"We talked about it, but the only thing you could throw had to be into the end zone. Anything short, you might not be able to stop the clock. You'd have to tell the quarterback that you've got to throw it away. I could just see him getting back there and having to scramble around, losing valuable time. I could see him forgetting and hitting the guy who was open in the flat, not making a first down and time running out. We did think about it, but I felt all the way that the kick was a sure thing.
After Nick (Maddox) got stopped for no gain with 21 seconds left, did you think about attempting the field goal then?
"The last play, we had 21 seconds. We had time to throw the ball easily, but of course we're risking something. If you run the ball, maybe you could get it down closer. If I had it to do over again with 21 seconds left, I wouldn't risk it -- it was too close. I knew that if we executed correctly, we could get another play in, but if I had it to do again, I'd kick it with 21 seconds left."
Have you had a chance to speak to Beitia?.
"I didn't get to see him at the stadium, but when we got to the airport, before we got on the airplane I stayed out and waited for him personally, because I knew how bad he felt about it. Again, there's not much you can say. You can say everything you want to to him, but just as soon as you get through talking, he's thinking 'I missed the kick. I missed the kick.' I just tried to console him that we lost it. It wasn't a he. We win them, and we lose them. The fact is, that was just one play. You can talk all you want to to him. It's like trying to talk to me after a loss. If you think it'll help my feelings, it don't. It's something we have to go through. The only alternative is to get out of it, and go do something else. Who wants to do that?"
Do you worry at all that this might wreck him?
"No, I don't think it will. You and I have seen it wreck some other people. I think he's got too much confidence in himself. It's the execution of the kick that was bad, in my opinion. Not just the kick, it was the execution. Beginning with the snap, to the putdown, to the kick -- it just wasn't a very good execution.
Your defense struggled once again in the fourth quarter. Why do you think that is?
"You're exactly right. The fourth quarter has been very tough on our defense. You might say offense too, because if we could've made another first down that might have done it. That's just where we're weak right now. We're not as good there as we've been in the past. We've just got to get better.
What are you going to do to make sure that the team bounces back? Are you concerned that they may not be able to?
"I don't think so. This loss was not half as shocking as the Louisville loss. This is a loss that, when you went down there, everybody was assuming you was beat, except us. We thought we could win it if we did this, we did this, and we did this. If this was the first game my kids ever lost, that would be one thing. We've lost some games before, and I expect the normal rebound.
A week ago, you said Miami was on a different level from anyone else. What do you think now?
"Again, you see how great they are. We've got a thirteen-point lead in the last ten minutes and they come back and win the doggone game. I think it shows you. I don't think that anything I could say about them is wrong. The only thing we might have shown is well, we're closer to them than we thought.
Did you get the sense that your players thought yesterday was a moral victory?
"I don't think so. If they feel like I do -- a moral victory don't mean nothing to me. I'm one of these guys that would rather have an ugly win than a beautiful loss. A loss is a loss. There's no moral victory for me. I don't think my boys will feel that way. I really think we had them sold that they could win the game, and I think they really thought we would win the game. From the first play of that game on, it really looked like we had as good a chance as anybody to win it. I'd be shocked if one of my kids said it was a moral victory.
Do you think the team played better as a unit?
No. Not anymore than the Maryland game.
How do you treat a kid who's been through what Xavier has been through and will go through?
"I really bet you I could go without saying a word the rest of the year and it wouldn't affect him. I just think he'll think about it all weekend, he'll grieve over it. There's nothing he can do to change it. If he hasn't been through it before, at the high school level or whatever, where he's missed a kick that's lost a game, sooner or later you've got to go through it. I think that he's smart enough, and conscientious enough, and tough enough to overcome this thing. I watch him out in practice -- he'll grieve over an extra point miss in practice. He's that conscientious. His response the other day was, I think, very typical of a guy that it means that much to. Knowing his family, him and his family, I think he'll shake it off and come on back."
Were the other guys more affected because they might not have had the natural talent of Xavier?
"I think so. That's probably correct. He has so much more potential, I think, than they had. The one that had the hardest time with it was (Gerry) Thomas. He had the hardest time with it. The rest of them -- I don't remember it affecting them that way. It hurts at that time, and naturally it's brought to their attention because that's the way it happens at Florida State."
Can you remember the last time you've played such a big game and had your game plan work so well, and still not managed the win?
"I think you could nearly relate it back to the other Wide Rights. A couple of them anyway. Even the game 26-25 game we had back in 1987. We just played real good and got way ahead in that game -- I think we were ahead 19-7 going into the fourth quarter. My feeling after the game was 'I can't believe it. Here we go again.' You'd think the law of averages would do something.
There wasn't much that you wanted to do in this year's game that you didn't do, was there?
"No, except prevent the long pass. That's always our No. 1 goal on defense: prevent the long touchdown pass. Prevent the long pass. We let a couple of them get out there."
Are you disappointed that your effort hasn't been rewarded, as you've slipped in the polls?
"Not too much -- it nearly looks pointed. Last week when we won, and people behind us didn't play, and we moved down, that looks pointed. Now, this today looks pointed. I know that's the way she goes."
Is it tough to play a game like that and it's not recognized that you played well in defeat?
"I think people who saw the game know. I think anybody that saw it and voted us down -- they've probably got something against us anyway."
Were you at all disappointed with the clock management in the last series?
"No. The only thing I thought, I thought we pushed it too close on that last series. I kept asking, 'are you sure we can get one more play in? Are you sure?' Jeffrey and them felt sure we could. You're hoping something'll pop out of there. That was too tight to suit me. If I had it to do again, I'd have gone ahead and kicked with 25 seconds."
The lapse between Talman's nice catch and the next play, the running play, did that concern you? It seemed like about 20 seconds ran off the clock there.
"What difference does it make? We're not going to take a shot in the end zone. Again, the fact that we had one second left to kick -- that's the part that was questionable. We did have it. Whether it was 20 seconds or one second, we did have it. And it worked out OK. There might have been some seconds lost there somewhere. As soon as I saw us get down there in field goal range, inside where he had already hit two -- I'm thinking 'don't you drop back and take a loss. Don't you drop back and bounce it off a guy's chest and into their hands.' If you do, we'll regret it the rest of our lives, when we've got a kicker that's going to get it from there."
Do you worry about other plays, after such a close loss? Would you look back on Miami's final drive of the first half?
"That's right. Those things -- I think you just simply have to credit the other team. You've got a 13-point lead. Against Florida in 1997, we had a four-point lead with maybe two minutes to go, and they had the ball on the 20. We've usually won those kind of games, but Florida scores and they beat us. Last night, we have a two-touchdown lead with ten minutes to go or whatever it was, and they come back and beat us. We just can't quite make the plays. We had several times the other night where we could have made plays. The ball's in our hands, we made a good read, you put yourself in a position, now make the play. We got a good read, we put ourselves in position, and did'nt make a play. We've got to do that if we're ever win all our games like we want to. Any time you lose by one point -- I've said before, and it's still true -- I'd just as soon get beat by 40 as one. If you get beat by 40, ain't nothing you could have done anyway. If you get beat by one, I'll bet you could find thirty places where you could win the game."
Do you see any effect from being out of the national championship picture now?
"We're out of that. I don't think anybody can win it with two losses. My opinion is, there might be one team undefeated this year, and the other team, whoever it is, will probably have one loss. Two of them and you're out. Our big thing now will be to fight for respectability. It looks like we're going to bring another top-10 team in here to play. That helps motivation. If you were playing somebody that wasn't very good -- you might be down and not play good. But if it was really a high-ranked team, there shouldn't be any trouble motivating the kids."
Do you wish the game was this Saturday?
"I think a week's good. When you're playing a 14-game schedule like we're doing this year -- it's the first time we've done that. I think the spacing of games and the time rested, all that's going to be very important to get through these 14 games. I'm going to try to use this time to rest my football team, get them a little time off, and still get some practice in for Notre Dame."
Is this rest important physically, or mentally?
"Both. Get away from it for a while."
You made a comment of wanting to lose by 40. It seems like the fact that you played them so close, it gives the team a belief in itself.
"That's true. That expression is way out in right field. It's the point of the expression more than what I've said. The fact is if you get beat bad it's just that you're going to get beat that day. If it's close, you can say 'gee, if we just intercepted that ball, gee, if we'd just made that first down, gee, if we'd just blocked that punt, if we'd have done that.' In this case, when you're playing the No. 1 football team in the nation, to play a game that you could have won as easily asyou could have lost -- I think that's probably better for you. I don't like those moral victories."
Coach Andrews and some players said that they feel FSU isn't far from being "back." Do you agree?
"Could be. When you think, we've lost one play in an overtime, and we've lost another one on the last play of the game -- that's the difference between 14th (in the polls) and No. 1 in the nation. Just think -- win that game yesterday and don't lose in overtime to Louisville and you're No. 1 in the nation. I guess that's parity."
Your offensive line did a heck of a job. What have you seen on the film?
"I said before the year, the thing that would have to happen for us to have a super year would be our offensive line. That's the one group that could make it happen. Yesterday was a pretty good example of that, even though we had deficiencies here and deficiencies there, our offensive line nearly dominated that game good enough for us to win that football game. They did everything in their power. I hope they can continue that. Right now, that looks like our best hope. The way we played Miami yesterday -- that was exactly the way to play them. You've got to keep their offense from getting the football. You've simply got to keep them from getting the football. We did that for three and a half quarters, but we simply couldn't keep it away from them there at the end. You can only hold them so long."
Are you impressed that your fullbacks played well?
"You're right. Usually when you talk about your offensive line, you're talking about your tight end and your fullback. That's your seven blockers right there. That's exactly who I'm talking about. ANother angle to look at us this year -- I don't know if we've ever faced and are going to face as many good quarterbacks as we've faced this year. What if we had faced Miami with just a pretty good quarterback? What if we had faced Louisville with just a pretty good quarterback. We've faced that kid at Iowa State (Seneca Wallace). The kid at Virginia (Matt Schaub) came in late against us and hasn't been beat since. Tommy's got a pretty good quarterback up there where he is (Willie Simmons). Then we play against this Ken yesterday, and the kid at Louisville -- it seems like this is the year of the quarterback. If it wasn't, we might be sitting up at the top right now."
Speaking of quarterbacks, Chris has played turnover-free the last couple of gams, but do you worry that too much pressure is on your running game? Are you worried that the passing game isn't going as well as it should be going?
"No, because one of the reasons is that we're not calling on it. Last week -- I don't know how many passes he threw last week. That's not his fault. People say 'last year he had three hundred yard games. This year, he's only hitting for 105. What's happened to him? We've gone downhill!' No. We're featuring the run. Duke was one team that brought everybody up to the line of scrimmage and forced us to throw the football, and he went up and down the football field. I know Duke is not in the top whatever, but I think he can do it if we get down to that. The strength of our football team is offensive line and runners. Why feature (anything else)? We're going to feature one and two, we're not going to feature three and four. That's the way our style is right now. We're so unused to seeing that at Florida State, it's hard to grasp."
That should open up the play-action pass, right?
"It will. Play-action didn't mean that much against them, the way they play thei defenses, but it'll open up down the road."
Did you see something from Chris against Miami that impressed you more than maybe you've been by him for a while?
"I think so. The last two passes he completed -- he's going down and he slings it for another completion that puts us in field goal range. And that should have been the ballgame. Many, many quarterbacks couldn't have got those two balls off. His statistics are not real good right now, because we're not calling on him, we're not asking him to throw it that much. He's maturing, I think he's gaining confidence, and I think it's still ahead of him. Just remember, until next year, he should not have been starting at Florida State."
Is the ACC title more important to you this year?
"It is, because to get a BCS bowl you have to win your conference. It's a little early for that. We have Notre Dame, and I'll be talking about Notre Dame. When that's over, then all of a sudden that conference thing will come up again. That's the advantage of being in a conference -- it gives you an escape. If your record won't hold you up, if you can win your conference championship, it will hold you in there. Not for the national championship -- I think that's out -- but we still would like our goal now to be ranked as high as we could be at the end of the season and get the best bowl bid we could get. That would be our goal right. To do that, you have to win your conference."
Are the players more appreciative of the ACC title after not winning it last year?
"Yes, definitely. Like I've said before, until people in the conference start beating us, nobody's going to think the conference is any good anyway. Until we lose a conference championship, the kids are not going to think it's very important. Now they've lost one, and I think now it becomes much more important to them."
What have you seen of Notre Dame, and are you surprised with how quickly they've turned things around?
"I'm amazed. I am strictly amazed at what Ty has done up there at Notre Dame. I know him pretty well. I've played golf with him several times. He's kind of an outstanding guy. I'm amazed at what he's been able to do there his first year. I haven't studied them -- I have film on my desk, and I'll start looking at it tomorrow (Monday). It's just unbelievable what he's done. He's going to have his hands full this next week -- he's got Air Force. You've got two guys that have done an outstanding job. The guy at Air Force is undefeated too. We've got Notre Dame after that. He has just done a super job."
Where does this Miami game rank in terms of disappointment in the history of the series?
"When you get bit by a snake seven or eight times, you get immune to it. At least that's what they tell me -- I've never had the first bite. I keep looking on Animal Kingdom, my favorite program, or National Geographic, or something like that, and I see this guy handling these snakes and he says 'I've been bit sixty times, so I'm immune to it.' I guess that's how we are on wide rights and lefts. I'm kind of immune. It ain't like that first one. That first one nearly killed me, but I'm immune to it now."
After the game, you seemed very disappointed. What did you do once you got back to Tallahassee?
"You mean after I changed my britches? (laughter) I can take you right through it. When we lined up to kick that ball, what was running through my head was 'we are going to win this thing. We are going to win it.' When that kid shanked that punt and then we got those two first downs, I said, 'Lord, we're going to end up winning this thing.' Now, when we set the ball down, I'm thinking just as I did back in 1991, the same thoughts. If they don't block it, we're going to get it. If he kicks it -- if they don't block it, we're going to get it. Well, they didn't block it, and from my angle it looked right down the middle. I saw that the time was run out, I started on the field, thinking about how good we were, and all of a sudden, again, I saw how excited the Miami people were. I said to Bill Smith, 'Bill, did we miss that?' He couldn't tell either. It ended up instead of me winning, we lost. It was the same way as 1991. Anyway, my thoughts are, 'I can't believe this happened again. I simply can't believe it.'"
You said you were walking onto the field thinking you'd won, and how good you are. As hard as your team has tried to find itself, what does this mean?
"That's the one thing that does come out of it. Here's the question. Here's Florida State, plays in three straight national championship ballgames. Then last year we lose four ballgames. The question is, they're not what they used to be. The next question is, well, can they make it back? There's some that say no, they'll never be back. That's the end of Florida State. That's not my thinking. My thinking is, well, ain't nobody gonna win 'em all all the time. I can remember when Miami lost four games. I can remember when Florida lost four games. I'm thinking that we've been having a good recruiting year, now where are we? I thought the one thing that did come out of that game is that we didn't win, but we thought we were about as good as they were. At least that's a good thing. That's something to build on."
Florida dropped out of the AP poll. Are you surprised?
"With three losses, it doesn't surprise me. That kind of puts you out of there. If we lose three, we'll be out too. I'm kind of surprised they're out of it. I can't picture them out of it."
You've used the national championship as a preseason goal. Do you rethink that at this point?
"I don't. We've been to the point the last 15 years that we can afford to set our goals on a national championship, and if we set it anything less than that, we're not heading into the direction that we want to head into. How realistic is it? Some years it's realistic, and most years it's not."
Have some of your offensive linemen really embraced the role of leadership lately?
"They have done a good job, really. The last two games, they've done a real good job. We didn't do too good against Louisville. I thought the offense might have woken up after that game."
Some of your players were saying that Brett and Todd Williams are guiding this team the way they want it to go. Have you seen that?
"I hope that is true. That's something that they nearly have to do. We can tell the kids they are leaders, but they have to do it. It has to come from them. I've noticed they did have some meetings this week, seniors calling the team together. I always like that when I hear about that. I sure hope they are."
About Greg Jones -- what kind of job has he done?
"I just can't believe how much he's done. I can't believe how much he's done. Let me put it like this -- the offensive line and him are the best things going for us right now."