Bobby's Corner

In this marathon Q&A with the media Sunday morning, FSU coach Bobby Bowden chatted about a variety of topics, from FSU's win over UF, the play of Chris Rix, recruiting on the internet and much, much more. "There's no doubt about it. Dadgum going into a BCS bowl with four losses is kind of scary. You hate to go into a bowl with four losses, yet you're not going to apologize for what you've done. ... That game meant a lot," Bowden said.

Q: Your offense in this game was as wide open as we've seen this year. You spent a lot of time in four-wide sets. Did you see something from the Florida defense?

A: This year has been an odd year in regards to structuring an offense. You started off with Chris Rix at quarterback, great offensive line -- outstanding offensive line -- good runners, receivers that have talent but are not catching consistently. You go out there and try to build an offense kind of like you used to have. You go out there against Iowa State and get 31 points the first half. You go out there against Virginia and get 23 points in the first half. You go out there against Maryland and get 30 points in the first half. Things are coming along pretty decent, although your defense is struggling.

Then, you get beat by Louisville, and you decide, 'Hey, the strength of this team is the offensive line and the running backs. Let's start there, build around that. Then fake the ball and throw.' We kind of changed our thinking there. Even though we lost to Miami, we nearly won it. Then we lost to Notre Dame with turnovers -- which we could have won, but didn't. Then you get your center hurt, your guard hurt, your first tailback out, second tailback out, third tailback out.

Now you try to get away from that running game that you were doing. We kind of got back in the four-receiver set. The more receivers that you run, the less running game you can have -- powerfully. You can have a trap-type of thing, which Oklahoma uses a lot, but even they get hurt sometimes. We've kind of been in three different transitions of offense. Last night's the way we want to play football. The key last night is, Leon had to come through. If Leon doesn't come through, we don't win. We can do all that throwing and stuff, but it's just like when they became one-dimensional. We stayed two-dimensional -- we were able to stay two-dimensional. If our runner had been struggling, we would have had to throw every down, and it would have been detrimental.

Q: How did the transition of Daryl Dickey to the field and Jeff Bowden to the press box turn out?

A: I thought it worked good.

Q: Was there a major benefit to doing that?

A: It just seems like, for some reason, the communication from down here to up there, and from there to down here was better if Daryl was down here and Jeff was up there. That's what I saw last night. I had less to do with play-calling last night than I've maybe ever had. I think it's just a communication thing. I don't know who called what. Daryl had the game plan. If Jeff hadn't have been there, Daryl could have called him and guessed what they're doing. I think it worked better. We started to wait until next year to do it, but we felt like with the abysmal showing we had last week against N.C. State, we needed to find out if this was what we ought to be doing.

Q: Did you call any plays?

A: Did I call any? I might have called a couple. The fewest I've called in a while. I felt what they were doing was good.

Q: After playing so well against Florida, are you frustrated by the thought that you could have played that well all season?

A: Ain't no sense doing that. You could do that. I'm not going to do that. I say I'm not going to do that (laughs) It's interesting, isn't it. Miami wins the state championship, and we could have done it. A lot of ifs.

Q: So it doesn't gnaw at you?

A: I won't let it gnaw at me. If it gnaws at me, I've got to get out of this game. My age -- I'm too old to gnaw. It's hard enough taking those losses -- they gnaw at me.

Q: Are you looking forward to a possible matchup with Georgia?

A: It really makes no difference who we play. I think Georgia would be a great matchup because of our closeness to each other, our familiarity with their staff. Their staff is pretty familiar to us. I tell you what, though, it'd be more detrimental to us than it would be them. It's the same thing as Chuck Amato at dadgum N.C. State. He knows more about us than we know about him. He knows everything about us. Now Mark and them, they know a lot about us from serving with us. Of course, we know some about what he would do, too, except he's got a different staff around him. He's familiar with this staff and what we like to do.

Q: Would you not like playing Mark?

A: No, I wouldn't hate to do that. He's got to beat Arkansas, don't he? Arkansas' one of those teams, with the way they run the ball, they can be very difficult. Mark and them -- I'm amazed at the job they've done there. They just did it so quick -- it's unbelievable.

Q: This week in practice, did the team seem distracted at all?

A: Y'all would ask me that every day after practice. I never saw any signs that they were not really concentrating on Florida. I never saw any signs that they were not concentrating. I didn't see any signs that they were hanging their heads. I didn't saw any signs that they were moaning about losing a teammate. I know they did -- a lot of those kids really like A.D. In fact, all of them like A.D. It had no affect on their practice habits.

Q: There was no period of distraction or adjustment?

A: Well, I talked to them. As soon as I met with them Monday, I had a meeting with them to explain. I didn't tell them any more than I told the press, which was nothing. I felt like anything I said would be detrimental. I couldn't even explain to the players why I took the action I took, or we took the action we took.

Q: Did you tell the players that the reason for Adrian's dismissal was that he had not been truthful with you?

A: Yeah, but I didn't want that to get out. I told 'em that was between us girls, but somehow it got out. Any time you tell that many people something, it's going to get out.

Q: Is that typical of kids? When everyone else is worrying about and reacting to the Adrian situation, the players have it bounce off them?

A: Very much. Some bounce back quicker than others, as you know. Everybody's different. Everybody responds differently. They just did a good job of keeping their practice in order. I'm sure that a lot of them are deeply hurt about A.D. I know that was there. But, they separated that from their preparation for the ballgame.

Q: Given everything that was happening last week, how did you and your staff manage to keep them focused and inspired?

A: For me it was a dismal week. It nearly went back to my old getting-fired days (laughs). When you're younger, you worry about getting fired. You don't know what's going to happen in the future. You get my age, it's already behind you. So what? Retirement ain't that bad. It was a very frustrating week. It's amazing. In 1974, when I was at West Virginia, we had the best material we had the best material we had the whole time I was there. I think I had seven kids that got a shot at pro ball with that ballclub. At West Virginia, that was unheard of. At West Virginia, back in those days, if you had two guys that went to the pros, you were pretty good. A bunch of them went into pro ball. Not all of them made it, but about four of them started in the NFL. That was the worst year I had up there. We had key injuries. That was one of the most frustrating years I've ever had, as far as a season is concerned. This felt a little bit like it, with the four losses we had. I'm thinking, 'How in the world did this team lose four ballgames?' I'm responsible. It's my dadgum fault when we don't do it.

Q: What was your emotion like, seeing the team respond the way they did?

A: That kind of makes you look back and say, 'Well, we weathered the storm.' As far as that game is concerned, we weathered the storm. This could have been a disastrous Saturday if they'd have beat us, especially if we'd have fallen apart. We jumped one more hurdle.

Q: Does last night's showing from Chris, despite your missing players on offense, really make you feel better about next season?

A: It most certainly does. I felt like, going in, and I probably said it where you knew I said it, that the strength of this team probably was the potential of the offensive front five. And you'd have to include your tight end, because he's a blocker. All those guys are seniors. All of them are big. All of them are fast. All of them are pro potential. Those are the guys that could make this a great team. What we lack over on defense, and what we lack at receiver, and what we lack over here -- these guys here, if they can block their man, we can move the ball.

Then, right off the ball, Milford Brown can't play. So you lose a starter. Now you take a tackle (Todd Williams) and put him in there at guard. You bring up (Alex) Barron and bring up (Ray) Willis. We just kind of rotate those three tackles.

Poor Brett Williams. In his four years here, he's played as good as any offensive lineman I can ever remember coming through here. Consistently. Barron couldn't play both tackles. Willis couldn't play both tackles. Brett's the only guy that could play both tackles. This tackle's different than this tackle. And he'd miss assignments every now and then that would hurt us. Then we'd move him back over here and he wouldn't miss assignments. Then we'd move him back over here and he'd miss some assignments. He still played good enough the only way we could work it out --unless we wanted to play some true freshman who wasn't anywhere near ready.

Then you lose Mirambeau. I used to sit on my tower and watch our team practice. I'd say, 'Man, there's one guy out there we'd better not lose. That's that center. We'd better not lose that center.' And then, dadgum, he goes down in one of those games, whichever one it was. Probably been playing hurt all year on that thing. I think when they looked at his knee, it was something he'd had, but somebody really fixed him up.

Then you lose Montrae Holland, and he's playing as good as any lineman in the country. And you lose dadgum Greg Jones. I don't know why I'm getting into all this. How'd I get into all this stuff? I forgot we won yesterday (laughs). We went into the season hoping that this offensive line could overcome anything else we had. It looked like there for a while we could, but we didn't.

Q: What does it say about Chris, that he's able to take an offense that was banged-up and lead the team to a win over Florida?

A: That's why you see the pros, and everybody else, going to mobile quarterbacks. They're getting killed in pro ball. It sure does help if they can move around a little bit. That was a great example of a quarterback that can move around. As hard as they come after the passer -- they're an excellent pass-rushing football team -- a quarterback that can move around throws them out of their range. It would hurt us if we played against one like that. I think, as I look back on the season, here you have Chris Rix, who is one of the finest young men I've ever met. He has a hard time communicating with his teammates, just because he's from a different part of the country, and he's completely confident in himself.

His confidence just jumps out at you. That's why I didn't worry about his comeback. People'd say, 'Do you think he can come back?' He never lost confidence through the whole thing. He's got that. Then we have that Notre Dame game, and we have to move the other guy ahead of him, because the other guy looked better. Although he didn't play much, he looked better. Chris was making the kind of mistakes that get you beat -- that's turnovers.

So you sit him on the bench and then things were said. That probably made him. Number one, you're going to see what he does. Is he going to fold, now that he's been put down to second-team. Is he going to quit? Is he going to transfer? I don't worry about the transfer stuff. If a kid doesn't want to be here, then it's best he's not here. I didn't want him to transfer, but I don't think that ever entered his mind. He stood there on the sideline and watched, and persevered. I was able to talk to him -- it gave me a good excuse to say, 'Hey, Chris. You see, one of your problems here -- you're having a hard time getting your team behind you. They don't understand you. You need to do this, you need to do that.' Coaches had been telling him that all along, but he didn't believe them.

He was able to get a big lesson there. A.D. was able to come in and do some good things. then this thing happened to A.D., which I hate, and that put Chris back in there. I think he's really learned a lot about dealing with teammates. And I think they have learned a lot about him. I think they're totally behind him now.

Q: Did you speaking privately to him help him settle in and turn it around?

A: I'm sure he was told by so many people -- his quarterback coach, his offensive coordinator, me, others -- he sensed the picture, and adjusted to it.

Q: How is he communicating better with his teammates?

A: I think when you see a guy suffer, that makes you a little bit more compassionate towards him. He's sitting on the sidelines, he can't play -- he wants to play -- that other guy's playing. He went through that. Then I think he learned to -- that's a hard one to say. He don't mean not to communicate with his players. To put it what it is -- sometimes, you've got to communicate to them, where you're not telling them how to do their jobs, where you're not saying to them, 'Look, y'all got to do better so we can win.' Somehow you've got to communicate where it doesn't come out like that. I think he's learned some of that communication. If he'd have been a senior, I think the way he was would have worked anyway. But not a freshman. Not a sophomore. You don't tell someone else what they're doing wrong.

Q: Hasn't he been hurt as badly by drops as any quarterback you've ever had?

A: I can't remember the dadgum drops we've had out there on that field. I can't understand it. Dadgummit, we might not have ever punted if we didn't drop the ball last night. He hits Talman down there in the corner -- Talman drops one against N.C. State. We practice it -- we rep it as much as anybody in the United States of America. We spend the whole time practicing, throwing and catching the dadgum ball.

Q: Does that show you something about Chris? Even after the drops, and the long pass to Talman that was wiped out by a penalty, he stayed calm and patient.

A: That could be the big change he made during these three days. He might have got all over someone for getting a penalty. Whereas now, he's learned to keep it within himself. I'm not saying that's what happened, but it could. We had some pretty big catches called back last night. That hurt.

Q: Would you say that one thing that stood out about Chris was the way that he seemed to make better decisions as far as when to run, when to throw the ball away, and so forth?

A: Again, go back to Carson Palmer from Southern Cal. He couldn't do it either, and he's probably going to be a first-rounder this year, from what I understand. Evidently he's having a great year as the quarterback at Southern Cal. We opened our season with them back in 1997, when he was a freshman. Then we played them up here the next year, and he was just another pretty face out there. This quarterback we've got, he had to go through that as a freshman and sophomore too, although he was redshirted. Probably all those are growing pains that you have to learn anyway.

Q: How vital is it to have good chemistry between the quarterback and the rest of the team?

A: I think you've got to. If that's true -- the chemistry is not good between the quarterback and the rest of the team -- you're going to have a hard time succeeding.

Q: Was that the case earlier in the season?

A: It is right now. You've got to realize, when you win, nothing's wrong. When you win, you can do anything you want to. You can go out and shoot somebody, if you want to. If you lose, you've got to go to jail.

Q: Can you talk about the way that recruiting has changed in the last decade?

A: Recruiting is like the rest of society. It's gotten more complex -- more and more complex. I'm just thinking of how to express it. I'd have a hard time pinning it down. It's more complex dealing with kids nowadays.

Q: Do kids seem to commit earlier today?

A: I tihnk there's a trend, yes. Some cases. Some kids will take it to the very end. It seems like from ten years ago, you're getting more early commitments than before.

Q: Would you like to see an early signing day?

A: I've been through all that. Coaching as long as I have -- 50 years -- you've been through the early signing day. I can remember when signing day was December 10th, something like that. I can remember those days. The hard thing about that is it makes you recruit during the season. It's hard to run a football team and recruit during the season at the same time. The way it is now, you can go ahead and coach, and when the season's over, you start recruiting. Right now, we'll start going recruiting every day. I believe that I like the later date better.

Q: So an early signing day isn't something you'd like to see?

A: The good thing about it you got it over with, and didn't drag it out. The bad news was it's mighty hard to recruit during the season when you're trying to coach a football team.

Q: Does the Internet make you crazy?

A: If I read it, it would. I don't even know what an Internet is. Whatever it is, I know (recruits) are reading it. I don't anything about -- what is it? -- chat rooms? I don't know what that means. I'm the old school that refuses to catch up. There's no doubt about it, it's throwing too much misinformation out there. It's unbelievable. This kid here, he wants to do this. Somebody over here says just the opposite. And maybe it's not even true at all. People, I guess, read that stuff. It really makes it confusing.

Q: Last weekend, one thing you said was a huge difference against N.C. State was the kicking game.What was the difference this week?

A: Our kicking game was good. All three areas were played real good. That's why we won. The kicking game at North Carolina State, the thing that would have neutralized that, is not calling our punt return back for a touchdown. That would have put us up 14-3, and I think they'd have had a hard time beating us. Then we'd have had the confidence we needed. But they came back and preserved their win with the kicking game.

This week, we didn't lose the kicking game. We had field position all day. The things you complain about, you've finally got -- field position. That's about the field position we had against Georgia Tech.

Q: When you've beaten Florida the last few times in Tallahassee, it's been to get to the national championship game. How much meaning did this have, even without the championship implications?

A: I'll tell you how much it helped. You're standing on the platform, the noose is around your neck, and you get a pardon. One more game. And it's strictly game-to-game, boy.

b>Q: Did you feel that bad about this season, that if you had lost last night, you might have considered retirement?

A: One of the last things out there, if we'd have lost, we'd have lost it. The thing is, I would not have quit and given up. I've got a great example I can follow, and that's Coach Paterno. He's had to struggle, and struggle, and all of a sudden he has a great year. If he'd been a little bit luckier this year, he might have been in that national championship game. He lost three games -- that's why he jumped on those officials so much. He went through this and went through that and then had an outstanding year this year. He didn't fire coaches to get it resolved. Firing coaches is not the answer. Sometimes it might be the answer, but most times you don't improve yourself.

Q: Are you convinced now that this team has the potential to be as good as you want to be?

A: There's two things that have happened to us. Number one, we've created a monster. We've created a monster -- during my time, I don't know if we can neutralize that monster. We've had success -- two national championships, 14 great years. I don't know that Bobby Bowden or anybody else will match that and the way that was done. That's a monster. Everybody's going to expect that to go ahead. The other monster is, the conference has gotten a lot tougher.

Can you imagine Virginia next year, with everybody back? Can you imagine Chuck's gonna be good again? We're going to be good again, or we'll be better, if we can get it done up front. Maryland -- he's got that thing going. Your conference is getting better. Tommy's getting a lot of his kids back next year. Carolina played -- and he's getting Durant back, his quarterback. Playing at home -- OK, maybe you've got an advantage. Now you've got to go play at their place, their crowd, and they're after you. Those are two things that our Florida State team is facing right now -- the dynasty thing that you did, and everybody expects you to still keep doing it, and then the other thing is the conference is definitely stronger.

Q: How much did the switch of Daryl and Jeff have an impact on the way the offense worked?

A: Probably had some. I thought we communicated better the way we did it than the way we were doing it. Jeffrey is the offensive coordinator. He's the guy that's ultimately responsible for that offense, no matter what happens. He's always handled it from the ground. Some offensive coordinators do it -- I know Tennessee's does that, and some others. Mark Richt, of course, he calls his plays from the sideline. I don't know if he has his coordinator upstairs or not. Daryl wanted to be closer to the quarterback, for one thing. On the field, he can communicate with the quarterbacks. I thought that was a big help -- when the quarterback comes off the field, he can sit there and talk to him, instead of getting him on the phone and talking to him on the phone. Then Jeff was up there, where he can see better what's happening. Anyway, I thought it worked better. I was nearly afraid to try it this late. At first, we talked about next year we ought to do this. Then we felt like, 'No, let's go ahead and do it now, take a chance.'

Q: Jeff seems to be a little more willing to gamble, run gadget plays and so forth, where Daryl is a little more conservative.

A: Well, Jeff is a Bowden. Like Tommy is. Like Terry is. A lot of times, it'll work like this. He's down on the sideline, and he's thinking about those trick plays, and he can't see what's happening out there. He's not sure. He can't do what's happening. Now you go upstairs and look down, and you say, 'Oh yeah, that is good.'

Q: Was he in the box when he was Terry's offensive coordinator at Samford?

A: Yes. At Southern Miss, he was on the ground. He came here and was on the ground, and he's been on the sidelines ever since.

Q: After Chris was flagged for an illegal forward pass, you and Daryl were right there to talk to him. Is that what you're talking about -- the ability to talk to him, settle him down, and try to keep him from making mistakes?

A: I've seen him do that. You see him learning experience. I remember last year, against the University of Miami. He took the ball, got chased outside of the pocket, ran to his right, and did what you're never supposed to do -- throw across your body back across the field. But he did it, and completed it. And I said, 'Uh-oh. He's going to think that's the way you play football.' Then that very same game, he did the same thing, threw it back across the field, and they intecerpted it, went down the sideline. I don't think they scored, but they might have. Since he's been playing quarterback for us, we've all seen him run the ball, scramble, run around, and right before he crosses the line of scrimmage there's a guy standing there, give him the ball and get by with it. Now, you're saying 'Uh-oh. Watch out.

This is gonna get you one of these days.' He did that against Notre Dame -- intercepted, touchdown. And he did that again the other night, trying to make something. It would have been beautiful if it had happened, but we can't gamble. He went across the line of scrimmage, it was a big penalty, and I'm not sure we ever overcame it in that drive. We might have overcame it, but I don't think we did. Anyway, that's a learning experience. And Daryl's sitting right there by him, gets him, 'Don't do that anymore.'

Q: It took you a while to really start going to Leon Washington. Was that part of your game plan, to throw the ball before getting him involved?

A: We just were not going to sit on the ball. Whatever it took was what we were going to do. We were determined to open it up and throw and do whatever it took. We were not going to play cautious. If we had to throw it to do it, we'd throw it. We were going to spread it around right off the bat. We played that way.

Q: How important was it to get this win, so your kids didn't have to deal with the media distraction of an 8-5 team getting invited to a major bowl, and the negativity that would have surrounded that?

A: There's no doubt about it. Dadgum going into a BCS bowl with four losses is kind of scary. You hate to go into a bowl with four losses, yet you're not going to apologize for what you've done. You did win the conference, that put you there. That's the way the system works. That game meant a lot. Both of them are not good, but five losses is worse than four. At least it ain't five losses in there. Plus you beat a team that beat the team that might win the conference. If Georgia wins the conference, the thing that's going to make people think that we have a chance -- 'well, they beat Florida and Florida beat Georgia.' If Georgia gets there. Georgia's still got one more game. I imagine they'd be favored, but Arkansas looked mighty darned good to me the other night.

Q: You said after the game that you needed this win as badly as you've needed any win for a very long time. When's the last time you can remember needing one this badly?

A: I would think probably some of those bowls that we won back in the early 80s, when we were not having good years. We were going 7-4-1, won a bowl. Or going 6-4-1 and winning a bowl. Those are kind of important, because they kind of saved your year and gave you some momentum going into the next year. It'd be very good if we could get this bowl win. That would give us some momentum against going into the year. That was a situation where I've been in before, where you felt like, 'If I don't win this, it's really spiraling down.' But we were able to win it.

Q: Did you watch film of the Florida-Georgia game to prepare for Florida?

A: Definitely, because they played each other, so when you study Florida, you see Georgia.

Q: When you talk about the monster that has been created with your success, Ron Zook dealt with sort of the same thing. How difficult is it to follow a successful head coach like that?

A: It's tough. It's as tough a situation to me as you can go into, following somebody like Steve Spurrier. The guy's got flair. He's got success. He throws the ball. He does everything. Now he leaves, and it takes somebody with a lot of dadgum toughness to take that job. The old expression -- if you take a job, you want one of them 0-10 ones, where you can't go anywhere but up. Now he comes into a situation where the guy was ultra-successful. To me, you've got to admire him for taking the darned job. Now, then, once he gets it, everything he does different, (Zook) is going to get criticized. Everything different he does is going to get criticized, unless he wins all of his games. He's been through that. He'll continue to recruit good players. Florida is still Florida. To me it's one of the supreme schools in the country in regard to academics and athletics. They've just got to be patient.

Q: Would you hate to be the guy who replaces you?

A: Would I hate to be the guy who replaced me? No, but it'll be difficult, because I've been here so darned long. It'll just be difficult. Following Vince Dooley was difficult. Following so-and-so was difficult.

Q: Has anybody ever done it successfully?

A: One guy, and that's (Miami's Larry) Coker. Of course, Butch (Davis) wasn't there that long. But Coker may never lose.

Q: Does it matter, program-wise, whether you play in the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl?

A: As far as the program goes, it doesn't make a difference.

Q: Do you have a preference?

A: Yeah. I like to play where you can turn the heat up or down, and it don't rain. Wherever that is.

Q: What kept your players focused this week? Was it the fact that you were playing Florida?

A: That could be real big. If we would have played somebody that didn't have the name, and we were 15-point favorites, they might could not have gotten focused. Being Florida, that's probably the one thing they could focus on.

Q: Because so many of these guys are from Florida, this rivalry seems to make them play much harder.

A: I think that played a big role. I think you've got to give a lot of credit to the seniors. The seniors -- their last home game, last time in that stadium. They really did a good job this week -- I watched 'em -- of trying to inspire the other guys. Brett Williams, Todd Williams, Pat Hughes, all the seniors -- defensively, we don't have many on defense -- the seniors did a good job of, I guess, leading these kids, keeping their focus on the ballgame.

Q: Was there a day you thought they weren't focused?

A: This week? No. I never saw any indication that they weren't trying as hard as they could and wanted to win this game.

Q: When you look at today, you're almost apologizing for a nine-win season. When you started, nine wins was pretty impressive, wasn't it?

A: That's what I was talking about about creating a monster. If this was 1977, everybody'd be -- we'd all be thrilled to death in '77. Then you've had a run of success, and then everybody expects that, especially the young generation, from age 5 to 19, they're used to winning at least 10 games. All of a sudden, what's happening? Somebody that's been around as long as I have can say, 'Hey, the same that was happening back in 19-so-and-so. We've already been through it. We see it happening to everybody. I think it goes in cycles. Miami is in a cycle right now. It won't last forever. We were in a cycle. Now we're out of it, but we're going to get back into it. Same thing with Florida. Same thing with Georgia. Same thing with Georgia Tech. Same thing with Tennessee.

Q: On TV, opinion seemed to indicate that Rix was the better quarterback for this team. Would you agree?

A: That could be, from a practical standpoint. Here's a quarterback that has started 21 games, the other quarterback only started four. Right off the bat there, your spirits rolls in your favor.

Q: But wasn't it the fact that Rix was 13-7 in those 20 games that sent him to the bench to begin with? Does that kick around in the back of your head?

A: No, because he was only a freshman. He's only a sophomore this year. Shouldn't even be starting until next year. He's ahead of the game. I kept that in mind.

Q: In light of everything Chris has been through, what must it feel like to be him?

A: Exoneration would fit in there somewhere, wouldn't it? What do I think he felt? Well, I imagine he felt -- I don't know what the word would be. One thing I never worried about him was losing confidence. It's not like he went in there and got his confidence back. He had that to begin with. What he had to learn was to stay within your limitations. Stay within what your supposed to be doing. He broke the law at least two times last night, maybe three. That is, he won't get on the ground when he's fixing to get hit. Get on the ground and prevent a fumble. Every time you go in there high, they're going to knock that ball out of your hand. You don't carry it enough. He broke that law about three times the other night, but he got by with it. We still want him to keep getting on the ground. He did it some. He improved in that area. And boy, he made some key runs.

Q: Do you think Chris' teammates have rallied behind him now?

A: I think the team is totally behind him right now, whereas four or five weeks ago, there was some of them that didn't. You had a good quarterback sitting there in the wings. Now if you didn't have that luxury, nobody can say anything, because there ain't nothing we can do. You happen to have A.D. sitting right there, who's a pretty dang good football player, and that made it possible to make a change. Chris learned a lot during that time. He regained his teammates.

Q: Do you think the team is behind him because of his play, or because they really have no choice now?

A: Not only his play -- I think that would be second. Number two is that he kind of went to them like, 'Look, I learned a big lesson, and I haven't been doing this thing like I should, and I'm gonna do it that way.' I think he got that message across to those boys, and that might have been the most important thing of all.

Q: Would it surprise you to learn that he was crying in the locker room last night?

A: No. When he walked in, I saw him crying. It doesn't surprise me.

Q: What does that reaction mean to you, personally?

A: I imagine, again, a lot of stored-up energy in there, and he finally had a chance to get it out. Being thankful that he had a good year. We just have to keep in mind that even with all these things that happen, he's a good kid, anyway. The most important thing in life -- he is a good kid. Everybody would take him as a son.

Q: Did Rex Grossman look like the same quarterback that beat you guys last season?

A: Yeah, he did to me. He looks like the same quarterback. Just scares me to death. When he cut those first couple of posts down there, hit those guys -- he needed 18, he'd get 20. Yeah, he reminded me of Rex Grossman. We were able to get more pressure on him and covered better. That's the best we've ever covered against the bomb. When you're playing somebody like a Rex, he can catch up just like that. An 11-point lead don't mean nothing to him. A two-touchdown lead don't mean anything extra. Boom -- he can pop one just like that One of the best things we did was did not allow that long one. They got some 18-yarders in there, but even not a lot of them. He's still the guy.

Q: How big of a blow would it be for Florida if Grossman left?

A: I don't know their other quarterbacks. They're freshmen -- they'll have to go through what we went through. We've always had a redshirt junior, ready to go, always. Then we Jared Jones -- I had to let him go for something -- he was a redshirt junior, so the next quarterback is a dadgum redshirt freshman, and the guy behind him is a pure freshman. The guy behind him is a redshirt sophomore.

Q: Jared Jones was at Saturday's game.

A: Jared was? Is he playing baseball? I was hoping he'd go into baseball. I hated to lose him. He was trying to play baseball and football. I told him to go look at baseball. I thought he might be better off with baseball.

Q: What will you do for practice?

A: We'll be off this week. Finals are next week. I think we start -- it's not hard to remember the day -- Friday the 13th we'll start. That's not a hard day to remember. I don't usually remember things like that -- I say 'I don't know when we're starting.' So that's Friday of finals. Finals Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and we'll probably work out that night just like a Monday night practice, and then school will be out and we'll go through the routine that we've followed the last 16 or 17 years.

Nole Digest Top Stories