Florida State coach Bobby Bowden spoke to the media via teleconference Friday afternoon. He spoke about the Seminoles' victory against N.C. State and the upcoming game against Virginia Tech. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
Q: Now that you've had a little time to look back on it, what did you think of your team's performance Thursday?
A: You know, I got the feeling that we finally won a game that we had been losing – that is on the road, favored, tight ballgame, behind in the fourth quarter, and came back and won. I've always felt like the success to having good years is to win the close games. And if you look at our record the last three, four, five years we have not done that. We've lost so many close games. You know, when you play a whole season and you got blown out one time, and the rest of the games are within three to seven points, those are close games that you lost. So, we finally won one like that. Maybe that's a good sign.
Q: Looking forward to next week, you've got Virginia Tech. What kind of issues do they present?
A: I think you'd have to say that Virginia Tech has been in the top echelon for the last 10, 15, 20 years. So I think it will give us another [chance] to see, are we climbing back? Because I do think they are a step up.
Q: Before the season, there was talk that the attitudes were better and that there was better camaraderie on this year's team. But you said you had heard that every year, and you wanted these guys to show it on the field. Are you seeing that?
A: Well, we're only halfway through [the season]. And the whole picture could change in six more ballgames. But you would say that so far, so good.
Q: You've talked before about certain teams just having another team's number. With the exception of last year, you have historically done well against Virginia Tech. Is there something to that? Can one team have another team's number?
A: I found that true down through the years. Now that doesn't last forever – that's the one thing about it. They broke the string on us last year. Now does that mean they're fixing to start a string on us? I don't know. But as I look down through my career and the years that I have been coaching, there's some teams that you played that you couldn't beat. I never could beat Penn State when I was at West Virginia. We went years without beating Miami. We went years without beating Florida. And then you finally break the ice. We had a long run against Virginia Tech – there's no doubt about that. But last year, they broke that. Now you're trying to start something new.
Q: Aside from talent level, is there something that contributes to having a good streak, or having a not-so-good streak, against a certain team?
A: I think the big thing is talent level. Maybe you're just superior to them for eight or nine years. It's not like you're inferior and beat them in a streak. So I think probably it's having better material at the time. I know that when I was at West Virginia, we played Penn State every year. I was the head coach almost six years, but West Virginia had lost to them for 25 years in a row. But you look at it over the years, Penn State had much, much better material.
Q: Does it become psychological? Especially if you get behind in a game against that team?
A: Oh yeah, I think that can happen. I think if you win enough times, it does become psychological. And the coach has to keep preaching that week that you've got to believe that you're going to win.
Q: You mentioned that this was a game that Florida State might not have won in some recent years. It seemed particularly impressive that your team was able to come back again strong after N.C. State took the lead in the fourth quarter. Did that impress you?
A: Oh yeah. Do you remember the last time we were up there? We had a 10-point lead. We had a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and they came back and scored twice. Then we got the ball back and couldn't do it.
Q: Can you talk about Graham Gano. Over the last couple years, you guys have given him chances to compete for the place-kicking job, but he never could take it. And now that he has got the job, he really has taken off.
A: That's amazing. It's amazing. Here's a guy that's been hurt. Hasn't been able to practice. Has practiced bit by bit. Can't even kick off because he can't strain his leg that much. But here he is just kicking the heck out of it. We've been through years where we've had good percentages, and that same guy would break down. Since he started kicking for us again, we couldn't ask for better.
Q: Though you said you were happy that your team finally won a close game on the road, you also said that it doesn't necessarily mean anything for the future. But doesn't it mean something positive though?
A: Yeah, it means something for the time being. It means something for right now. Yeah, you did it. Now does that mean you can count on it for the rest of the year? No, you can't. You've got to go out there and do it. But at least it's a good sign.
Q: Can you talk about the way the offensive line bounced back. Early on, they were having all kinds of trouble.
A: The thing that can really be deceptive is penalties. We had five holding penalties the first half. That means that we're sitting there facing first-and-17 or second-and-20 and stuff like that, and we overcame that a couple of times. But buddy, you can't make a living going out there with a holding penalty and overcome it. It caught them later on too. We were moving the dog-gone ball pretty good. But if it's third down and 20, and you make 18, that's not enough. You look at that scoreboard, and you're not getting anything up there. You might be moving the ball, but those penalties are nullifying it. We went through that [against] Wake Forest. That's what that game reminded me of – Wake Forest. We'd have a first-and-20 on our own 10. My goodness … so anyway, we got over that in the second half.
Q: The thing that jumped out was the number of long, time-consuming drives that you had. There were 10 plays, 11 plays, one of them was 18 plays. What does that say about this offense?
A: It's what we call execution. That's one of your goals every time you play. I hope we can execute tonight. I hope we can execute. If you can execute, you've got first and 10, and you can get five or more [yards] on first down, that's execution. If it's third and 3 and you get it, that's execution. … So I think those long drives say, "Hey, you're executing." You're not fumbling the football. You're not getting penalties. You're not throwing interceptions. You're not jumping offsides. You're not missing assignments. That's execution. The amazing thing, even against Miami, we had three or four drives for touchdowns over 75 yards. Usually when teams are playing and they're both pretty equal, it's amazing if you get one touchdown drive that far. Usually you get a touchdown because the other team fumbles on the 50 and you only have to go 50 for it. To get that many, we did it, so that's a good sign. Last night, I don't know how many we had like that. But that 18-play drive, and also making that clock run out, was big too. Number one, not only did you eat up five or six minutes, but you ended up with a field goal.
A: Yeah, yeah. The other games before this … he hadn't thrown that much. His stats weren't that outstanding. But this game, he had to throw more. And he was good at it. He did a good job.
Q: Do you chalk that up to experience?
A: No, I think the big thing in that statistic is we have not had to throw. We run so much better now. You're running for first downs, why throw the ball? We've been able to depend on that running game so much that he hasn't been able to put up the numbers -- which is fine, because our goal is to win.
Q: N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson made some plays against your defense last night with his mobility. Next week, you'll see an even more mobile quarterback in Tyrod Taylor from Virginia Tech. What kind of challenge is that?
A: Number one, you've got to keep him contained. You've got to contain him. You can't let him get out there in that open field, he'll kill you. Just like D'Vo (D'Vontrey Richardson) does for us. You've got to keep him surrounded. And then we've got to tackle better. We didn't tackle good the other night.
Q: On an unrelated topic, FSU is sending staff to the NCAA in Indianapolis for a Saturday hearing about the academic scandal. There have been rumblings that people are concerned that this ultimately could lead to further sanctions like forfeiting games. Are you worried about that, or do you just wait to see what happens?
A: I don't think they've done that in the past – forfeits. We've tried to punish ourselves like we thought they would. And all we could go by is what they have done in the past. Now if they change procedure, I guess anything can happen. But I think their nature has been to take away scholarships, to suspend [players] from games and things like that.
Q: On the TV broadcast, they mentioned that you gave a strong speech to the team at halftime. What did you tell them?
A: We follow the same procedure nearly every game. We go inside and our inside staff meets together, then our defensive staff meets together. And they talk about what they think they've got to do. Then they go and talk to their players … go over what they've got to do. Then when they get through, I sum it up. Most of the things I say are things the coaches have alerted to me that need to be said. We got on them a little bit, but I've done that before.
Q: When Jimbo Fisher, Rick Trickett and those guys came in, they talked a lot about toughness. About how they hoped to make sure the kids were physically tough and mentally tough. Are you starting to see that transformation?
A: I think we're seeing it more. And that's their nature. They don't have to decide to do that. Trickett doesn't have to decide he's going to do that. Or Jimbo or Dawsey or the other coaches. I think it's their nature. Now Mickey Andrews, you know that he and [Chuck] Amato and that group have always had that about their nature. So Jimbo and them, they think you've got to do that to win. Now if you looked at LSU play when Jimbo was at LSU, they were a very physical football team. They'd just run that ball right down your throat if they could. He's kind of adding that to our repertoire.
Q: On that note, it seemed like Marcus Sims brought a lot of toughness when he got the ball last night.
A: We've been waiting for him to get back. He was having a pretty good year last year, and he got hurt in the second or third game against Alabama, out for the year. Then he came back in the spring and had a good spring for us. Then when we started fall practice, he really was running hard. I made a statement to you all [at practice] that he was running better than I've ever seen him run, and he has. So Jimbo's been wanting to get him back where we can work him into the gameplan more.
Q: You guys have had good starts in recent years, where you've been 4-1 or 5-1. What's it going to take this year to keep that going and get over that hump?
A: You've just got to win games. I think one thing about it is this – that game we played last night, a very close ballgame, a game where you were behind and could have lost it, but you did come back and win it like you're supposed to. Now this week, you're going to play Virginia Tech. Now when you look at the polls and you look at the polls from the last 10 years, Virginia Tech has been in the top 10 nearly every year. So now, OK Florida State, let's see if you're ready for that step because this is another step now. If we can beat them, I just think it's another positive sign that we're heading in the right direction.
Q: Based on what you've seen the past few weeks, do you think they're ready to take that step?
A: We've got to play that ballgame. We're ready to try to take it, I know that.
Q: You mentioned that it was good for you to win this game because it was a close game. But isn't it really two close wins in a row, with the Miami game?
A: Yeah, I was going back to last year and the year before and the year before. When Boston College came down here one year and got us 14-0. Then we got it close again, and they beat us by five. Then we played Miami last year and had them beat, then they beat us. Then North Carolina State, we had them 20-10 in the fourth quarter, and they came back and beat us. We just haven't come back and won our share. This year, we've got 2 out of 2. I should say 2 out of 3. We didn't come back against Wake.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us on the injury situations?
A: I haven't talked to Randy [Oravetz]. Dekoda Watson didn't dress out the second half. And [Will] Furlong got hurt in the pregame warmups. Maybe this weekend we can get them better. I can't remember anybody else.
Q: You've had a couple of close games, and it seems like Ponder has stayed pretty calm down the stretch. Has that impressed you so far?
A: I think it's very noticeable. That's something you're looking for. He don't panic.
Q: Are you going to be a big Maryland fan this weekend, since they're playing Wake Forest?
A: Naturally, Wake would have to win a couple of ballgames and we would have to win ours. All we can do is take care of ourselves. Naturally, it would be to our advantage if we can win. But somebody's got to beat them, or we can win and not even get there.
Q: Should Florida State be in the top 25 when the polls come out after this weekend?
A: Probably as much as anybody else. There's a whole lot of one-loss teams. A whole bunch of them. Now they're might be so many of them that were already ahead of us that we won't make it. But do we deserve to be there? Probably as much as six or seven of them.