"I imagine our boys will enjoy this win Saturday night and Sunday and once we get on with the preparation for Clemson, it will behind us. The closer you get to the final ranking, which we are in now because of Miami's loss, every game becomes important. The Clemson game all of a sudden becomes the most important. When it's over with, it's not any more important than the one after that. And that one is not any more important than the one after that. It's going to be that way every week."
You've said over the past few years this has always been a difficult game. With his situation, does this make this any different?
"No, it won't make any difference. We will play as hard as we can. I know Tommy will play as hard as he can. That's what we expect. That's the way we were raised. We know this profession is like that. It's very precarious. It's very precarious that it's come out like this. In the long run, I think it's worth it for both of us, no matter what happens."
What are your thoughts on the polls (FSU is third in both)?
"I was glad to see that because I think that's moving, from five to three, which is good. That gives you hope in the BCS. We still could be three there, or could even be four or could even be two. I don't know how that's going to come out. Thank goodness there's three more weeks. We are in position now. It's a matter of us… we must win each ballgame."
Can you assess the offense's performance and were you happy with Chris Rix's performance?
"I was very happy with it. Very happy with it. There's interceptions and then there's interceptions. They are two different things. There's interceptions on your end of the field and there's interceptions on their end, which is as good as a punt. A couple of times we had interceptions I told Jeffrey (Bowden), I said, ‘Jeffrey it's as good as a punt. Don't worry about it.' They couldn't take it and drive for a touchdown. When it happens on your end of the field like it did last year, I believe, those are interceptions. I think his three interceptions were deceiving. Now, if we had not aired the ball out like we did we would not have had a 17-0 lead or a 24-0 lead or a 30-0 lead when our interceptions occurred, if we didn't air it out we wouldn't have been ahead of them like that. You look at those statistics and you would say, ‘Darn, there he goes again.' But, again, I thought those were interceptions down at their end of the field and we were in pretty good shape in score at that time. I still don't like them but I think you see the difference."
In the rankings, the title game could come down to a number of teams with one defeat. Are you intrigued by how this is shaping up?
"You betcha. I am. We all are. I think anybody in the Top 10 with one loss is excited and yet, it doesn't mean a thing if you lose the next game. We simply have to win. But you don't know what's going to happen in front of you. Let's just say in the BCS Southern Cal is second, and we are third and somebody else is fourth and fifth. In a week, after a couple of losses, whoever is fifth might jump up to No. 2. Or Oklahoma could lose a dadgum game unexpectedly. I think it's exciting. I think it's intriguing. We are just glad we are one of the number but we might not make it. But the BCS has been pretty good to us."
What do you anticipate the response of your players?
"It would be very exciting if we moved to second. I am still leery of that and am thankful we have more time. It would excite your players. I think it would motivate them. If Southern Cal is there, they are going to be motivated. If we're there we are going to be motivated. If we are not there we are going to be motivated because we are in the hunt. I like that."
Aside from experience, what do you chalk up your defensive improvement to?
"You just said it. Experience. They are a year older. They've been through it. Last year against Notre Dame, first play of the game, we got beat for a touchdown pass. Last night we didn't. I think you would say they've learned through experience and are handling it better. That doesn't mean it can't happen next week or the next week. Or it might happen two times next week. It scars you to death. But it has definitely been better. Now if you asked me what I could put my finger on, I would say a years experience."
Can you talk about how resilient your defense has been this year when you've made mistakes..
"That is the difference between this ball club and a year ago. If you remember in the Louisville ball game, when we got into overtime, and we threw an interception the first pass. Then our defense went out on the field and what did they do? A 25-yard touchdown on the first down. Okay, that's the way they responded. Alright, we played Notre Dame and had in interception. They brought it back to the 20 and we held them to three. We return a kickoff and fumbled around the 4 or 5, and they scored in one play. Then we got the ball again and we fumbled the football and they scored in about three plays. That's the way our defense responded last year. Now, this year, every time that has happened our defense has stopped them. That's the difference between this football team right now. And we talked about that the first of the year by the way. That was one of our goals. And we always relate it back to the '93 team that stopped Kansas 10, 11, 12 times inside the five. We've always used that as our barometer."
What is the secret to that?
"I think you already named it -- intestinal fortitude is good. You can shorten it to guts if you wanted to. Again, go back to a years experience. And Mickey (Andrews) and the defensive staff making that a goal. That is one of their stated goals. When we went into the season, let's stop the long pass. We haven't given up many long passes. That's where we made our living Saturday. I just think Mickey and them put more emphasis on it."
You mentioned you were pleased to hear your players had a sense of playing that well in Notre Dame.
"We went up there in ‘93 and I tried to downplay the tradition of Notre Dame. I did that purposely because I didn't want to scare my team. I didn't want to go up there with an undefeated team and think the spirit of George Gipp was going to beat us or the spirit of Knute Rockne was going to get us, or the building they got down there with the picture (Touchdown Jesus) on it. I did want our kids to think that's what was going to beat them, so I downplayed it. Darn, if he didn't come off that building and beat us. This year, I approached it a little bit different. Yes, they do have great tradition. Yes, they do play with a lot of spirit. Yes, they do play there better than they do on the road. And we approached it… I discussed the tradition of Notre Dame with them. We forget this generation don't know all that. When I came up, it was the tradition. Now these kids coming up today, as I mentioned last week, they don't even know who Bear Bryan is. In 15 years they won't even know who Bobby Bowden is. I felt like they felt the tradition of that stadium and what it meant to being there. I told them when we go out in that stadium, take it as an opportunity. You are going to get an opportunity that most kids never get and this is to play on a football field where football started in this country. I think the forward pass started there. But there's so much history. I just told the kids to approach it as an opportunity and don't worry about who wins it."
"It is experience. P.K. has really gotten better this year. What do you relate to? He tried hard last year and he wanted to do good last year. Well, he has a year experience and he's year more confident. I think that has made the difference. Probably the same thing in Thorpe. Where Thorpe has helped himself is he did something they all ought to do -- he went out for track. I thought it improved his speed. It's really a benefit."
Did you think the Clemson job was a good one for Tommy and now, looking at some of the struggles he's had, do you still think it's a good job?
"Well, I thought it was a wise move to go from Tulane to Clemson. I also knew it would be a much more pressure job but that comes with our profession. I felt he had a better chance of winning a national championship at Clemson than he would have had at Tulane. You go undefeated at Tulane and you go undefeated at Clemson you are going to be ranked higher at Clemson because of the schedule and so forth. But with that comes the pressure. I am sure Tommy is feeling the pressure now just like I felt it at West Virginia. I have always felt… I would day Bob Davie at Notre Dame and so-and-so at this school and so-and-so at this school, when a coach having to struggle and having a rough time, it's just a matter are they going to have patience. Are they going to have patience? But I think coaches usually work it out. They wanted to run me off at West Virginia in 1974. If I hadn't see that, if I hadn't see the fickleness of fans, I probably would have stayed there. But when I saw how fickle fans were, I said to myself if I have an opportunity leave I probably ought to leave. Anyway, it's a fickle thing and a lot of it is just according to what kind of patience the people have you work for."
You are saying people ought to be patient with Tommy as well?
"Well I would say you ought to be patient with any member of my family."
How much do you two share information?
"I would exchange anything I knew that could help him win, except when he plays us. He won't get much information from me this week. We both want the other to win. So, we would exchange information in regard to anyone we would play. Except when we play each other. We will be very quiet in that."
How do you separate the feelings when you play Tommy?
"When that game comes about, once kickoff starts you are a coach. It's Florida State versus Clemson. Until that kickoff, there's no reason you can't be father and son. Talking on the sideline. Talking before the ballgame. That's about the way I approach it and probably the way he approaches it. Once that kickoff starts, you are thinking one thing, and that's winning the game. That's exactly what Tommy will be thinking."