Naturally, it concerns you. I haven't finished really looking at the film, but I've scanned through it once.I really felt that if we played the way we did in the first half, we could be a contender. I felt like if we played like we did in the second half, we'd be looking at 9-4 at the best. Somewhere in between there, we've gotta get it figured out. It seems like we played worse as the game went on, instead of better. That's execution. It's nothing that can't be corrected, but can you correct it fast enough.
It seemed like you had the same problems Saturday that you did last year. You got the early lead, but they got some big plays in the second half. Does that concern you?
Yes. The only thing different is, I think we played 50 people in the first quarter. We played a lot of people. We ain't that good - if you play your top 22, they might can execute better and eliminate some of those errors. If you play 50-something people - we're not that good. We don't have that many people ready to play. Maybe you lose some of your continuity there. Another real big factor in the game, I mean real big, that I underestimated, was their fans. It was like a home game for them. You could tell by the (game) program. Did you see the program? I think they mentioned us in there. They had a couple of pages of Florida State. Then you've got their band, and not our band. If there were 55,000 people there, I'll bet you 48,000 were for them. It was very obvious. Every time something exciting would happen for them, the noise and factor of Iowa State, I think, became a point. Our quarterback even had a hard time checking. I would not have thought that that would happen on a neutral field. Our quarterback - we had a hard time communicating our checks. That was a big advantage, there (for them). Every time they'd do something, their fans would just go wild. They got enthusiastic about it. We didn't have anything like that to rally around.
Did you get a game ball Saturday for passing Bear Bryant?
Yes. After the game was over, Brett Williams did present a game ball to me. It was brief, but it was very meaningful. I told them I thanked them for making it happen.
What exactly did you say to Brett after he told you to remember this 20 years from now?
I think he may have said something about how it wouldn't mean as much now as 20 years from now. I said "yeah, y'all come out to the cemetery and remind me! I'll be underneath the grass."
What was bigger for Iowa State, the touchdown they scored at the end of the first half, or the interception to start the 4th quarter?
I thought I saw the whole thing turn. We might have had a 24-point lead. We kicked off, and our kicker was supposed to put it in a certain spot, and he didn't do it - he put it on the opposite side of the field. They nearly returned it for a touchdown - I forgot how far they brought it back. Up until then, we'd been right on top of them. Their crowd got into it, they got excited, they started jumping up and down, and then they scored the touchdown about a play later. From that time on, we were fighting for our lives. The thing about it - our offense would go out there and struggle, but when we needed one more play, they would make it. When we needed one more touchdown, they got it. Then the defense would hold 'em just enough to keep us from getting beat. You know what it reminded me of? I said, the same thing is happening to us that happened to Florida back in 1995, when they had us 31-3, and in the fourth quarter, they couldn't stop us. I had the same feeling then. (Iowa State) had momentum, we couldn't get it back, and we were fixing to get our tails whipped.
Do you know why you had the offensive inconsistency?
It's lack of execution. It nearly all goes back to execution. I look at the play, and I say, "why did we miss that pass?" Well, the quarterback didn't take but three steps - he should have taken five. Or the receiver only ran five steps where he should have taken seven. I can go back and see exactly why. The good news - there's good news and bad news to these types of situations - if we look at the film of that game and we say, "boy, we played as good as we can play," if I have to say that, we ain't going to beat nobody. But I look at the film and I say well jeez, if this guy had done this instead of that, or if this guy had stepped here instead of there, like he was supposed to, we would have had a great play. If Talman could pull that ball down, we'd win the game. Talman, if you'd hold onto the ball, we'd win the game. Quarterback, if you'd throw the ball when you're supposed to, that thing don't get intercepted. The question is, can you do it quick enough."
Is some of your execution problem caused by young players getting anxious?
I think not so much. It's not so much what the crowd did to us. It did hurt our communication. Number two, it fired them up. It inspired them. They were playing like I hope we play when we play in Tallahassee.
Are you taking a more active role with the defense?
Not in coaching it. I might watch it more, and hang around it more, but I leave it up to Mickey and his staff, because they know what they're doing. I am concerned about it, though. I am concerned. If we're going to give up 31 points - of course, our defense got seven for the offense (Alonzo Jackson's first-quarter interception return), but the offense gave the other team seven (Chris Rix's fourth-quarter interception), which hurts our defense. I'll be concerned until they get their fundamentals down. We're playing way too high up front. Way too high.
Would you have won Saturday if you didn't have Robert Morgan and Anquan Boldin?
That's a very good question. I would say it's doubtful, the way some of the other receivers were catching the ball.
What areas are the highest priority for you, in terms of correcting mistakes?
You could go to nearly every player, every position. Some of it's not interesting to you. A guard pulling around and pulling too wide instead of tight. A receiver not taking the proper amount of steps. A receiver not running the route exactly like it's supposed to be run. The quarterback won't drop deep enough, won't let the pass develop, takes off before it's had a chance to develop. Holding - getting your hands on a receiver and getting a penalty called for interference. If you correct it, you might have the talent to get it done. But you can't make mistakes. That's just a few of them. Just a few.
What worries you most?
Defense will always worry me more, because that's where you win the big games, on defense. It's like the goal-line play in the end. The thing about the ballgame - of all the plays that were made, the interceptions, the blocked kick, this and that - the greatest play of the game was that last play that our defense made. We need to make more of those out on the field.
How concerned are you about pass defense?
That dadgum first half, we did a pretty good job. You've got to give their quarterback credit. The guy - if y'all saw him pull it down and run - it's nearly, would you rather give him an eight-yard pass completion, or have him pull it down and run it for 25. That guy can run. He's kind of like (Michael) Vick. It gave us fits. I'd hate to think we can't make improvement. We didn't get enough pressure again. We've got to look at all that.
One of your players said before the game that they wanted to make a statement. Is it fair to say that the verdict is still out on this year's team?
I think it is very honest to say the verdict is still out. The first half, we showed potential. You look at it, and you say, boy, those guys showed some potential, look at those runners. Look at that blocking. Look at those catches. Look at that quarterback. Look at that defense block that kick, intercept that pass. Boy, that's potential, you know? Second half, opposite. Here we go again. You got the feeling that here we go again from last year. No pressure on the passer. Can't stay with receivers. Gave up a long touchdown. Quarterback not making any plays - guys dropping passes. Don't take credit away from ISU. They played good. They got after us.
So Iowa State is better than most people thought?
I didn't know anything about Iowa State until a year ago. But once I knew we were playing them, I started watching them. I saw the Alabama game on television. I started studying film, and I realized what a job Dan McCarney's done. I remember when they didn't use to be very good. They've still got to get some more players, but he's got them playing football.
Are you disappointed you weren't able play any of your young offensive linemen?
We didn't get to play a lot of those young guys. If we could have gotten way ahead of them and stayed there, we would have. I will say this – I thought the offensive line won the game. I thought the offensive line play, despite all those mistakes we were making, all those errors, all that lousy fundamentals - I thought the offensive line won the game for us, because they did - mostly - what they had to do.
Can you talk us through the decision-making process on 4th-and-1 in the fourth quarter, when you got the play in kind of late?
Boy, that was shaky. That was the communication I was talking about, that we were having a hard time with. You wouldn't think, playing in a neutral field, but the crowd noise - that stadium, seems like every seat is built right on the field. It's either right level, or straight up. I thought the noise was a much bigger factor than what we thought (it would be). Even the 5,000 people we had, when they all yelled together, that had a little effect. That 40,000 people over there could make a lot of noise. We had a little trouble communicating, and I think it had something to do with that. It was that first game. That first game always scares you, because you wonder if you're ready. Friday night, when I met with our offensive staff and went over our game plan, I walked out of there feeling like that was the best game plan we've had in four or five years around here. I really felt confident that we knew what we were doing. And then we went out there in the first part of that game and did it. Pass, run, pass, run. They simply couldn't stop us. Then, in the second half, it was like, hey, I thought we were going to do this. We didn't do it. I thought we were going to do this, and we didn't do it. We said we'd do this and we did that. It can drive you nuts. I'm 77.
Have you played more zone since the second half of last season than you used to?
You're exactly right. I'm sure there's a reason. It's something you'll really have to ask Mickey. Might be afraid to really get after that quarterback - if he gets away from you, he's gone. You're afraid to play man and turn your back. A lot of times, playing a great running quarterback like him, you're afraid to play man-to-man because you have to turn your back to the ball. If you turn your back to the ball and that quarterback takes off, he's in the end zone before you ever find out. That probably played a part. I didn't get home (Saturday) night until 7 this morning. Some lucky people got home at 5. I had to go make my television show. I haven't had a chance to talk to the coaches. We'll meet Monday morning. I'm anxious to ask that question myself.
When you've got a big lead and start rushing three and dropping eight, don't you make it easy for the other team to catch up?
You do, but they catch up slowly and the clock runs out. I have been on the other side, where you let it beat you.
You didn't play any four-receiver sets Saturday. Why was that?
It's a good thing. I don't think Thorpe ever got in the game. (Craphonso Thorpe played two plays) He's been hurt for a week and a half, and couldn't hardly run. That could have scared (the offensive coaches) a little bit. We've got it in, and we'll keep on working with it. I didn't think about it, but I wonder why myself.
In the second half, Iowa State had a ten-minute drive that was reminiscent of N.C. State's game-winning drive last year. What goes through your mind when they pull of a 19-play drive?
It's kind of like this. An eight-minute drive, for them, when they're two behind, really works against them. When you're playing North Carolina State and they're only behind by four, or whatever it was, and they take an eight-minute drive and score, that works for them because it doesn't leave you any time when you get the ball back. I guess Mickey and them were thinking that they could let them just slow themselves down. If we blitz (Seneca Wallace), and he runs and gets away, that's going to be an easy, cheap touchdown. That's the only logic I can think of. Again, I haven't talked to Mickey about it, but I wouldn't be suprised if that was his thinking.
In the fourth quarter, Iowa State got an interception and scored a few plays later. Your offense came right back down the field and scored. How important is that, to counteract the bad play?
There's no doubt about it. That reminds me of Chris Weinke, when he was the quarterback the year we won the national championship. Florida intercepted a pass, scored a touchdown. Weinke came right back with points. Georgia Tech intercepted a pass for a touchdown, Weinke came right back with points. Last night, Iowa State intercepts, touchdown, and we come back with points. That's a good sign.
Do you think that's an indication of Rix's development as a quarterback?
When I looked at Chris last night, he started off really doing the things he should have done. Then, as the game progressed, he nearly went back to his old instincts, which we've tried to break him of. He was a baby last year - now he's a puppy.
Do you think your team got complacent after you took a 24-0 lead?
I think that happens. I think two things can be cited there. Number one, your team let down and then came back. Number two, which could be true, is does you team have killer instinct? Maybe we don't have that. That could be our problem.
Do you need that killer instinct to go where you want to go this year?
Oh yeah. At the level we're trying to play at, to accomplish what we want to accomplish and reach the goals we're trying to reach, you've got to have it. I haven't seen an indication of it.
You played last season without Anquan, and he came back last night and looked great. How big an impact did he make last night?
It means a lot to have him back. Robert Morgan made two crucial first-down catches right in the crowd. Anquan too. That means a lot. You never realize how much you'll miss a guy like that until you don't have him. Last year, before the season even started, you lost your first two top receivers, with a freshman quarterback coming up. Last night, you could see their value to our team. The first two plays of the game were to Anquan.
Were you disappointed that you couldn't play Lorenzo Booker last night?
Yeah, I was trying, boy. I had some special plays that I wanted to get him in there. I was wanting to get (Leon) Washington in there, and I was wanting to get (Thomas Clayton) in there. You know what it is, it's called a good problem, because ol' Willie Reid didn't look bad.
What is most crucial to Chris Rix's continued improvement?
To me, it goes back to not dropping deep enough. If you don't drop deep enough, plays don't have time to develop. He can't see anything, and he runs too quickly. If he drops deeper, the play can develop better, and he can see it and get it going. The second half he began to cut his drop down, the play wouldn't develop, and he'd take off and run with it when he could have waited a little bit and it was fixing to happen. That could be that he was tired, or just got careless again, or went back to instinct.
The offense showed improvement Saturday, but do you worry about depth on defense?
The thing I don't see on defense - I haven't seen a Deion Sanders. I haven't seen a Reinard Wilson. I haven't seen a Pete Boulware. I haven't seen a Derrick Brooks. I haven't seen a Daryl Bush. I haven't seen a Terrell Buckley. Somebody over there who can make a big play and win a game. Number 48 (Alonzo Jackson) made one. He had a nice sack, too. If that happened to him every week, maybe that could be the answer there. A guy that could do it, but has been injured and isn't close, is Dockett. He was just another player Saturday night.
So you need a guy who can rally the troops?
Yeah - rally them by demonstration, not just talking. I got some of them that can talk pretty good. I need someone that can go out there and say "this is the way you do it" and then do it. I remember, Derrick Brooks, when he played with us, I think it was his junior year - our first five opponents, he outscored 'em. I mean, he'd pick up a play every game and score with it. We're missing that right now.
Can you talk about Greg Jones' performance last night? Did you get away from him in the third quarter?
Yeah, we did, but we probably should have gotten away from him more. The reason is, I think he got a little tired - we were running him an awful lot. The other backs came in and did magnificently. Nick came in and averaged nearly nine yards a carry. Willie came in and must have averaged six yards a carry. We were letting the big man carry the load, and he was doing a good job. But we probably could have rested him a bit more. Again, I was so pleased with him, we just left him in there.
Can you talk about how Jones has improved?
He's improved. I'll tell you what we're trying to do. You're taking a back that weighs 248 pounds and has got good speed, and you're trying to teach him to run like a tailback and not like a fullback. When he came here, he ran like a fullback - he'd rather run over you and into you than try to break away. This is his third year, and he's beginning to learn to veer off of you, to use some steps, and to get away from people. To me, that's all ahead of him. I think he's going to get better and better and better at that, if he can stay healthy.
What are the two things that surprised you most about your team last night?
I think it would be allowing the other team to catch long passes uncontested. Not enough pressure on the quarterback. Offensive futility the second half. Not taking advantage of what was there. They're not disappointments, yet. Yet. If it continues from game to game, it would be a disappointment. There were things that I was hoping would be better.
Are you planning on redshirting Buster Davis or A.J. Nicholson? Only Sam McGrew, of the freshman linebackers, played Saturday.
We probably would if we could. It's according to whether anybody's going to get hurt or not. And then, remember, our coaches are going to look at that film. If they see anybody who's not getting the job done, they might have to bring somebody up that they wanted to redshirt. I wish we could redshirt all three of those freshman linebackers, just because they're really going to be good ones. It's just according to if anyone's going to get hurt or is somebody not doing as good as you hoped. Nicholson and Buster - I wish I could keep them out. If they play - it's just like those tailbacks. If they play, they'll get a little experience, but it's nearly a wasted year, too, because how are you going to beat out Nick Maddox, Greg Jones, and Willie Reid? You can get some playing time, but would you rather go ahead and save the year?
Offensively, you played pretty conservatively in the second half. Are you second-guessing that at all?
Yeah. I just looked at the film. If we played them again, I'd know the answers. I could go out there right now and call you one heck of a game against them. This is the day after. We learned some things from that game that we've gotta put into effect next game. We were conservative. After we threw that interception - you see how quick you can give somebody and touchdown, and you think, boy, if we don't mess this up, at least we'll get a win. You get a little conservative in that situation.
Did you get any kind of phone calls this (Sunday) morning?
This morning was last night. I didn't get home until nearly 7. I tried to grab a nap, because I had to be at the office to get this film and get it looked at before I talked to y'all. If any phone calls came, I don't know.
When did you last get a game ball?
I don't think I've had one since I was at West Virginia. That might be my first one at Florida State. I think they gave me one my last year at West Virginia. We played Pitt when they had Tony Dorsett and were a heck of a ballclub. We upset them in Morgantown, and I think they gave me a game ball.
You've never gotten one at Florida State?
I don't think so. It's no big deal - there's 100 of them down in the locker room, I can get one anytime I want. I can write whatever I want on 'em. (laughs) It did mean something, because it came from the boys.
After watching the second-to-last play on tape, did you think Seneca Wallace scored?
I hadn't gotten to that yet. I tried to look at the offense real good, and I'm about through the first quarter of that.
Can you talk about the importance of playing your second game at home? You won't have to worry about the noise again until the 14th of September, when you go to Maryland.
It'll be nice. It's always good to get home. At least you can get thatcrowd for you. Playing out there - back in July, maybe even sooner than that, when we had sold 4,000 tickets and we had sold 23,000. Naturally, I got calls from sportswriters from out there who wanted to know if I thought it would be a big advantage for them, and I said no, because it isn't a home game. It's a neutral field. They might have more people, but it's still a neutral field. I guarantee you, it was like a home game. They were all over that place. They were loud, and noisy, and that team really utilized them. Thank goodness, when we get back here this week, that part we won't have to worry about.
Can you think of any previous neutral-field games where the crowds have been so one-sided against you?
No - it seems like most of them have been on our side. We played Notre Dame in Orlando, and most of the people were for us. We've played several games in Jacksonville, and most of the people have been for us. We played in Tampa, and most of the people were for us. Neutral games away - we haven't had many of those.
What about the BYU game in Anaheim?
In Anaheim - there wasn't but five people there anyway. There wasn't hardly nobody there for that game. That one - I don't remember. It was probably more for them out there. It wasn't one of them 30,000 deals out there.