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October 5, 2008

Sunday Conversation: Bobby Bowden

Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden addressed the media Sunday following the Seminoles' win over Miami. The following is a transcript of the conversation:

Q: I couldn't help but wonder if you were having flashbacks to last year's Miami game.

Bowden: I've been through this before. I've gotten beat and naturally, you flash back and ask "What did I do then?" and "What can I do now so it doesn't happen again?" Those things do stick in your mind. I referred back to a game at West Virginia in my first year as a head coach there. We played Pittsburgh, who is West Virginia's big rival, and we had them 35-8 at halftime. We could just do nothing wrong. Then we came out in the second half and could do nothing right, and got beat 36-35 in the worst whipping I've ever had, as far as personal hurt. Those things go through your mind. I don't think I've had one like that at Florida State ... really, that great game we played 26-25, we had a 19-3 lead in the fourth quarter. I think it was 19-3.

Q: On that little pooch kick in the last minute of the first half, was that a called play?

Bowden: You know what you would say? You'd say that's inexperience. Our normal kicker would be (Graham) Gano, but he hadn't kicked off all year for us because of his knee. So we have the freshman (James) Esco that kicks off. He's been doing a good job but he doesn't kick it as far. He'll get it down to about the 10, where Gano has a chance to kick it out or deep in the end zone. So they have a great return man in number 80. We told the kicker, "Don't kick to that number 80." That was his reaction. He kicked it to the 40. It wasn't supposed to be an onside kick, but it looked like it.

Q: How surprised are you with the offensive line? You're playing really well up there this season.

Bowden: I'm surprised as I can be. All five games, I'm just surprised. I just didn't think they could do this good. When you put that offensive line together, you'd say, "This group could be pretty good one of these days, but they're not going to be ready yet." But they're performing like juniors.

Q: Were you expecting a rushing performance like this out of Christian Ponder?

Bowden: No. I can't talk for Jimbo (Fisher), but for me, I didn't expect that.

Q: What were you thinking when you were watching it happen?

Bowden: The thoughts that went through your mind were, "We have needed this. This is what we have needed."

Q: Was that about as good as a defense could play while giving up 39 points?

Bowden: They were put in the worst field position they've been put in in years. Maybe the worst field position since the Notre Dame game of 2001 or 2002. This, I think would be worse.

Q: Can you remember a time when you had 13 pass breakups and three interceptions in one game?

Bowden: I've never kept up with stuff like that. That's never been brought to my attention. That sounds high as heck, and I guess it is.

Q: Going into the bye week, where do you feel you guys need to make the most improvement.

Bowden: I think the first thing you do is give them a little time off and get them rested. They've been going hard as heck since August. We'll give them a little time off and they can work on their next opponent. The thing that broke down the other day that wasn't normal was the kicking game. The kicking game just broke down. The week before against Colorado, we felt like the kicking game and special teams gave us the edge. This game, the special teams nearly gave Miami the edge. Now, all those things can be corrected. I think the rain had a little to do with it. You have snapper in his first year, a freshman at punter and a freshman kicking off. Again, the first thing you do after a game is correct mistakes.

Q: Given your young offensive line, a young quarterback, you have to be feeling pretty good right now.

Bowden: Really good. Really good. It is a shame that that suspension thing had to come up. It wasn't an issue among the players and the coaches, it was an issue from higher up. It's a shame that had to occur because there is no telling what this team would have done up to this point if we had not had that.

Q: I don't know if you would say that your surprised to be 4-1 at this point.

Bowden: Well, probably a week before the season started, I probably would have said that was about as good as we could get because you knew you were not going to get your kids back until after the Wake Forest game. You would think to yourself that you probably wouldn't beat them with seven starters out or five starters out, whatever it was. You probably wouldn't be able to do enough to get by them, they have a pretty darn good football team even though they have lost a game. Yeah, to answer your question, I feel pretty good about it.

Q: What was the mood of the team on the way home?

Bowden: It would be the thrill of victory. We have played enough teams to know if we can win, there is no complaints. If you win, don't complain. I think our kids I don't think we have been in a situation like that. The players that did real good are happy, the ones that did bad and had mistakes, they kind of feel bad you know. But they shouldn't, because it's football. We had to play in the rain, we had to play as hard as we could in the second half, and we did pretty good when it wasn't raining. So I think the total feeling would be happy or I wish I had done better.

Q: What kind of springboard could this game provide for your team?

Bowden: I guess you could count this as the second half of the season. We get a break this week, we have an open date, and then we play NC State on Thursday. If you do this, you are going to win. If you do this, you are going to lose. We have continued to self-destruct a lot. Did we have more turnover than they had? The point I am making is, before the game the coaches said we have to reduce our turnovers to win, and I think we had more than they did and still won. It was that kind of a game.

Q: Is this the most comfortable you have seen Jimbo Fisher with the offense since he has been here?

Bowden: Yeah, his game plan was something. It was something else. Those runs that the quarterback was making with the check offs, where he looks for this, and he sees this and he takes off. That was all in the game plan. I was very impressed to be honest with you, with his game plan.

Q: With the game on the line, he still called two end arounds to keep the defense off balance.

Bowden: (laughing) I can't get enough of those. He calls those a lot. Those reverses that he has run this year, I wouldn't be surprised if we averaged 10 yards a carry on those. He called them, he coached them, and he called them.

Q: Did Jermaine Thomas get hurt? He seemed to have a lot of success on those two carries.

Bowden: (laughing) No. Well the other kid (Antone Smith) was doing pretty good too.

Q: I just wanted to make sure that he wasn't hurt.

Bowden: No, he's not hurt. He sure did run good when his number was called.

Q: He averaged over 20 yards a carry.

Bowden: Sometimes, those young guys and you see them try to do too much, and so we needed the experience in that kind of a ball game.

Q: I'm sure he really impressed you?

Bowden: He really did. He started the year off this year as third team tailback. I mean, you had Carlton Jones ahead of him. Then Ty got hurt, and of course Marcus Sims couldn't play, so he got moved to second team. Gosh, this freshman has really just done excellent. I'm really happy about that.

Q: Can you talk about what Taiwan Easterling has given you? He has made some clutch plays on third down.

Bowden: That boy has got talent. He executes, I mean he will give you what you call. When another receiver might run another route, or go too deep, or drop a ball, he is real consistent, very consistent. I pointed that out to the staff in practice. I said, "He might be the most consistent of all." When you throw it to him, he is going to catch it where another receiver might drop it. He performed that way last night, it was very good. He is just very consistent.

Q: The defense has been excellent even when given a short field to defend. Has that impressed you?

Bowden: No doubt about it. You can see the difference with the guys that were out and that are now coming back. Look at the difference on offense with the running game. When you try to have a good running game without a good tight end, we have tight ends that are freshmen, as you saw yesterday a dropped pass in a key situation, that is what freshmen are supposed to do you know. That's about what you would expect out of any freshman. You see what you miss without a guy like Caz Piurowski who is 6-foot-7, 270 pounds at tight end, you see how we have been able to run the ball since he has gotten back. So when you look at the defense, they had five guys out. When those guys were out, they did better than I thought they would. The score didn't really give a fair indication of how the defense played last night. They had to kick field goals instead of touchdowns.

Q: Did Myron Rolle play his best game as a Seminole?

Bowden: Against Colorado, he made a couple of plays but had his hand around the guy's back and got called for pass interference. You can't do that. So this game, he made the same plays and did not put his hand around the guy's back. This game he disciplined himself and improved and did not get called for a penalty.

Q: Thursday night games haven't been too kind to you lately, how happy are you to have a bye week before?

Bowden: That is the happy part. We have a week off before it, it's nice because we don't have a short turnaround playing on Saturday and then Thursday. So anyways, yes I am very happy about that.

Q: How is Patrick Robinson doing?

Bowden: He was a guy that we thought could play at the beginning of the week. He got banged up in that ball game against Colorado and he sat in the whirlpool and started to feel better. But the next day he didn't feel better. I think Mickey Andrews expected him to play, but he didn't. I'm not really sure what his status is right now.

Q: Will we see Graham Gano kick off regularly now?

Bowden: I wouldn't be surprised. During the game, we were just not getting the kick offs that we needed. Jody Allen handles our special teams and makes those decisions. I sure hope so because every time we kicked off, they were able to field it and run it back. It would help us if Gano could put it out of the end zone or at least closer to that goal line.

Q: Is it a medical issue that the doctors did not want him to kick off?

Bowden: They have given him the ok to kick. He had some pain in that knee, you know he kicked that 53-yard field goal but that is different from lining up 10 yards away from the ball and running to kick the ball as hard as you can. He hadn't even tried that because of the discomfort in his leg. Since the operation, it's fine, it just takes time to heal. He wants to be sure that it has had time to heal. So I hope we can get him back.

Q: Are you considering making some changes given the amount of return yards given up?

Bowden: No, I think it was the execution of it, but I don't think it was the personnel at all. Our kicks were not good, and the snaps on our punts were bad. Joe Surratt did not play the other night. Joe gives us an option back there when we punt, those three guys that stand there side by side. Joe normally does that and wasn't there. Although, it may have been something spacing wise, it looked like the center snapped the ball right at them. We were in disarray in that execution.

Q: With Christian making all the checks at the line, are you surprised that he did so well mentally after two somewhat shaky performances against Wake and Colorado?

Bowden: I'm not surprised, but the thing that the people have not recognized yet, the Wake Forest game was a terrible game to judge a quarterback. With all the penalties, he was back at his own goal line.

Transcribed by Corey Dowlar and Derek Redd


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