Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews spoke with the media Monday about the Seminoles' loss at Georgia Tech, issues defending the option attack this past Saturday, looking ahead to preparing for this weekend's game against Clemson, and much more. Here is a transcript of that conversation.
"I guess I will start off by saying we were disappointed with the outcome of the game. Determined it wasn't our best performance, I don't remember ever when we have given up that many yards rushing in a ball game. Certainly we didn't do enough to help us win the football game, to help our team win the football game. We thought our plan was good going in, we had it very simple, and very basic to make sure we didn't have a lot of missed assignments and that was one of the things that came out of the game. We had probably fewer missed assignments than we have had in any game this year. We had less than 10 missed tackles again. Normally when you do that, you do well defensively. It wasn't – the problem that we faced was getting the defense executed. We lined up incorrectly a couple of times, a few times. It seemed that every time that that occurred, that's when they seemed to have a play called to take advantage of it. They did a very good job of changing their plans as they went along. Every time we made an adjustment, they would go back and find something else that created another weakness. You just have to give them credit. They are doing an outstanding job of getting there people in place and executing their offense."'
"We were concerned going in that in a weeks time could you simulate the blocking schemes as well as the speed of the game, the speed of the option. We didn't get that done to the extent that we needed to. We adjusted to it as it went along. We had some trouble covering the pitch early in the game because of their alignment or their formations. We made some adjustments in our alignments at halftime that kept us in it. Once we got that taken care of, they attacked us – like I said it was a good job on their part. Getting out of position was the thing that really created problems for us. We played one particular defense that gave up both long fullback runs for touchdowns, just improper alignments and taking care of your job. They got over 100 yards on two plays and 14 points. What it boiled down to basically was they executed their offense better than we executed our defense."
"You would think if you had an opportunity to play it again next week that you would do a whole lot better just simply due to the fact that you have got something to teach, and correct, but you don't get that chance. You got to do it when you play."
"Like I said earlier, going in we were concerned about our ability to tackle in space which was not a significant problem for us. Another concern was us being able to hold up against their wide receivers, big number eight he caught two balls for 25 yards I think or something like that. The first pass was a 30 yarder, that was their 50 yards passing in the first half. They didn't have any in the second half. They had two yards rushing in the fourth quarter. We did some things well, but when we broke down, we broke down and gave up big plays. That was the thing that we talked about with them all week, and especially Friday night, prevent long gainers. Lets don't give up big gainers. And the other thing was create and force takeaways and we didn't get enough of that. We only forced three punts, and then two turnovers. Only one fourth down play, and we didn't win it. We didn't get a very favorable spot."
Q: I think it was Dekoda Watson who said as the game got on he got more and more confused. If the game plan was simple, are you surprised by that?
Andrews: Yeah. We had pretty much the same thing. We had three defensive fronts that we were going to play, two of them were basically the same. For some of them, there were two little changes for interior lineman and linebackers. Yeah, I am concerned that it was difficult because it didn't seem to be difficult when we put it in and didn't have those problems with it on the practice field. Probably as much as anything, the speed of the game, it's so hard to simulate in practice. The angles, the motion, getting everything to fit just right.
Q: If you were to go against that offense again would there be certain things you would make adjustments on?
Andrews: We did. We made some adjustments during the game. One of them was to take out the defense that gave up two touchdowns. We just called it two too many times. We had people that weren't lined up properly and didn't take care of their man. That's enough said there.
Q: Was there some reason on those running plays that the middle of the field gets wide open like that?
Andrews: Yep because the safety was covering the pitch man.
Q: So the assignment on the fullback has to be done by someone up front?
Andrews: That's the logical thing. Yes. Somebody's got to take care of that when you do it. You got to change up a little bit with how you attack the fullback whether you do it inside out or outside in. You got to change up how you attack the quarterback, you got to give him a little different look and even how you attack the pitch. We just didn't get it executed, enough said. They went primarily to a trips formation which had been a more pass oriented formation than a run and they did some things on it that gave us some problems. When it comes right down to it, it's simple when you say someone take the dive, someone take the quarterback, somebody take the pitch. It's more than just assignments, it's execution too. Tackling comes into it. Even though there weren't missed tackles, we weren't in position to make tackles sometimes.
Q: Some of the players said they might have been trying to do too much, did you sense that?
Andrews: We assigned a guy to get the fullback, the quarterback, and the option. What they were referring to I'm not sure. Just do your job. We never gave anybody more than one job.
Q: But some of the players were saying that sometimes they might have been trying to do more than just their assignment.
Andrews: Yeah, maybe so. Like I said, I don't know how it could be any more simple than what we did. With as few of calls as we had, I think their priorities sometimes – one lineman on a certain play was blowing the center up instead of playing the fullback. Your primary job was not whipping the center it's to take the fullback. Or a guy on the quarterback, you can't be peeking at the dive fake or you'll miss the quarterback. A couple of times we missed the angle too. They started running a follow play that was different than what they ran a lot of times. We finally adjusted to it, and did alright, but we just didn't get it done to prevent long plays, and that is key.
Q: Is this offense going to be a nightmare for this league once he gets his people in?
Andrews: If they execute. It's all about execution. They didn't have a bad pitch. One time we created a fumble, but it wasn't on the pitch, we got the ball out of there. Everette (Brown) did. They were careless with the ball one time, two times on a pass. We broke it up, we should have intercepted that one. Then we intercepted the other one, the one that went to number eight. The thing was is that they had a spring and a whole season to work on their scheme. We had one week. That's a disadvantage. I would say it would be more that – and I would say that depth probably hurts them more. Their first team, they have got some pretty good guys in place. But I think too, people will learn how to defend it better, just like we would if we would have played it again.
Q: You are facing a lot of offensive firepower against Clemson aren't you?
Andrews: Yes. Their offensive line only has one returning starter, their center. They have played seven or eight games now, eight games I guess so they have got some experience now. The skill people are about as good as you face. Running backs, very talented, speed, make you miss, can break tackles, and maybe just as important for an offense they can catch the ball. 28 (CJ Spiller) had six passes for 105 yards against Boston College. A lot of times, the key to an offense like that is to get the ball to the guy, he doesn't have to line up behind the quarterback to get it all the time. They are doing a better job of getting those guys the football. Very good receivers, tall, very rangy, speed guys, and looks like they have got it back together. They struggled a little bit there at the beginning of the year, but looked pretty impressive against Boston College. We can't use our defense that we used against Georgia Tech all year long. Nothing. Not a single play. So now we will get back, hopefully we can do a better job playing the defenses that we have had all our reps on.
Q: Patrick Robinson intercepted one pass and nearly picked another one. He is starting to play a little better.
Andrews: He is starting to come back now. He looked a little bit more like he was at the end of last year. Getting healthy again, getting enough reps to be an effective player. He will have to – that was the thing about last week, I told them that those corners were going to have as big of a role as anybody on that field playing against those big receivers. I think going in, that big guy was the only receiver that had caught a pass in the last four games. And you can see why with that big body that can run and catch like he can. Patrick's job was difficult this past week because there were a lot more running plays then there were pass plays. The play where you are challenged is the play where you have to be at your best. He caught a couple passes in front of us and got his 25 yards like that. And then caught another short pass on a wheel comeback. I guess that was it. They completed four out of six.
Q: Can you pick out one issue that Clemson has created that the defense has not handled well in the last few meetings?
Andrews: Probably the screen plays. They throw a lot of different screens and they execute them. It may be as good of a play that they execute. They get it to different receivers. The jailbreak, the bubble, the slip screens by their running backs but they are very good at that. They have hurt us through the years with as much man coverage as we play you get someone isolated and those are the plays where you just have to have help from your linemen, your backers, everybody has got to react to them. We will have to do an outstanding job with that this week.
Q: How do you counter that?
Andrews: You have to have great coverage, you have to get off blockers, and you have to get folks flying to the football. You have got to know the difference between beating a blocker when you are pass rushing and when a guy has turned you loose. There are not many plays where our people just totally are freed up by their blocker. We just have to be very smart at that.
Q: Are they doing much differently since the change in coaches?
Andrews: Some, a little bit but we thought at one time about just breaking down the two games since Tommy has been (gone) from there but we are going to look at all of the tape. We will look and study all of the tape. It is the same players, they changed a few things but you don't usually see major changes.
Q: Was the Bowden Bowl ever distracting for you as an assistant coach? Do you think it has any factor now that it has ended?
Andrews: No, I think you are the guys that made it a big thing, a big issue. I don't remember seeing anything in the scouting report about it being the Bowden Bowl. I don't think it was ever mentioned in a meeting or practice, Coach (Bowden) never mentioned it. I think it is just something that you hype the game up with and probably the media got more fun out of it than anybody.
Q: Does Clemson look like a different team than earlier in the season or just a team that has smoothed out some of the rough edges?
Andrews: The film that we have looked at, the videos that we have looked at, is a team that had the skill early just as they do now, a team that did some things that really created problems for your defense as far as alignments, getting lined up, they run a tremendous amount of formations from every personnel grouping that they have. I don't know if our players can learn that much but anyways we have to get it taught. Quarterback, both of them have been hurt some, they have played very, very well at times and at other times have tried to rely on their other players to help them through it but basically it is not a whole lot of difference. They looked like they may have played more like a team this past week.
Q: Jermaine Thomas has been getting some praise for his play in games, have you see what makes him special in practices?
Andrews: Yeah, he is a guy who has got vision, he has acceleration, and he does things that most real good backs do. He doesn't go down with a whiff. I think probably as much as anything is his ability to use his blockers and to break off of tacklers.
Q: Sounds like he has toughness.
Andrews: Yeah, here is a kid who got hurt, he got knocked out of the Virginia Tech game, got very little practice this week, really didn't know his status, and he goes out there and is our leading rusher. That is impressive.
Q: Based on what you have seen from him in practice you aren't too surprised by what he did Saturday?
Andrews: Nope. He has done it in other games when he has been in there. It wasn't a one time fluke. When a horse runs good one week, the next time all he is doing is eating oat and pooping, then you don't hear nothing being mentioned about him but when he goes and does it two or three times then you take notice that it must be a good horse. I don't know why I am talking about horses, I have never been to a horse race. … I saw it on TV.
Q: Second half of the Georgia Tech game they only had one big play, how much do you attribute that to them losing their quarterback and how much was that the defense executed better?
Andrews: Well we did a little bit better of a job but like I said we were in the same defense that got the other touchdown run by the fullback in the second quarter and I think it is easy to assume we didn't call that defense any more, we put that on the shelf. We are going to have to get a little bit better at it before we ever play it again. But losing their quarterback, the kid that came in to take his place wasn't quite as effective as the other guy was. I was a little surprised they threw the ball there at the end like they did but Pat did a great job on it. That is the thing you have to do defensively, when a team makes a mistake you have to make them pay for it. Just like we made a mistake on our alignments, they made us pay for them with 14 points. I think the amount of time you are able to work against it and make adjustments, a big part of it was on the sideline when they come out telling them where they have to make their changes and anytime you play an offense like that you kind of get more accustomed to it as the game goes along.
We had prepared for that formation but not nearly as much as we got it in the game. Their regular two-slot set was the primary thing they had used all year. This was probably 10 or 15%, probably 10% of what they had used in all of their other games but they had some success with it early and just stayed with it.
Q: Did that spread you guys out more?
Andrews: Well, it changed our alignment with our safeties for one thing and you have got to adjust your backers a little bit when you do that.
Q: They worked backside off of that.
Andrews: Yeah, they worked in trips. We knew they liked to attack trips backside but we thought we would get it with the lead option instead of bringing the guy back.
Q: When you are facing a talented and dangerous Clemson team that hasn't quite put it together but maybe is showing signs, do you have to hammer it home that you will likely get these guys best?
Andrews: I think our guys are aware of that. They need to win just like we need to win. It seems like they have rallied a little bit now and have pulled the pieces together. They had the same trouble with the same team that we did but what we will do is we will go back to playing our regular defenses that we have been playing and our kids will be a little more comfortable with that. Now you have other challenges that face you with that, you are facing a totally, completely different type of offense and we will have to defend in space again because of the way they split people out and the movement, making your checks and adjustments on that is something we need to be good at.
Andrews: Don't know. He has had this trouble before with concussions. We will just have to wait and see. Randy (Oravetz) will know more about that.
Q: Was he hurt on his return or some other time?
Andrews: No, I think it was when he was covering the kickoff.
Q: I guess you wouldn't mind getting another shot at Georgia Tech's triple option in December in Tampa?
Andrews: Well, we got through grading it yesterday and it has been put to bed. I wouldn't even have brought it back up if I didn't have to be here. That won't happen until next year or if it does happen in Tampa then so be it. I think it would be a bad thing to have two weeks to prepare for. You don't even think about that, the only think you think about right now is Clemson.