities in preparing Christian for this and how much of a help will Drew be this week?
Bowden: Drew is a big help. You talk about a guy that's showing character. That guy wants to play as much or more than any of them. He's got three years of experience under his belt and he's having to sit back. Instead of him taking it negatively, he's helping them. It's good knowing he's there, because you never know what's going to happen in this doggone ball game. I bet those other quarterbacks can tell you how much he's helped them when they look at film.
Q: Do you think you'll see any similarities in preparing Christian for this game and preparing Drew for this game when he was making his first start?
Bowden: A lot of it is a resemblance. But you're working with an entirely different individual with a different arm and mindset. But I think Ponder's demeanor is good. It's something we can go forward with. He's not maxed out in any way. He's like all young quarterbacks. He needs success because with that success comes confidence and they simply have to have that.
Q: Miami has caused do much heartbreak when you've gone down there. What's it like with the fans and the fact that so many Miami and FSU players played against each other in high school?
Bowden: It does make it tough and it's been that way ever since we've been playing them. We're used to it. They're used to it. There's a lot of acquaintances renewed because all those kids have played against each other. We're familiar with the atmosphere and they're familiar with us. There's so much familiarity there that it's not that big of a nuisance.
Q: The idea that you're not going to the Orange Bowl this year and playing in Dolphin Stadium, does that make it any different for you?
Bowden: That dadgum Orange Bowl was tough, boy. Dolphin Stadium is, too, but there was no place in the country like the old Orange Bowl. I'm kind of glad we're not going back there.
Q: That's where you won your first national title.
Bowden: That's true. I can say I'm thankful for having played in that bowl. I'm so thankful I played in the old Sugar Bowl and they tore that down. I can say I played there because there's so much tradition to it in American football.
Transcribed by Chris Nee, Corey Dowlar, and Derek Redd