What impresses you about Georgia?
"They are very deserving of where they are when you watch them play. Defensive team reminds me a lot of Notre Dame's defensive team if I was comparing them to people we've played. But I believed they are faster. Faster. They play hard like Notre Dame does. They have an excellent kicking game. And offensively, they make very few mistakes and they are very dangerous. Maybe the best group of receivers in the country. The quarterback (David Greene) is very good."
Talk about their running game, specifically Musa Smith?
"He impresses me. He's really made their offense. In other words, their offense, without a running game, would be limited. So, he gives you the balance to be a dangerous runner. Looks like he has just gotten better and better every game I've watched."
Does Florida State deserve to be in the Sugar Bowl?
"We qualified by the rules. We are there, whether we are deserving or not. We are not going to turn it back in."
Do you expect to hear that when you arrive in New Orleans?
"I would expect it but so what. That's the way it is."
Is this something you use as motivation for your kids, that a four-loss team belongs in the BCS?
"You sure like to, but it has to come from the kids."
Do you feel they have to be reminded of that?
"If we were 11-1 we would still have the same respect for Georgia that we got. We would still have the same difficulty, no matter what our record is."
Besides getting a win, what would you like to see from your team againt Georgia?
"I would like to see the win first. That would solve, that would answer everything. I would like to see us go out there and play the best we can play and see what happens."
What did you take from the Georgia-Florida game?
"Well, their game with Florida is like ours with Miami. We could have won it as easily as we lost it. They could have won that as easy as they lost it. They had opportunities to win and didn't. That happens in your season."
You said after the Florida game that it had been awhile you needed a win that badly. What about this bowl game? How badly do you need this win?
"It would be nice. If you could win it, you could nearly say you are back. Here is the No. 3 football team in the country. You just got through beating Florida. If you can beat Florida and Georgia, I would feel pretty much on schedule if we did that."
What does a game like this do for recruiting in Georgia?
"It sure doesn't hurt. The win doesn't hurt at all. But that doesn't necessarily mean you are going to get them all. It doesn't play a big role as you think but it sure wouldn't hurt."
When Mark Richt was named the Georgia coach, what did you feel would be his toughest challenge?
"I felt like Georgia was a very high-pressured job. Can you handle the criticism that comes with it. That's one of the first things, moving from an assistant coach to a head coach, that's one of the first challenges you receive. All of a sudden, you are blamed for everything. Where when you are an assistant coach, you are only blamed for this – and you probably didn't catch a lot of blame for that, the head coach got it. So, when a guy becomes a head coach, everything is on his shoulders. I think that's the most critical thing a coach is faced with."
What convinced you that Mark's personality would translate well as a head coach?
"Well, I never doubted his personality or his demeanor because I think he has so many traits you would want as a head coach. I think he has all of that. I didn't know of any negatives. I couldn't think of any negatives of why he couldn't do it."
Has it surprised you how quickly he has gotten everything together up there?
"I am amazed at how successful he's been so quick. That does amaze you. Yet, you look at Larry Coker and look at these others – though Larry came into a program that was up at the top – but, yeah, I am amazed how quick they (Bulldogs) have gone up to the top like they have. That's where Georgia should be though. If you picked 15 schools in this country you would like to be a head coach, Georgia would be one of them."
Did you talk to Vince Dooley during the process?
"Yeah, he called me about it. Sure did. Just about like I told you all. The unknown you don't knows. When a guy moves from an assistant coach to a head coach, some can do it and some it's just not their thing. Some people are great assistant coaches but they were not meant to be head coaches. Then their are some assistant coaches who are meant to be head coaches. I didn't see any thing negative that would keep him from being... but he still had to go in there and do it."
What was your first thought when you had to go up against another assistant?
"We've done so much of that lately. I didn't think much about it. When like I play Tommy, when I play Chuck, now we are playing Mark, the atmosphere before the game and around them is good. Of course, once the game starts it's Georgia and Florida State."
When you look at Georiga's offense, how much of it is Florida State-type offense?
"We both do a lot of things alike. His system and our system are probably 90-percent the same."
What our recollections of Georgia yesteryear?
"That's why I say they should always be there. When I was coming up as a kid, and then my college days and in my early coaching days, when I was first starting keeping up with Georiga, in the early '40s, they were just a power in those days. It was Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Notre Dame. Those schools all were kind of cream of the crop."
Why do you suppose it has taken them so long to get back (among nation's elite)?
"I don't know. Vince did such a great job, it's probably hard to follow a guy like Vince. But they've just nearly been there. Now they are there."
When was it when you felt Mark was a guy who could succeed as a head coach?.
"I thought last year when he beat Tennessee at Tennessee, which was a pretty good indication. Came back with about a minute to go and won the game. I thought that. ... that kind of told the story right there. What he can lead them to do. There's a case where if your leader hadn't been pretty darn good, might not have been able to pull that off."
What was coach Richt like during your staff meetings?
"Mark was more of a steadying influence."
Where did you see him grow as a coach?
"He had a good background in the throwing game. That's one reason. ... I tried to recruit him in high school, so I knew him in school. I can remember plain as day right now. And we played against him at Miami. I liked him. He was a very likeable guy. So, I brought him in here as a graduate assistant to work with our quarterbacks. When I had an opening, I hired him."
When he became offensive coordinator, did he become a little more assertive in his relationship with you in terms of his play calling?
"He did. He took more and more and more of it as time went by. I made him offensive coordinator when I lost Brad Scott, because I didn't want to lose that offensive philosophy. I felt like he knew it as good as anybody. And he knew the passing game as anybody and I wanted him to be head of our offense. He was in a position of responsibility and handled it good. Very dependable. And his character is so good that you can depend on him. He worked as hard as anybody at it."
How much was Mark behind in installing the shotgun into your offense?
"I will tell you how influenced he was in our shotgun. It took me three years to make him do it (laughing). I tried to get him for three years, go to the shotgun, got to the shotgun, go to the shotgun. That year when Charlie (Ward), his first year as a quarterback, I think I made him go into that year (1992). And then, he and his staff developed it. I liked to never got him sold on it. I got a lot of my ideas from Tommy. He was in the shotgun at Auburn. Terry was running the shotgun up at Samford. Of course, we talk all the time. Every year, I would say, why don't we get in the shotgun? Why don't we get in the shotgun? So, finally, that last year I made him. I said get in the shotgun. We will use it as a two-minute offense. And we did. That's when we found out Charlie could operate better out of that than behind center. So, it got more involved. That's where Mark and his staff just really took it and ran with it.He kept tweaking it. Kept developing it. Got more into it. Do more things out of it."
Was he just more comfortable in the split back?
"More comfortable up under the center. There's still a lot of teams that won't come out from it. They want that quarterback under there all the time. Steve (Spurrier) never would do it at Florida, until he beat us as the Sugar Bowl. We sacked his quarterback about seven, eight times, and he went into the shotgun. Couldn't get to him. There's a point where people who don't like it might get into it."
Was Mark stubborn?
"No. If I would have told him to do it, he would have done it. I kind of suggested it. You'all ought to do this. If they feel strongly the other way, as long as we are successful, we will do it that way. He's not stubborn. He's not a stubborn individual. But he will stand up on what he believes and express himself."
Your team has shown two different sides this season. Has this been the strangest year in that regard?
"I think there might be circumstances in all of those cases (losses) that set up some of that stuff. I can't remember coaching a team where there was much difference in losing to Louisville and beating Florida. That's a lot of difference."
How did this team come together to dominate Florida?
"I think there was some doubts throughout the season about the quarterback situation. I think there was doubts among the team about your quarterback. When you are winning, those doubts are never exposed. Those doubts never show up. When you lose, the doubts start to come out. I think we went through some of that. Then, when we reached the Florida weekend, when A.D. eliminated himself, it put it back in Chris' hands again. But, Chris had done a lot of making up those three or four weeks he was on the bench. Handling it like he was suppose to handle it. We kept stressing that to him. It did seem like it came together that weekend."
If you had a mulligan this season, would you do anything differently to try to guide this season?
"You might could look back and see some things that you might could have done. At the time I couldn't see anything that we should have done differently."
How has Jeff handled the (public) criticism this year?
"What you have to realize is he don't hear half of it. We hear us talking. We don't hear all the radio shows, or might not even look at the papers. He might not, I never asked him. I know Tommy don't read the papers. And sure don't listen to radio shows. But I hear about it because people tell me. But it's the greatest thing he can go through. That criticism I was telling you about, you don't know if you can be a head coach, if you can't handle criticsim you can't make it. I know many of guy who was a head coach and as soon as they started getting criticized, they were out of it. Couldn't handle it. Don't have to go through this. And so if he's getting criticized real good now, it is good for him. It's a good growing-up-process. You have to see if you can handle it. How much does he hear I don't know."
Has he grownup in that regard?
"I am sure he has. I think if you compare our offense with the other 120 1A schools, I think ours. ... we ain't at the top but we ain't at the bottom. It ain't as bad as it might look."
Mark endured some of the same criticism that Jeff is now feeling, especially with the way it ended for Mark following the Orange Bowl defeat. How did you handle that?
"I think it's a distraction to him because he's trying to do two jobs at one time. But I never felt like he let up at all. He would budget his time where he would spend this much time trying to put a staff together and he would spend this much time preparing for the ballgame. That was a ballgame, if we complete one of those long passes we might win it. That close. But when Mark was here, he caught just as much criticism. I got those letters. He caught just as much criticism as Jeffrey catches. And whoever comes in next, it will be the same way."
What do you think of Georgia's finish?
"Their last two games, they were super. Their last two ballgames, they get your attention right quick. The quickness in which they defeated Arkansas and the quickness in which they defeated Georgia Tech, they get your attention right off the bat. You hope they are not peaking but that's what it looks like. That scares you. They've had their struggles. You have to have a couple of good bounces. The South Carolina game. South Carolina had it first-and-one at the one and fumbled. Then South Carolina ran an option on fourth-and-two on the goal line and it was there. Had everybody blocked. The guy drops the pitch. You have to have some of that. I don't think we got much of that this year. I got a feeling when I look back on this team -- I hate to say it because it sounds like an excuse but I ain't got any excuses -- but I don't think we are a lucky football team. There have been years we were kind of a lucky football team. With a little luck this year, we would be sitting up there right now about. ... with a little luck, we would probably be sitting up there right now about 11-2."
Editor's Note: These commments came from coach Bowden's news conference with the media prior to the team's latest two developments -- Darnell Dockett's suspension and Chris Rix's eligibily issue. Both will not play in the Sugar Bowl.