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September 21, 2008

Sunday Conversation: Bobby Bowden

Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden met with the media Sunday morning, one day after his team lost to Wake Forest for the third consecutive season. The Seminoles committed seven turnovers and committed 12 penalties in a 12-3 defeat. Among other topics, Bowden discussed those mistakes and how FSU plans to correct them.

Opening comments

Talent and experience won out over talent and inexperience on offense. Wake Forest forced us to beat ourselves. Now, I didn't say that we beat ourselves. I said Wake Forest forced us I've got to give them credit. They forced us to beat ourselves. Everything that happened is correctible. It's not like you're completely out-manned. You've just got to correct those errors. And our success the remainder of the year will be based on how successful we are at correcting those mistakes. Not committing those turnovers. Not missing assignments. Not getting penalties. Things like that. I haven't had a chance to look at the film yet. But I think I'm going to be pretty accurate on that.

Q: You talked before about needing the proper mix of running and passing. Where did that go wrong?

A:
It seems like we shot ourselves in the foot continually. Football is built around first-and-10. Make 10 yards, and you've got a first down and you keep the drive going. For some reason, they picked out 10 as the perfect number. You're not likely to do it with first-and-25. You're not likely to do it with first-and-20. The odds are not even good first-and-15. Which we had over and over and over. Maybe if you just had penalties, maybe you could have won. All you needed was field goals. Nobody scored a touchdown either team. So our defense must have done pretty darned good, and I thought they did. They got three field goals more than we did.

Q: How confused did Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson appear when they came off the field? It seemed like they were a little lost at times out there.

A:
I don't believe it was as much [Wake] threw something different at us. The great thing about them, especially defensively they had all of this experience. That probably bothered me more than anything else, as I studied the film on them. Fifth-year seniors. Guys that already graduated. That's ideal, man. They know what they're doing. And I'll bet you three of those secondary [players] are in the NFL next year. And I know that linebacker that 59 (Aaron Curry) is going to be there. Probably a first-rounder. All three linebackers were, I believe, redshirt seniors. Men, they know they are doing. So to answer your question, we knew that they'd disguise coverages. We had seen all that. They didn't change it that much. But they do it so good. There's two things [about them] on defense. No. 1, you have to execute to beat them. No. 2, it ain't like they don't have good athletes over there. Now, if we have to execute to beat them and they've got poor athletes that's what we did against those first two teams. We were better. But here is a team that's a veteran football team. They'll have to struggle a little bit probably next year with eight of those starters gone. But I don't think they're on our schedule next year. I think they rotate off. But you've got to execute perfectly. And like I said, you can't do it with first-and-25's. I don't know how many [penalties] we had, but it seemed like we had a lot of good yardage called back. Every time we'd make a nice gain, I'd see the flag out there. We emphasized to our kids so much this year about blocking downfield low. Block low downfield, so as not to get the penalties. The penalties occur, like they did the week before, when you're blocking downfield, and the guy gets away, and you grab him and hold him. So to prevent that hold, get down and block his feet. Then they won't get a penalty. So some of our guys blocked back you can't block back. You can't be on the outside and block low coming back in here. We did that two times in a row. I don't know if that's just a misunderstanding, the kid not understanding what we're saying or what. I have to take the blame for that.

Q: You talked about the experience and talent that Wake had in comparison to the first two opponents. Do you now think that maybe you should have scheduled a Division I-A team in the second game, as opposed to two I-AA teams?

A:
No, I really don't. I felt like the first two games we got what we needed. That was a chance to execute and see who could do this and who could do that. And it showed our potential. We showed our potential. But you know it's not potential, it's performance. We knew that sooner or later we were going to line up against somebody that you were going to have to have more than potential you were going to have to perform. But that's a good point: Do you wish you would have played tougher people? Yeah, we might have done better we might have done better against [Wake]. But we might have lost [those earlier games] too. The way we played last night. Now the thing is, penalties are correctible. Missed assignments are correctible. Fumbles, they are correctible you can work on it. Interceptions? You can work on that. And our kids played hard. Both teams played so dog-gone hard. We just needed one play. We needed one touchdown. We were behind by six, three, six. Just one touchdown, you could go ahead of them. I kept thinking that surely, it's going to happen. It's going to be interesting to see what they do the rest of the year, and it's going to be interesting to see what we do the rest of the year.

Q: In the first couple of games, it seemed like you guys had Christian throw a lot of short passes to kind of get going. Was there a plan to do more of that last night, with them getting some pressure on your quarterbacks?

A:
We worked on all of it short, across the middle, long, post. But that little old No. 2 (Alphonso Smith) at corner, he is dangerous. And then he gets one [interception] right off the bat. That scares you a little, but we still tried to throw. That other guy's good too. Those safeties are good. Those linebackers are good. You know? They rushed us better than the other teams that we played, but I'm not sure that their rush was the deciding factor.

Q: You talked about the difference in experience. Drew Weatherford has an awful lot of experience did you ever think about going to him?

A:
The thing we were concerned about with him was could he get out of trouble. Those kids did do a good job of evading trouble. And maybe so, you'll never know.

Q: They avoided sacks, but they threw a lot of interceptions.

A:
Yeah, we did that.

Q: And Drew's had a good record lately of not throwing interceptions.

A:
Yeah, that's true. But you never know. He might have thrown them too. I'd like to think he wouldn't, but you never know.

Q: This doesn't change your mind about those two young quarterbacks and them being ahead of Weatherford, does it?

A:
I'm sure we'll study the film. And if we see anything that makes us feel that we ought to change we've got to see if we see anything that makes us feel that we ought to change. We'll have to study the film, and me and Jimbo will sit and talk. He's usually got a pretty good feel on that.

Q: Without looking at the film, do you have a feeling whether those guys don't have it or if it was just a case of young quarterbacks going against an experienced defense?

A:
I'm going to have to look at the film to see. I've got to look at the film and see, were those stupid mistakes? Or were those great plays? I think a lot of it is great plays in the secondary. They do it all the time. They did it to us last year. We self-destructed too much this time. You've got to go out there and execute. You've got to throw it to the right guy.

Q: There was a lot of talk about how this game was a big game because it could have given you momentum through the middle of the season. Now that you've lost it, how big is that game next week against Colorado?

A:
It's going to be how we respond to this. I expect them to respond favorably. They're pretty good kids. They played hard. It's not like they didn't play hard last night. They were ready to play.

Q: Is this week almost like a fresh start in some ways because you are getting so many guys back from suspensions?

A:
Maybe they could have played good enough last night to have got us some interceptions, where we get a shot at a field goal. You don't know. At least we'll go in this week with our full squad there, for the first time.

Q: Preston Parker came back and had a few catches, but he also had a big penalty and the fumble. Did it look like he was maybe too keyed up, with this being his first game back from the suspension?

A:
Yeah, maybe that time out I'm sure it hurt him. He didn't have his normal success. We tried to use him at a lot of positions. Maybe we didn't let him get enough work at one place. You can look back and see a lot of things you could have done. We had some penalties that were just uncalled for. How many times was it mentioned to me last week, is this payback? Are y'all going to get payback? I don't like paybacks. I don't like that word. Your kids go out and do stupid things. They get penalties. We got two penalties that yeah they were paybacks. Wake Forest paid us back.

Q: With such a young team, how do you make sure this doesn't damage their confidence?

A:
We've got coaches that have been around a long time in some big leagues. This is not the first time this has ever happened. I can remember when LSU got beat by UAB, when Jimbo and them were over there. UAB. So this is not the first time that they have been through something like this. They'll know how to bring the kids back. All the kids have got to do is listen.

Q: Did you get to see much of the Colorado game Thursday night, when they beat West Virginia? And how did they compare to what you saw last year?

A:
I saw the first half of it. It looks like they've strengthened themselves over last year with their recruiting. They brought in a couple of runners that are very dangerous. And they're naturally last year was (Dan Hawkins') second year there, and it looks like they're grasping what he wants. They're playing much better.

Q: There was a lot of excitement about the way the offense looked the first two games. But did this show that some patience is needed with so many young players?

A:
We're playing guys that back when we signed them, they were supposed to redshirt. When we signed them we knew they were good potential players. They're going to be good one of these days. But it's mighty early to have to go out there and play. Now, you can play against Western Carolina, and you can play against Chattanooga. But not these good teams.

Q: With the defense still missing several key players, how impressed were you with the way the defense kept turning Wake away in the red zone?

A:
That's the thing about it. You look at it and you say, "Boy, you all played bad." The defense played pretty dog-gone good. We didn't do as good over here. If you can play great defense, that gives you a chance. That's what Wake Forest did. They played great defense. We did a better job of stopping them last night than we did last year or the year before. A lot better. But they did a better job of shutting us down, and a lot of it was penalties. Was it 11 penalties?

Q: Twelve for 139.

A:
That is awful.

Q: Seven 15-yarders.

A:
Seven 15-yarders? There might have been three or four field goals without those penalties. Golly.

Q: Offensively, one of the guys you're getting back is tight end Caz Piurowski. How much can he help you, not just as a big target in the passing game, but also as an extra blocker?

A:
Let's look at that tight end situation. Piurowski can't play. So you go out and sign two real good, outstanding freshmen (Ja'Baris) Little and (Bo) Reliford. They're heck of prospects, you know it? Then you've got a walk-on named (Josh) Dobbie. OK, one of [the freshmen], the Clearinghouse won't let you get in school. He misses about 10 practices. Then Little missed nearly two weeks of practice. Then they came back, but goodness, look how far they are behind. So, how much will we enjoy having Piurowski back? It's very important. There are some things you can do with a 275-pound, 6-foot-7 veteran tight end. There are a lot of things that can help you.

Q: Might blocking be the biggest thing he can give you?

A:
He can catch, but blocking will be the main thing. It's like having another tackle in there.

Q: It was an eye-opening game for your skill players. But wasn't it just as eye-opening for your young linemen as well?

A:
Oh yeah.

Q: Coach, Penn State won yesterday. So that puts you at No. 2 on the all-time wins list for the first time in awhile.

A:
Yeah, darn it. (laughing) Ain't but one thing that can solve that, that's winning. You've got to win. I'm kind of like Joe [Paterno] on it. It don't bother me. Joe's always ignored it. I know it's there. I don't deny it's there. But there's a lot of football left.

Q: Are you willing to be patient with these young linemen? Or do you think you'll have to change things up a bit?

A:
Well, you should have learned a whole lot last night. Remember, three of those guys were playing high school ball last year. Then they opened up with the two teams we opened up with. Now they've played a good football team. A team that maybe you don't know how far they'll go. They may go a long way. That wouldn't surprise me. They're so sound. So anyway, they should have gained a whole lot of experience last night. How will that carry over? We're going to see.

Q: Next week, you have Colorado in Jacksonville. What do you like about these neutral-site games?

A:
It doesn't bother me to play in these towns in Florida against a team way off. To me, it's kind of like a home game. We've always played well over there. It's kind of exciting. It's kind of like a bowl atmosphere. Kind of like the Alabama game last year.

Q: Do you feel like it helps recruiting?

A:
It doesn't hurt. Especially in the Jacksonville area.

Q: This next game against Colorado will be the 500th of your career. Does that mean anything to you?

A:
That's kind of like me and Joe trying to be No. 1. It's irrelevant. If it happens, it happens. In other words, if I can live seven more days, I've got that record? (laughing) It's called old age, isn't it?

Q: During the week, you guys weren't sure if Graham Gano would be able to kick. And then you sent him out there for a 52-yard kick. Did you know he had that leg strength back?

A:
No, I'm encouraged. We were going to try to use him on short extra points and field goals. But he wanted to take a shot. That suits me, because it got him over that mental block. Last week, he didn't want to kick it hard. Maybe it felt good and we can get him on kickoffs too. You know, the two guys most instrumental in beating us were [Sam] Swank and that quarterback. Without Swank and that quarterback, I'm not sure if they could have beat us. Both of them from Jacksonville, Florida. Amazing.

Q: Could you talk more about playing in Jacksonville and the success you all have had there?

A:
It suits me. T.K. (Wetherell), he would like to play games throughout the state of Florida. I'm sure that he would like to play in Orlando and Tampa as well. But Jacksonville, we ain't lost a whole lot of games over there. We lost to Southern Miss one year. Did we lose anymore? We tied Penn State back in '67. I wasn't there. We won the Gator Bowls, we beat other people over there. The town's been good to us. It leaves a good taste in your mouth. And again, there wouldn't be as much significance to playing Florida in Jacksonville. That's their home too. But it ain't Colorado's home.

Q: You seemed to spend a good while talking to Coach Grobe after the game. What was that exchange like?

A:
I'm just amazed at what he's done. Did you all hear me tell that story the other day about that song they made when I first came here? That song Bobby B? It reminds me of him. "The Gators used to laugh and clown, when Florida State would come to town. But they quit laughing, thanks to Bobby B." Well you could say the same thing for Wake Forest. "The ACC used to laugh and clown, when Wake Forest came to town. But they quit laughing, thanks to Jimmy G." And you know, that's pretty dad-gum true.

Q: You know, if things don't work out with this football coaching stuff, you might have a future in song writing?

A:
What do you mean might? It's heading that direction. Lose another, I'm going to sing it.

Q: Coach, the talk all week was about the Wake game was a chance for your guys to show much they've improved. But isn't it possible that they're much better now, too?

A:
Jim said before the season that they might be better. And I think they probably are. It's going to be interesting how this thing plays out. You can't underestimate the team that beat you. What if they went undefeated? What if they won the national championship? What if they won the ACC? You would say, "Hey, you played the best dad-gum team in the conference." You don't know yet what you caught last week.

Q: You'll be getting all of these suspended players back this week. Have they surprised you with how hard they've worked during the time away?

A:
They handled it exactly like I hoped they would. They kept their spirits up. And they worked hard. They had to go in and work [on the scout team] against our offense and our defense. And they worked hard. They're all excited about getting back. You get Dekoda (Watson) back, and you get one of the most explosive linebackers we've had. He can fly. We've missed those guys on kickoff coverage. So at least we'll get that back. And I hope that dad-gum Gano is ready to unleash his leg.

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