"It just worked out in so many ways for the quarterback, just the success of the season, and a great football game against a team that's really got an excellent future. All that was positive. It wasn't about the ten wins and all that – the biggest thrill, I think, for the players and for everyone else that's a Florida State fan is that it was a win against Florida at Florida. That's pretty hard to do."
With Miami winning and likely going to the Orange Bowl, it's now possible that FSU might wind up in the Rose Bowl. How do you feel about getting a chance to possibly play in that game?
"If it did, it'd be an amazing thing. Number one, Florida State has never played in the Rose Bowl. If Florida State played in it, that means they have made the circuit. They've gotten them all. And of course, when you're in the twilight of your career, like I am, how many more shots are you going to get at something like this? So it's really a wonderful problem to have, when you start thinking between the Fiesta and the Rose Bowl. It's a nice problem to have."
What does the Rose Bowl mean to you, personally?
"I can remember, with my link in football history – when I first started watching football, I can remember the first Rose Bowl game I ever heard. 1938 – I can remember exactly where I was. I can remember who played, I can remember who won. I can't remember any of the players, but that was back when I don't think we had but four bowls – the Rose, Sugar, Cotton, and Orange. We might have had one more, but I don't remember any but those four. It was the granddaddy of all bowls, and it was back in the days when my favorite school, Alabama, could go to the Rose Bowl. I remember I was so familiar with some of those Alabama teams when they did go in the ‘40s. It's just history to me."
In the last few games, your defense has given up more points and yards than its previous average. Is that a case of your defense struggling, or of the quality of offenses you've faced, in N.C. State and Florida?
"Well, I think a lot of it is the offenses that we're playing against. We came down the last three or four games – we faced great passers every darned game. If those guys get hot, you're in trouble. I think a lot of that was the type of people, and the skill, and the schemes we're playing against. Then, for some reason, we haven't been as tough against the long play. For some reason, we haven't been as successful against the long play as we were earlier in the year. That was always one of our biggest goals, was to don't allow the long pass for a touchdown. That's gotten to us in the last couple ballgames. How concerned am I? Number one, I wish it didn't happen, but it gives somebody else an opportunity to show what they've got, and that's our offense. Thank goodness, they were able to make up for any of these deficiencies. It's good, because most of the year, it's the other way around – the defense was having to save the offense. I think it's good for our offense to be able to pay back some."
Have you had a chance to look at film of the postgame fight?
"You know, I watched some replays of it, but I can't hardly pin down anything. There were some real good questions to come of that doggone thing. Number one, I wish it hadn't happened. But where else do you go after a game, other than the middle of the field? We've always gone out there and had an FCA gathering, between all teams. I mean, everybody we've played, we've gone to the middle of the field and had a prayer together. I don't get involved in that, but the kids do. Everybody kind of goes to the middle of the field. Naturally, we were happy, and they were not. I guess you've got 160 guys dressed out there, and it didn't get any worse than it did. I guess there's some good to it. More kids were able to control themselves than weren't. But to me, I haven't spotted what started it."
Will you make a point to try to look at it closer and take disciplinary action, if you feel it's appropriate?
"We will definitely act. We will definitely try to find out exactly what happened, and see if it's not inadvertent. If it isn't, then we definitely will try to take action in some form."
Has this senior class done enough to right the ship, in terms of getting the program back along the lines that you want it to go?
"Well, we want to be a winner. We want to play in a major bowl, and we like to fight for a national championship. As far as the year was concerned, up until the tenth ballgame, you had a chance. I guess they were able to do that. Then they won 10 ballgames. And right now, (we're) in the top 10 – there's so many things right now that point back to ‘Well, this is kind of like you were several years ago.' I'll be honest with you – maintaining that is not the easiest thing in the world."
Offensively, you established the run in the first half, but you threw effectively, especially in the fourth quarter, when circumstances dictated. Is that the kind of balance you've been trying to establish all season?
"Yeah. You want the balance to where, if they're going to take this away, do that, and if they're going to take that away, do this. It looks like their strategy – thank goodness we were able to run the ball, there. They go in at the halftime and make some adjustments, kind of like ‘Well, we're not going to let you run it this half.' And so, ‘OK, good. We'll try to throw it.' But we still tried to stay with the running game. As long as the game was close, we were going to try to stay with the running game. When we evaluated all of their film, it was their defensive takeovers that had caused most of the other teams' problems – LSU, Georgia. In other words, Georgia would be playing along fine, and LSU would be playing along fine, and Ole Miss would be playing along fine, and you got into a critical third-and-long situation, and with their athletic ability, and their pressure, they can force you into a mistake, where they score. They eventually got one on us like that. Anyway, we were determined to try to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and try to beat them like that, and throw when you had to. At the end of the game, we had to. Thank goodness we were able to."
When you looked at film of Saturday's game, what was your take on the officiating?
"I looked at most of the situations pretty heavily, and there's two sides to everything. Of course, our policy – I can't talk about it. I can't criticize."
Do you think the officials sort of charged the Florida crowd up, with their early controversial calls?
"Yeah. If it'd been here, it would have charged ours up."
A lot of your players seem to agree that these last two games, N.C. State and Florida, are games that you might not have had the mental strength to win in the last couple of years. Do you agree with that?
"I think the symptoms of last year's team, and the year before, would substantiate that. I think a lot of that's more inexperience. I think that probably had to be a lot of it. They've all grown a year older, and they've learned from their experiences – you can't do this, you can't do that. I think they've learned from their experiences. I think with that experience, and with that maturity, they were more able, and did manage to handle those situations in a different way. It goes back to attitude."
How gratifying was it to see Dominic Robinson emerge?
"That was really wonderful, and as you know, we probably would not have won the ballgame had he not (emerged), unless somebody else had stepped in there and did that. But this has kind of been a tough year on Dominic. I hope he's learned from it, and I hope we've learned from it. Number one, he had a sensational spring for us. At the end of spring training, I think he was probably our most improved offensive player. Definitely (the most) improved receiver. He just had a tremendous spring, and showed a lot of leadership. I picked him on the Leadership Council. Then he comes back in the fall, ready to play, excited, doing everything he's supposed to do, and he goes out and pulls a muscle. He reports to practice with a pulled muscle. He couldn't do anything. He couldn't practice. He stood around, couldn't do this, couldn't do that. I think that really bothered him. He felt like he couldn't lead anymore. He didn't say that, but I'm sure that's the way he felt, because he didn't. It would gradually get well, and then he'd come back and play, but he must have gone five or six games without being able to play. Then when he got into games, he'd drop passes. It was just kind of one of those years. It's one of those years you kind of blow off, and realize it's kind of one of those years. He would be one of the last ones you would expect, after what's happened this year, for this to happen to. But he played, made catch after catch, ran beautiful routes, and didn't let people knock the ball out of his hands. If you watch the Miami game, watch the Clemson game, when he had big catches downfield, they knocked it out of him. He did not let that happen the other night. I would think probably that you'd have to say that Dominic is back. I was very proud of him, the way he played, plus the other guys."
Has the reformation of the Unity Council paid the kind of dividends you expected it to?
"You know, you hope so. It seemed like it. I think the big thing you'd have to get the answer from would be them, but I think they would probably all say yes. They've helped me to understand some things that they wish we can do. If I can help them with, I would. There were some things I had to say no on, but there were many things I said yes. ‘If that's what y'all want to do, we'll do that.' I think it was very positive. I thought the kids – I thought we had some doggone good leaders. In the spring, next semester, when a lot of these kids will be graduating, I will pick out another group and probably do it again."
Last season, you seemed almost apologetic about going to a BCS bowl with four losses. Now that you're back to a ten-win season, how much does that help the feeling of the whole team?
"It does make you feel better about deserving to go, and having a record that's representative. I think that means a lot. It does make you feel like you can hold your head a little bit higher, wherever you are selected. I think you need – you don't have to have it, but it sure would be nice to get at least 10 wins to go to a BCS bowl. Because you're getting down to the elite of the country. If you don't have that (10 wins), you might not be good enough to play."
"I sure hated it. Naturally, I follow them. I've always felt direction was so important. Sometimes, because you're unlucky, two or three guys get hurt, or you lose a ballgame due to something you can't control, and then you have a 9-3 season. That was kind of like Tommy (Bowden). They were getting all over Tommy, and Tommy's record, the first 80 games, was (better) than mine. It's just a shame, but it's the way it is nowadays. If people could ever see at universities, that if you get a coach that's got the qualifications, and stick with him through the bad times, he will eventually get it ironed out and start having some good years. I think that's always that way. The way we are nowadays, it's definitely ‘what have you done lately.' What you did in the past doesn't mean a thing. What you did in the past doesn't mean nothing. It's what have you done lately. You can take that in the case of myself, you can take that in the case of Joe Paterno, and you can take it in the case of Frank Solich. That's the way it is nowadays."
Darnell Dockett was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. What's your reaction to that?
"It's good. It is good. Dock has come so far since the first day he came to Tallahassee, Florida. He's come so far. And yet he still needs to come further. But he has really come a long way, and I'm glad to see him get it. I'm glad to see him win that award. I think he is really deserving."
I know you can't comment on the officiating, but Jeremy Foley, the Florida athletic director, has said that he would like to see a third conference providing the officials, instead of having ACC refs in Gainesville and SEC refs when the game is in Tallahassee. What are your thoughts on that?
"Well, the visiting team bringing it – to me, it's as close to fair (as we can get) if we're going to stay with our officials. If we're going to have our officials, and they're going to use their officials, it's probably best to use theirs at our place and ours at their place. I think the real world would be more real if you used officials from other conferences, but I don't know how you could ever do that. I don't know how you could ever work that out."
Chris Rix indicated Saturday night that he would return next season. Do you think that people just have to accept his flaws along with his good plays, as part of his package, or do you believe that a day will come when you can cure him of those flaws?
"You have to feel like eventually, eventually – his biggest problem, right now, is not protecting the ball when he runs with it. That's the biggest problem he's got. (Saturday) night, he did not protect the ball when he ran with it. You'd have to say one time. I can remember, when he played Miami as a freshman, I think about four times, he did that. So he's learning. Do I think he will one day get that thing down? I think he will, one of these days. The good thing is, he more than makes up for it most of the time."
What would you think of a Clemson-Florida matchup in the Peach Bowl? Would that be a game you'd like to see?
"I might. Tommy might not. Florida's a handful for whoever has to play them. They're like Miami, and they're like us, and some other schools. Not many schools. Texas probably would be that way. There's so much skill out there – you have to keep your fingers crossed every down that somebody don't get out of there."
Watching the film of Saturday's game, what was your impression of Chris Rix's play?
"He probably had more throws under pressure last night than he's had in a while. When he had that fourth-and-14, you just don't get much more pressure than that. The last throw that I can remember with that much pressure was when we played Nebraska in 1988 in the Fiesta Bowl. We had a fourth down and 17, on their goal line, and we're behind with a minute to play. And Danny McManus hits Ron Lewis for a touchdown. That's the last time I remember a fourth down and over 12 yards, and getting it. He had so many crucial plays – his timing was so good. He laid a couple out there beautifully. Gosh, it's a shame he had to fumble that ball. But like I said, he made up for it. He makes plays you don't coach, like when he spun out and threw that 52-yard touchdown pass. We don't coach that. That's not in our playbook. He'll do something like that and make a play – he'll make up for his fumble. But one of these days, he's going to eliminate that."
After you played Auburn in the Sugar Bowl in 1988, didn't you and Aubun's coach, Pat Dye agree to have neutral officiating crews work your regular-season games for the next few seasons?
"I think I remember him saying that. I can't remember where we agreed to it. We might have discussed it, he might have said, ‘Let's do it,' and I might have said OK. Then of course, as usual, they dropped us the next year."
With the macho attitudes of players, is it going to take more effort from coaches to reduce the confrontations, like what happened after Saturday's game?
"That is a very good question, and very hard to answer. It's kind of like – don't paint your emblem out there in the middle of the field anymore. Because that's right where we're going after the game, to celebrate. Both teams. If they'd have won, I'm sure they'd have been right in the middle, hopping. Not because that's where the emblem was, but because it is the middle of the field. It's natural. In fact, most of our games, anybody we play, when the game is over, our FCA players, which might be 50 percent of our team and the other team, meet in the middle of the field and have a little devotion there at the end, a little prayer together. And this probably started out that way. Now, the good side of what happened, what I saw – I only saw it on television, is that it was 95 percent pushing. You had 50 guys facing here, and 50 guys facing there, and this one's pushing that one back, and this one's pushing that one back. Then, I'm sure there must have been some swings in there. It's just amazing – we had 80-something guys dressed, and they probably had 80 or more at home. So you've got that many kids in the middle of the field, and one (group) is happy, and the other's unhappy. And a lion, like (FSU Sports Information director) Rob Wilson, can stand there and break it up. That's amazing. You get that many guys – there's nothing worse than trying to control a mob. What are you going to do? We'll go out there one at a time and shake hands with each other. One at a time. Or you don't go out there. You hope it don't get to that. This is a very heated rivalry. The only guy I saw go down, and get hurt, was somebody got hit by a camera. Somebody got hit in the head with a camera when the guy spun around, trying to get out of the way."
When you play Miami, the games are always intense, and the endings are often dramatic, but there never seem to be the hard feelings that follow this game. Why is that? Is there something different between the two rivalries?
"That is an amazing thing. I know one of the most heated rivalries in the country is Alabama and Auburn. I don't see it happening to them, or Michigan-Ohio State – I don't see it happen to them. And you wonder why. I don't know why – it's a good point. Why does it happen with Florida? We talk to our kids, we warn them, over and over and over – ‘Don't let it happen.' And they (the Florida coaches) do the same thing. I just don't know. Again, you've got 80 kids out there from one team, 80 on another, one of them's very happy, the other's very upset, and one guy pushes one guy. Then you've got something. And gosh – this happened before our ballgame with them at least twice. And we stopped that – what did we do? Well, we quit jumping up and down in the middle of the field. When we jump up and down at the middle of the field – we're the ones that kind of started that stuff. Our seniors wanted to do that. They didn't say ‘Jump up on top of the emblem.' They just wanted to go out to the middle of the field and try to get our crowd worked up. So we started doing it 15 years ago. We did it game after game, and nobody ever said anything about it. All of a sudden, we got challenged several times, and we had to stop. Now we say, ‘OK, we'll do it in our end zone, or we'll do it on our 30-yard line.' We do not go to the middle of the field, unless we're at home and the other team's left the field. We won't even do it in our own field, if the other team's on the field. Now, if they go inside and leave us by ourselves, we might do it on our field. Again, we mean no disrespect for it. Now, then, we can't do that. So before the game the other day, number one, our coaches line up to make sure our kids don't run through them on drills. Our coaches let them do their jump down there on the 30-yard line, and stand there to be sure that they don't get out of line. Then, when we come off the field, be sure our kids go down the sideline – don't go straight off the field like you'd like to, because they're down their working. Now, I guess we'll have to come up with an end of the game method against some people."
After the game, you suggested that having a player with a gator head at midfield might have had something to do with the scuffle.
"Yeah. When I came off the field, I was trying to think what in the world started this thing. And then I saw one of my players with that gator head. But that's been out there – I guess every time we've played Florida the last five or six or seven years, I think that thing's been out there."
It has, but do you think it should be brought out when you're in Gainesville?
"No. It probably shouldn't be. Politically, no, but gosh, you can't have any fun anymore."
Are you opposed, or not opposed, to having a neutral officiating crew if both schools agree?
"If they wanted to do it – if the other team wanted to do it, I don't know how I would stand in the way. But I'm not recommending it."
"You spoke earlier about the Rose Bowl, and the history of the game. Do you have a specific memory of a particular game that sticks out, in the history of that game?"
"Definitely. That would have been in 1945, which I think would have been the 46th Rose Bowl. In 1945, Alabama went to the Rose Bowl, they were undefeated, and played Southern Cal and beat them 45-16 or something like that. And that's the last time a team other than the Big Ten or the Pacific-10 played in the game until recently. It was always the Big Ten versus California. Alabama had a great history – I think they went to five Rose Bowls. Being from Alabama, I was aware of all that. Vaughn Mancha, who's on our faculty at Florida State, played in that game. He was an All-American. He and I have talked about that a lot. My first memory, as I said, was back in '38, when Tennessee played California in the Rose Bowl. That's the first time I remember sitting home on New Year's Day and listening to the Rose Bowl. It was big New Year's Day event. The thing is, we might not get invited there. Like I say, between the Fiesta and the Rose, it's a very good problem to have."
There's so much speculation that your team is back to where you were a few years ago. With Florida playing well and recruiting well, is there some concern that they're back as well?
"I think they're going to be back. If they're not, they're going to be. But it's still – it's something you've got prove every year. When we had that 14-year streak, there were so many of those years where we had to win our last game for it to happen. I can remember winning the Orange Bowl, and we were 9-3, and won to get 10 wins. I remember winning the Cotton Bowl to get 10 wins. The fact that we won 10 this year doesn't guarantee 10 next year, even if we're better next year. Every year you've got to go out and do better. At least this year, we can speculate positively."
How will you handle practice for the next two weeks?
"We won't practice next week – we'll give our kids off next week, and then the next week, I think, is finals. We can't practice during that time. We might schedule them to do some exercising on their own. It's probably good for them. We don't have any scheduled practices until finals are over. Once the finals are over, we've got our regular routine that we'll go through, that we've been going through the last 16 years. We're going to continue that routine, and just work it in our schedule. I do know this – the 20th of December is when we'll break to go home to Christmas."