Bowden breaks down Troy and looks ahead to Clemson
Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden spent roughly 40 minutes with
reporters from around the state answering questions about his team's 24-17
victory over Troy. Here is a transcript of that interview:
Q: You said it was a nightmare last night.
A: It felt like a nightmare during the game. There are very few times in my
life when I've been through that, but I have been through it. In 1979, we
opened the season with Southern Miss here. We were naturally favored over
Southern Miss and they had us [14-3] in the middle of the third quarter. I
don't know if we ever made a first down. Then we blocked a punt and scored.
Jimmy Jordan hit somebody [Jackie Flowers] on a slant for a touchdown. That
made it 14-10. Then with about a minute and a half to go, Gary Henry
returned a punt  yards for a touchdown and we won the game. Then we went
undefeated. It was more futile than that last night.
We played Georgia Southern [in 1988] and they had us 10-7 in the fourth
quarter. We were doing nothing that game and we finally scored and probably
won with 35 points or something like that. But those are the same types of
nightmares. What in the world is happening to us? How come he did that? How
come he did this? Mistake here. Mistake there. Why is this happening? I'm
sitting here and trying to figure it out and I say, 'dadgumit we didn't
practice enough.' You couldn't do much more. You don't want to play games on
a Monday and a Saturday. You pick an opponent you think you can beat and
that's the only way you do it. We dadgum nearly got beat. Maybe we won't
have to do that any more.
Q: Does this make you think you maybe should take a year or two off from
that Labor Day game?
A: Well, I hate to give up that game. I'm not interested in doing it with
Miami any more. But we really have to look at that next Saturday or make
sure that thing is vacant.
Q: You wouldn't want an open date there would you? Then you'd have 11
A: Yeah, I guess. Then you make sure your opponent has to do the same
thing - play on that Monday night. Which I don't know if they can do.
Because you just don't have time to prepare. Let's say we play our game on
Monday night. If we had their film the previous Saturday, we could have had
it all broken down and studied and gone out there on Tuesday and worked
against Troy. We didn't get their film until Tuesday afternoon. They didn't
give us theirs until we gave them ours. So it's not enough time to prepare.
Troy beats somebody 38-0 and you don't know how good they are. You don't
know how good the other team is.
Q: That was a game they unveiled their five-receiver set, wasn't it?
A: Could be. I did not look at any film on their previous year. You know
what offense that was? That was that Oklahoma offense they beat us in the
Orange Bowl with. First time we've seen that offense since the Orange Bowl.
By that, I mean their offensive linemen were split so far. You did have to
learn a new game. Then we lose three defensive tackles. We lose one who has
been playing about as good as anybody on the team right off the bat - [Paul]
Q: Have you heard anything more on him?
A: I haven't heard any word. It didn't sound good from what I heard last
Q: Do you know about Guion and Nicholson and Dunbar?
A: I did see Guion and he said he thought he would be okay. The other guy
[Dunbar] has been hurt. If we had three and a half weeks of practice in the
pre-season, he missed three of them with a back [injury]. It's nothing new
from football, it's just a disc. I don't know what our situation is there.
We'll probably have to move Mincey back in there as a freshman.
Q: It just seemed like you weren't any more athletic than they were on
either side of the football. They really were quick. Were you taken by
surprise by how athletic they were?
A: Well, yeah. They impressed me more with their hitting than their athletic
ability. They didn't miss tackles and they knocked the heck out of you. When
they tackled us downfield, they hit our kids. It's a case of a team with 28
Florida boys on it. They like to show you that you should have signed them
instead of these other guys. And they were hungry and all that dadgum stuff.
It's just one of those scenarios if you win then be happy. I'm happy we won.
We could be sitting here right now with one of the worst losses I've ever
had in my life.
Q: Drew might have the longest run of the season for you.
A: What, 11 yards, right?
Q: Is the personality of this team that it's not going to be a team that has
300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing?
A: You know what my answer to that is? And it might be wrong. But it's 'who
cares?' Who cares how you do it? This whole thing about having to establish
the run to win, we've already proven two dadgum weeks in a row that ain't
right. Now the odds might be better. But to think you've got to out-rush
somebody or get 150 yards to win, I think Steve Spurrier disproved that when
he went to Florida about 15 years ago. Steve went there with the passing
game and beat you. Then when he had the game locked, he'd start running it
so he'd come up with 120 yards rushing at the end of the game. And everyone
would say, 'Boy, he runs the ball good.' But they went out there and won it
throwing the darn ball. That's kind of what we went through last night.
You learn as you go through life. I'll never forget about 1968 when Gary
Beban played for UCLA. I was at West Virginia and they came up to Pittsburgh
to play Pittsburgh. UCLA. Gary Beban and he won the Heisman. I'll never
forgot Coach Prothro's remarks after the game. Tommy Prothro. Well, we went
out there and tried to run the ball. Our kids just weren't in the right
frame of mind so I said just go out there and throw the darn thing. And they
won it. What I'm saying is, maybe sometimes you are playing somebody you are
superior to. They're fired up and you're not. They're executing and you're
not. But you just out-personnel them and maybe you have to throw and catch
to do that.
Q: Does that worry you that down the road when you are recruiting that it
may be tougher to get the great running back?
A: That will help us. We'll tell 'em, 'you can help us run if we can get
you, son. Son, you can solve all our problems. We can't run the ball. We
Now, I sure would like to run the ball better. When do you have to run? Why
do you even have to run? Well, third-and-1 you better be able to run. We ran
and we were successful. Now when you get on the goal-line you better be able
to run. We got on the goal line and we ran. So who says you have to run it
on first down? Now third-and-short we were able to run the darn ball. We
were able to do that. Now we ain't happy yet. It's not alarming me that
Q: Is the difficulty with the offensive line or with the tailbacks?
A: I would say it's probably a miss here or a miss there. When you talk
about an offensive line, you are talking plural. But it only takes one man
to mess it up. One guy. Or a back runs the wrong way. Several times last
night if the back had gone here instead of there he would have made some
good yards. We're not making wise decisions in there yet, I don't think.
Q: Did you talk to Tommy last night?
A: I haven't talked to Tommy.
Q: What does Clemson's loss do to this game. Does it open up the potential
for a letdown?
A: For us?
Q: The game had a chance to be a really big game and now they have a loss.
A: I was really hoping there would be a day where we could both come into
this game undefeated. I was hoping there would be a day and I thought this
might be it. We nearly spoiled it, but we lucked into it. But it would have
really meant something for both of us to come in there undefeated. Now, that
doesn't make our job any easier since they got beat. It doesn't make our job
any easier. They lost to Boston College the same way last year - overtime at
their place. But we know what they can do because they showed us last year.
I'm thinking that's all the motivation we need. Whether we can do it or not
is another thing.
Q: Are you disappointed there were a lot of backups who didn't get the
opportunity to play last night?
A: Well, I've been through it before so many times where you plan to play
some guys and it doesn't work out that way. I wanted to get Xavier [Lee], I
wanted to get some of those other running backs, some of those other
fullbacks, some of those other receivers in the ball game. But, boy, when
you are behind or it's tight you are afraid to. I kept talking to Daryl
[Dickey]. I kept saying, 'Daryl, should we get Xavier in there to see what
happens?' And he never did feel like - and I agreed with him - it was the
right time. It's kind of like a baseball pitcher. A pitcher could throw a
no-hitter one game and the next game have a hard time finding the plate. So
you get in your rhythm. You're missing, but you are beginning to get in your
rhythm. So let's take him out and put somebody else in. This guy doesn't do
it and you bring the other guy back. Now you're trying to get his rhythm and
you're starting back on square one. If your guy is starting to get the feel
of it, you hate to take him out. So we didn't. I'm glad we didn't because he
got hot as a firecracker when he had to.
Q: Have your philosophies evolved on that? When you had Charlie Ward
struggling that one year, you sat him because you wanted him to watch.
A: We just felt like at that time we didn't know what we had. We didn't know
if Charlie was going to be good enough or not. The first three or four
games, he did so many good things you knew he could be pretty darn good. But
he did so many bad things you wondered if you should be playing him. But he
worked his way out of that. Then he got to where he didn't have any bad
Q: But your thinking was that you wanted Charlie to sit and watch?
A: That's what we said. Whether we really believed that, I don't know. It
was just that Charlie was playing so bad. But what else did we have? We had
Kanell, but he was a freshman. He wasn't ready. I guess hoping that you can
get on the sideline and talk to him and hopefully unravel what's happening.
It was an amazing thing. The main thing we did was we found the shotgun.
That solved his problem. We were trying to work out of the I-formation and
it wasn't his thing.
Q: You seemed to have a more fervent pace to the game last night, not just
when you were behind. You had a no-huddle look going and the plays were
getting off a lot quicker. The plays were coming a little more quickly and
there seemed to be a little more flow. Is that something you tried to work
on since the Monday game?
A: It's something that I don't know if you can improve on it enough. If we
did that, I'm glad. It didn't seem like we had a lot of trouble. I remember
somebody on the sideline yelling, 'Watch the clock. Watch the clock.' I
looked up and we had 12 seconds left. That's all day long. When a
quarterback is under center with 12 seconds, you've got time to light a
cigarette or something. [Bowden laughs.] So that would be a good sign if
Q: What do you say and what do you do to your players when you've some of
them, even your seniors, fumbling the ball?
A: That usually goes back to mentally prepared. I told the kids, probably
starting on Tuesday. How many times have I said this? Well, I've been
coaching 54 years and I've probably said it every year. I said, 'Men, the
only way they can beat us fumbling. And penalties. And turnovers. And
breakdowns in the kicking game. That's the only way they can beat us. We've
got superior material.' So what happened? We fumbled how many times? Seven
times. Turned it over how many times? Three. Interception. Botched punt
Q: Don't forget a missed field goal.
A: Oh yeah, a missed field goal. That's the way you get upset. And we did
all of it and didn't get upset. Now, you've got 17-, 18-, 19-, 20- and
21-year-old guys. You are saying all of that and they aren't paying a bit of
attention to you. They're thinking, 'We ain't go no problem. We just got
through beating Miami.'
Q: Was it disappointing to see they weren't mentally ready to play?
A: If we had lost, it would have been awful. But we won the game. We won it.
There is a great lesson there. I guess every team has to go through it.
Every team I've ever had responded that way. Every team I've ever had
responded that way. That's just boys. That's just boys. You try to tell
them, 'Men, this could be a war. This could be tough.' And you don't even
believe it. They can tell you don't even believe it. It's a trap.
Q: There have been enough traps for this team you would expect they would
A: In their behalf, we didn't prepare good enough. Because we couldn't. They
kept running some of the craziest stuff over there. They didn't run it the
week before. We didn't study it. We didn't prepare for it. They did some
stuff to us last night that I'm sure our kids haven't seen because they didn't practice for it. So you get out there and you say, 'What are going to do
about it? What are we going to do?' Well, we gradually got better at it. I
was thinking last night on the sideline, 'Boy, we did not practice enough.
We did not practice enough. I can see it. Why are we fumbling? Quarterback,
why did you throw the ball over his head?' We were not sharp at all. We got
sharp enough at the end. We were getting better.
But, you know, you nearly have to look at the other side. Their kids never
quit. They kept fighting. They kept hitting. They kept hitting hard. They
made enough plays to win.
Q: Does the league want you to play that Labor Day game again?
A: I'd like to play it, but we better check that next game after that. We
better be careful. It's just so much PR for your program. People all over
the country see your team. You just can't buy that kind of PR for recruiting
when you play a game like that.
Q: What do you feel about your team at this point?
A: That we still have room for improvement. You'd hate to look at this team
and say, 'Boy, that's as good as they are going to get. Hey, Florida State
has maxed out.' We aren't close to maxed out. The key is going to be trying
to improve. I don't think we can beat Clemson playing as good as we did
against Miami or Troy. We have to play better. We have to improve.
Q: Does that help going into the Clemson game, knowing what happened to your
A: I think it usually does. It's a wake-up call. I don't think we'll have a
problem getting up for Clemson after they beat us so badly. That game up
there, they scored two times early and we came back and tied it up at the
half. So you're saying, okay, we're ready to go. And then in the second half
they scored the first three times they got the ball. That's 21 points we
couldn't answer. So we didn't need a close week this week to get up for that
Q: Have you seen enough of Clemson quarterback Will Proctor to think he's
good enough to get it done for them?
A: Let's see, how much of that Clemson-Boston College game did I see
yesterday? I got to see a half of a quarter and in that time what I saw
looked pretty good. I didn't see what happened the rest of the game. But he
must have been pretty darn good to get beat on a blocked extra point in
overtime. He must have kept producing.
Q: Did you see any of them against FAU?
A: That doesn't count. Now they've got a good running game. That's where
they are ahead of us. I still don't know why we don't run better.
Q: So it's one of those things that you say you don't mind but it still
A: I take it like it is, but I still can't understand it. We're working it
harder and working it longer and trying it, but . . .
Q: It didn't look like you gave it much of a shot last night. It almost
looked like a heavyweight just throwing haymakers trying to end the match
A: That's kind of the way it was. In fact, I even encouraged them to start
the game in the two-minute offense. I encouraged them. Because I thought
that their vulnerability was against the pass. So why go out there and mess
around with the running game. Why mess around? Let's go win it. Then we
tried to mix it, but the firepower came throwing.
You play a team like that, you need to put them away early and then it
becomes a rout. We could never come close to putting them away. They came
close to putting us away. They take the opening drive and bring the kick-off
out to the 49. That's a bad sign. Then they drive it down to our 5 and we
intercept it in the end zone. The offense gets the ball on the 20. That ain'
t very good field postion. Then we three-and-out. So they then drive it back
to the goal line and next thing you know they are down on your 10-yard line
and we block a field goal. So defense has saved themselves twice. But now
our offense is still getting the ball down near our own goal line. And
offense makes a mistake and here they come again. And it went that way. Put
them away? We couldn't put them away. They were putting us away. At the end
of the game, we had them. We had them on the ropes. But, don't worry, I'm
glad to see it over. I'd rather see it end. Take my ball and go home.
Q: Talk about your freshman tight end, Brandon Warren.
A: I was impressed. He made a great catch. Him and [Caz] Piurowski - I
really like those two. They got their chance because [Charlie] Graham got
hurt. One of them brings one thing to the table and the other one brings
something else. Yet the blend is real good. Piurowski is big - over 6-7 and
270 and maybe the softest hands on the team. You just know he's going to get
better and better and better. Then you've got Warren whose body is more
mature right now. Faster, quicker, great hands. Great catch out there. Great
catch. I'm very excited about that.
Q: At what point after that opening sequence where they put the ball down at
the goal line and you couldn't get out did you start thinking it was going
to be a long night?
A: Well, I could sense it in the second quarter when we weren't getting
anything done. We were 3-0 down. The one thing is I remember the past where
we've always managed to come back. But I'm wondering how? Then you go out
there in the third quarter and we scored the first two times we had it in
the third quarter. That was a good sign. Then they kept coming back and
scoring. That was a bad sign.
Q: What do you like about Tommy's team?
A: Balance. Balance and experience. Just to show you how this injury thing
plays a part - I don't know if Boston College beats him if he hadn't lost
his two starting linebackers. Boston College scored their last touchdown
running right straight up the gut. You take Buster Davis out of there and
another outside linebacker out of there and you simply aren't as good. You
lost two dadgum starting linebackers. I mention that because he had a pretty
good nucleus coming back. Now you take us last night and we lose three
defensive tackles. I don't know what that's going to be man. But, anyway, I
thought coming into this season that he had a veteran team and if his
quarterback could come through it would make the difference. But his
run/pass balance is pretty good. It's real good. Whereas ours is not.
Q: You had one look at his offensive coordinator last year. It's not like
Tommy still doesn't spread it out, but they've made some changes that have
made a big difference.
A: He spreads it out and runs it. Spreads it out and runs it. Their
offensive coordinator likes balance. He loves balance. Run, pass, run, pass,
Q: You used to do very well running out of the shotgun and then you got away
from that. How hard is it to commit to spreading and running?
A: Some teams commit to the spread all the way. Look at Troy last night and
how well they played. They spread it out, but did they ever run the ball? A
quarterback draw about two or three times? I don't know if he handed the
ball off twice. Some people spread it out and commit it all the way to the
passing game with a little run. Other people are spread it out and run and
throw. We try to work up under center and also work under the gun, trying to
get some variety in there.
I don't like offensive football the way it is nowadays. Offensive football
today is a game of formations. When I used to work the offense, you lined up
in one formation and you played that way the whole game. You could tell
every thing the other team was doing. If they did this, you go there. If
they did this, you go here. If they do this, you do that. But now it's 'put
this formation in and they do this. Put this formation in and they do that.'
Try to always get some kind of a mismatch. But that's the way the pros play
it. Colleges are the same way.
But the whole thing gets down to you have to block. It always comes down to
blocking. I don't guess that will ever change. That will never change.
Blocking and tackling.
The only way we could stop that passing game they had last night was to
tackle. It was all short stuff, but if you miss a tackle it turns into a
10-yard play. We made some bad mistakes on defense last night. We had just
gone ahead of them. We came out at the half and scored twice to go ahead of
them. Then our defense was stopping them cold. Then we had a third down down
there on their 15 and he throws a take-off, remember? If the quarterback
keeps the ball inbounds, it's a touchdown. The receiver wasn't but 25 yards
open. His momentum takes him out of bounds. They scored on that, didn't
they? So we made some mistakes that hurt us. Then we missed a little ol'
flat pass and he runs about 50 yards down there.
Q: Buster has had a great start to the season. Can you re-hash what happened
to him as a freshman?
A: When Buster came here - like a lot of youngsters, they don't know how
tough it is in college. They think they are going to play right off the bat
and think they're going to start. So he comes up there and we've probably
got him down around third team. He probably hadn't had that since he was a
freshman in high school. He walked in my office one day and said, 'I don't
like it here. I'm leaving. I'm going to quit.' I said, 'Well, you can quit
if you want to. I ain't going to give you a release.' He said, 'I don't
care. I'm going.' I said, 'Okay, son, you can go if you want to but I am not
giving you a release. That means you have to pay your way wherever you go
and sit out a year.' Now, his mother and daddy were on my side. They said,
'Don't let him leave. Don't let him leave.'
He's stubborn now. He's stubborn. He didn't come to practice for two or
three days. I told the coaches - because I've had this experience with
freshmen before - I said just let him go. Don't worry about him. He'll come
back. Don't worry about him. So he stayed gone for about three or four days.
Probably talked to his high school coach. Probably talked to his parents.
Probably got to thinking. And first thing you know, he's back in my office
saying, 'I'm wrong. I'm wrong. I've changed my mind. I'm going to stay.'
From that day on, I never heard him even mention wanting to leave.
It's just according to what the freshman's goals are his first year. I tell
them to come in with the idea of playing in case you have to play, but most
of them aren't going to play. So, anyway, we ended up redshirting him.
But he is a leader. Ol' Buster has always been a leader, even back in high
school. I think I told him this - check with him because I think I did. When
I was recruiting him in high school, sitting in his living room with him and
his mother, it was the first time I'd been around him and I was hearing him
talk. And I said, 'Son, you are a natural born leader.' And I think I said,
'You will be a captain of our football team one of these days.' You could
see it in him. You could just see it if he was willing to be patient. And he
Boy, there ain't much to talk about today is there? This is one of those
days where I'm just happy to be here, I tell you what.
Q: Nobody asked you if you had talked to Chuck.
A: No, I didn't talk to him. I talked to him Friday. I watched it. I was
able to watch some. I saw him when he went ahead with a minute and a half to
go and I flipped it off. This game is unbelievable. Was it Air Force and
Tennessee? After Tennessee just destroyed California? Then they had to fight
for their lives. Air Force went for two, didn't they? I didn't see that.
What's going to happen to us? Man, I don't have any idea.
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