"I think the biggest thing is that our defense held them in the fourth quarter. That's be one of the biggest. Fourth quarter against Iowa State, fourth quarter against Maryland, fourth quarter against Virginia, fourth quarter against Notre Dame, fourth quarter against Miami. I think that our defense got better and better as the game went along. That was one of the big things I've spotted."
In terms of emotion, how impressive was it that your team was able to rally with Greg Jones on the sidelines?
"I tell you what, it was a good sign. I said it after the game, when I talked to (the media). I don't know what I would have said if we'd have lost. I didn't know what was left to say. If somebody said, 'What's the problem?' or somebody said, 'Where are you?' or somebody said 'Is this the best you can do?' I wouldn't have known what to say. Thank goodness, that was a good sign last night."
"It was important. I thought about that. You've got Ray Willis back, you've got Alex Barron back, and they'll be pretty darned good tackles. It'd be nice to get some of those other guys some work, too. That was good. I sure hate it when Montrae's out, because he's probably been playing as good or better than anyone we've got, but thank goodness, he got a little experience."
Do you have any indication of the seriousness of Greg Jones' injury?
"No, I haven't heard yet. I haven't been to the school to talk to anybody."
What kind of changes did your defensive coaches make in the second half to adjust to Wake's offense?
"I think they just got a better feel of it. I think our defense got a better feel of it. I mentioned this last night to the press -- I think it's very much the same way. If you were playing baseball, and you were a batter, and you were batting against a good fastball pitcher, he's got as good a fastball as you've seen. You can't simulate it in practice, because you ain't got anybody on your team that can practice throwing one that good. Then you get in the game and you can't hit it. Then, the longer you're in there, you begin to get the feel of it, you begin to get the speed of the pitch, then you begin to hit it. To me, it's kind of the same way. We can't simulate in practice how good that offense was, how tricky that offense was, the speed of that offense. We couldn't emulate it. As the game progressed, our kids began to get the feel of it, made an adjustment here, an adjustment there, then first thing you know, it plays into your hands."
How much better is Wake's offense this year, with a full season to learn the system, than when you played them last year?
"I think it's much better. I think everybody that has played them feels the same way. Haven't they been in nearly every game? They were way ahead of Virginia and they lost. They came back against Tech, beat Tech. They came back against Clemson, fumbled on the goal line. I think they're better than they were a year ago. Much better. It's typical of a year's experience."
Did you have a chance to say anything to A.D. after the game?
"I didn't see him enough other than to say 'good game.' I saw him in the distance, and I of course talked to him after the game, but other than to say 'good game,' I don't know of anything else that was said. I was very pleased with the way he played, however."
He seemed very poised for a guy making his first start, even down 14-0.
"No doubt about it. That's not a good time to have a new quarterback in the game. I thought he rose to the occasion, never panicked, never backed off, and did some real good things."
You've been saying for a while that the ACC is getting better. How does Tech's win over N.C. State reinforce that?
"I think so. There is no doubt in my mind it's getting better. Let's just say that you're playing any of these teams in the conference. It is tougher when you go to their place. How about us going to Louisville. We go to Louisville and get beat. If that game had been in Tallahassee, I don't think that would have occurred. It's difficult to beat somebody at their place. Now, the conference gets better, nearly from top to bottom. I think Duke is much improved. Now you go to their place and play, and it's even a little more difficult. It's getting to the point where anybody can beat anybody. I did not realize Tech beat N.C. State at N.C. State until I happened to see the news today. I was thinking that thing was in Atlanta."
Can you talk about how you adjusted your offensive strategy with McPherson in the game?
"We used more tight formations than we had used in the past. The reason for that was because it got Wake Forest to adjust the way we wanted them to adjust. It made them get into something we wanted them to get into. Other than that, we actually didn't take away a whole lot or add a whole lot of offense for this game. You do have to play to a guy's strength. In other words, if you've got Chris Rix in there, you do know that there are certain things that he favors. Then if McPherson's in there, there's certain things that he favors. I think you have to play to that."
Is there a great deal of difference between the strengths of Chris and A.D.?
"Not in the things you want to do. I don't think there's a whole lot of difference in what you want to do. Both of them just go about it in different ways. I think it's very obvious -- it showed up last night more than I realized -- is that when Adrian starts to scramble, he's still got his eyes downfield. If a receiver gets open, sometimes he'll find it and get it to him. When Chris starts to scramble, he's more likely to take off with the ball. I thought that jumped out at me last night."
It would seem that with the receivers you have, McPherson's approach makes more sense.
"Yes. That's what they're told to do -- if he starts to scramble, you break your pattern and get open. It sure does help when you're watching them."
Does he remind you of any of your former quarterbacks? Charlie Ward was like that.
"Charlie has that. Charlie was like that. There's some innate stuff in there that comes into play with some quarterbacks. Some are different -- all of them are different, but some are similar. I think Charlie and he are similar in the regard."
Nick Maddox has been really effective for you this year. How important was it for you to have him come off the bench with Jones out.
"He's done that all year. Nick has done that all year. Any time that he's come in for Greg, there has not been a dropoff. I can't remember a time this year that there's been a dropoff. He probably averages even more yards per carry than Greg. I know he did for a while, then I think it leveled off, and then he got it back. He's having a good senior year. That's what you're hoping they do. You're hoping kids get better every year, and I think he's a pretty good example."
Can you talk about Xavier Beitia's game? Are you concerned for him?
"He missed a little too much to suit me. He missed a little too much. I hope he can get that straightened out. The saving grace was that their guy missed 'em too. But I hope we can do better than that. You get in these tight ballgames -- we let nine points get away from us. But they did too.Anyway, I hope we can do better than that."
Were you pleased overall? Did A.D.'s presence in the game have the desired effect you were hoping it had?
"I would just say yes. There's no way you can look at it and say that what you hoped would happen didn't happen. It did happen. You wouldn't even want to plan it the way it happened. I don't want to plan this thing where we're going to get 14 points behind in the first quarter, and he's going to have to come back. I don't want to plan it where we're only ahead by three with eight or nine minutes to go and have to hang on. You put him in a pretty dadgum tough scenario. I wouldn't want to plan it that his first start is away from home. I don't want to plan it where he's playing in 40 or 50 degree weather instead of 70 or 80 like he's used to here. The setting wasn't the way you would plan it. He still produced, so that was encouraging."
The way you won, are you more hopeful about this team and this season?
"Yes I do. You've still got to do it. You look at Notre Dame. Notre Dame leaves Tallahassee, Florida -- they came down here and whipped us like a lot of teams have not been able to do, especially from the North. They're undefeated, they've just played errorless football. I really do believe this, though. When we play errorless ball, we'll be hard to beat. You turn the ball over four times against Notre Dame, and they turn it over none, and that's the game. Now, Notre Dame turns it over five or six times this week -- I don't know what it is -- and they lose. It just happens everywhere you play. I'm encouraged by what I saw our team do, which makes me think we're on the right path. I still also realize that all you have to do is give up a lot of turnovers and you nullify all of that. The two most encouraging things to me, number one, was Adrian's play. More important was the way our defense took over the game from the middle of the second quarter to the end of the game. We hadn't had that for a while."
What did this game mean personally for you? The Notre Dame game was clearly hard for you.
"I think the big thing is exactly what I said. I think you caught the significance of it. I don't know what I would have said if we'd have lost. What would I say? You'd come up to me and say, 'Where's your team now?' I'd say, 'Lord, I don't have any idea.' You'd come up and say 'What's the matter with this team?' and I'd say 'I haven't got any idea.' You'd come up and ask me 'What's this team missing,' and I'd say 'I haven't got any idea.' I was really at the point where I was about given out of optomistic responses. I couldn't think of any more. That's why this game was so important. Wake Forest would not be important to a lot of people. The game was very important to me personally."
You're about to celebrate your 73rd birthday. So much is made of your age. With this difficult season, is it particularly tough on you?
"No, it's not particularly perplexing to me. I'm more realistic than fans. I know what can happen. I know what good can happen. I know what bad can happen. I know how something can turn over. I know how quickly something can come to an end. I know how quickly, once it comes to an end, you can start it back over again. I've been in this thing so darned long. I look at other programs around the country, and I don't see anybody else that's up there year after year after year after year. I don't see anybody else. It don't work that way. It seems like it goes in cycles. You go three or four good years, and now you're back to the bottom of the pile. Then three or four good years and back to the bottom. That's the way she goes. We had a great run, where so many fans grew from the age of 10 to 24. As they get to be 24 years of age and we lose, it's 'what in the world? I don't understand this. This is not the way it's ever been!' They don't realize, 20 years ago, it was worse than this. I've been through all of that, and I know that's the way it goes. I think I can be a little more realistic about it. I still want to win all our games, and I hope we can, but also I can relate it to other teams, and what they're going through. I can remember the day that Alabama was a power that nobody could beat. I can remember the days that Notre Dame was a power nobody could beat. I can remember the days that Southern Cal was untouchable. I can remember the days of a lot of schools that are not there today, so I guess when you've been through that, you know it can happen to you."
Just in the time that you've been to FSU, schools like Alabama and Notre Dame have gone through these cycles more than once.
"That's right. I think Miami -- since I've been at Florida State, Miami has been the most impressive program. Their national championship runs have been unbelievable."
How impressed were you with A.D.'s poise and decision-making?
"That was encouraging. His decisions, when he scrambled and decided to run, I thought were good. When he decided to run, then stop and throw, I thought that was good. The velocity he put on the ball when he stopped -- the little lob he threw to 82 on the sideline -- nearly a basketball pass. That's what's encouraging."
Is that a surprise, given his limited experience?
"I think so. I don't think you see that much. Now Chris has got a little of that in him too. The thing Chris is trying to get better at is trying to protect the ball better. The first play of the game -- that interception did not bother me. It bothered me that they took it and went 75 yards for a touchdown. It's not like throwing an interception on your end of the field, however. Number one, Jeff and Daryl called that play. I thought it was a good call. Some people will say 'Well, you're starting a new quarterback. Why would you let him throw it on the first play? Why wouldn't you let him get warmed up?' Nah, let's just go ahead and find out what he can do right off the bat. He throws a bomb down there that our guy should knock down. If he can't get it, he should have knocked it down. If he had the play over, that's what he'd do. Later on, he did that. It's intercepted, but that's just like a punt. That's as good as a punt. He threw it way down yonder. Like I said, the thing that disappointed me was that they moved it 75 yards for a touchdown. That was one turnover. He didn't throw any more turnovers, but he did have his fumble that time. It set up a touchdown. Or a field goal, I forgot. Or even a missed field goal. Those were the only two he had, and I thought that was pretty doggone good."
You were talking about national cycles. Do you feel that you've been fortunate at Florida State to avoid some downward cycles until this point?
"We did. That's going to be hard for me to explain or anybody else down through the years. I don't think anybody's even come close to that. I'm not saying that because I'm trying to pat ourselves on the back. The more I look at it, the more I look back and say 'Lord, how'd that happen?' We might have gotten some cycles back to back there, or something."
How many times in the last two weeks have you had to remind people of the struggles Florida State had in the 70s?
"I don't think that I've brought them up specifically, but I remember them. I remember them. A lot of folks don't. Again, a lot of that you go right back through the generations. Go right through the generations. The generation that went through that, the people that went through that that I meet on the street, they seem to understand it. Now, the new generation that came up and never saw anything but ten wins or more, that never saw us ranked under fourth, they can't believe it. They can't believe that people actually lose games. Can you imagine that? Our team actually lost a game. Well, they didn't live in that other generation."
When you reach the point you were talking about, where you've run out of positive things to say after a loss, would that be a significant point in your own career?
"Well, I've had this before. I had this at West Virginia. It was amazing. My next-to-last year at West Virginia, when they all wanted to fire me -- if they'd have voted, I've have lost in a landslide. I had the two main votes. I had the president and the athletic director that didn't want me to leave. We won four ballgames and I got hung in effigy. There's a team that was the most talented of any football team I had at West Virginia. I had seven kids drafted on that team. Seven drafted, and probably the other teams didn't have but one or two a year. Yet I had my worst year. The next year, I lost those guys, and we won nine, went to a bowl game, and I got the Florida State job. What I'm saying is I'm nearly to that point. We were not 4-7, we were 5-3. But I was nearly to the point where I couldn't figure out why. Why are we not winning? When I go back and look at that team in '74, it was a team that got a lot of injuries throughout the year. I remember I lost my All-American nose guard, I lost my quarterback, I lost this and that. The next year I had to start a sophomore or freshman quarterback. But this team, with the potential we had, I was beginning to think 'what in the world?' There's one thing about it. Y'all recognize it, because you're around it all the time. Not everybody plays the number one football team in the nation -- which is Miami. Not everyone plays the number six football team in the nation -- which was Notre Dame. And two of our losses were to them. One of them -- against Miami -- you probably outplayed 'em and could have won it at their place, but you didn't. Then you got Notre Dame, where you've got a 10-10 ballgame and all of a sudden you turn it over four times. When you look back at it from a subjective role, you can look and pin it down to facts, put your finger on why you're losing."
Are you surprised that Oklahoma jumped Miami in the AP poll?
"No. I think Oklahoma's wins have probably been more impressive."
We've talked about A.D.'s poise, without a lot of experience. Is some of it just natural for this guy?
"There's no doubt about it. You don't teach that that quick. Our coaches have been saying that all along."
Did you always know that about him?
"Not me. But the coaches had. The coaches saw him in high school. The coaches knew what they were trying to recruit. Me, although I did see some film on him and was impressed -- I could tell he was a good prospect -- they had seen some things that I personally had not seen. Remember this -- here I am, somebody tells me a guy's pretty good, and you've got to prove it to me. What did I do? I stuck him in nearly every game. Not a one of them did he look better than Chris Rix, until Notre Dame. When he got in against Clemson, he didn't look better than Chris Rix. When I put him in the year before against Virginia or somebody, he didn't look as good. Now, for the first time under fire, he showed me what he could do. That's why I said it's time to take a look at this guy. Again, Chris Rix -- I want him to stay in the fight and keep battling, learn from this himself. The way I approach it, what'd I find out? I found out we've got two good quarterbacks."
So it sort of sounds like you didn't know what to expect from A.D. going into the game.
"I wasn't sure, but I had a good feeling. I watched him practice. That's about all I can do as a head coach, because I do not coach, is I sit up there and watch, and try to get a feel of what's going to happen. I watch practice, and I see 'em doing this and I see 'em doing that. I get a pretty good feel of what I think they're going to do. What you can't judge is how he's going to do it under pressure in a game."
Have you watched Georgia Tech this year? Are you impressed by the way they've managed to stay afloat this season, despite some injuries?
"They've been amazing. They've been hurt by injuries terrible. I haven't studied them, bu I watched them earlier in the year and I saw that tailback run wild, the first one they had. (Tony Hollings). I was impressed. Gee, I was impressed. Then he goes down and they put this freshman (Ajenavi Eziemefe) in there, and dadgum I was impressed with him. Now he goes down, and I haven't had a chance to study these others, but evidently somebody else is killing 'em (Gordon Clinkscale). I have seen enough of their quarterback that I knew he was doggone good. I knew their receivers were good. And I knew they had a lot of their defense back from last year. It seems like I've lost track of them for the last three or four weeks, haven't been able to watch 'em. They've won two big games back to back, and they've got a lot of momentum going right now."
How much of that kind of turnaround comes down to a coach?
"It takes a veteran coach that doesn't panic, and has been around. And that's exactly what you've got."
Do you know Chan Gailey at all? How did you meet him?
"When my son Terry was the head coach at Samford University, when he left, they hired Chan. At that time, I think Chan might have been coaching the Birmingham pro football team (the USFL's Birmingham Stallions). I had known him through that. I knew him when he was at Florida, by the way. When I first came to Florida State, he was an assistant coach at Florida. That was when I first met him. I just knew him -- I didn't know him personally. Then he went to Troy State, and he did a great job at Troy State. I had a couple of close friends whose sons played for him and coached for him. One of my closest friends' two sons played for him when he was at Troy, when he won the national championship. Then from there to pro football, then the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, then Miami (with the Dolphins), then where he is now. It's not like he don't know what's going on."
Do you expect Stanford Samuels to be back this week?
"I expect so. He and Mickey and I will probably have a little talk this week to see where we go."