"We nearly had to win the game the way they won it. They won it kicking field goals and scoring on defense. They scored on defense and kicked four field goals. They won it the way we would have had to win it. No mistakes, get some turnovers, and kick field goals. I had told the players two nights ago about 1963, when Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl, and Bear had suspended Namath from the bowl. So he had to start a rookie quarterback, redshirt freshman Steve Sloan. They won 12-0, I think – four field goals. I was just trying to get our kids acclimated to ‘this is the way we might have to go.' I tell you, ol' Fabian I think would have done well without heat, without pressure. When they started bringing pressure, he was not ready for that. It took them a quarter and a half to figure out they better go get the guy. When they start blitzing to go get him, it shuts down your running, too.
"Now, if you're going to bring all those people, you can't block ‘em all. Not only does it shut down your running, it puts pressure on a guy that don't like to run. A guy like Chris Rix loves to run. He loves to come flying out of there. A mobile quarterback would be much more effective against Georgia than one who don't run. Anquan hadn't practiced there, hadn't been there enough, couldn't be sharp enough throwing the football. Although he hit what should have been a darned touchdown."
How big was that second-quarter drop (by Talman Gardner)?
"Oh, it would have been big. Number one, playing like we did, without our quarterback, you don't want to be behind. It takes you out of too many things you want to do. Now, when you're ahead, then we can run the ball, and do this, and do some things that might keep us with the ball. That's what we did early in the game. We got a lead and kind of just punched out time, tried to move the ball and get some field goals – we didn't get any field goals. Anyway, they had a tremendous defense. There's no doubt about it. That's a great defense. As a matter of fact, they had all the tools. They had a kicker, a punter, a quarterback, a runner, an offensive line, and defense. They had the whole show."
What were the good things Fabian Walker did?
"I think he stayed calm. I thought he stayed calm through the whole thing. I didn't see him panicking. I think he might need a little ‘scope on his shoulder, get something cleaned out in there. That's what I think. Really, he don't throw as good as he did before. Although he's not bad when you give him time. I noticed in pregame warmups, he was bouncing the ball to them some. That scared us. But that's typical – gee whiz, that's a pretty darned big ballgame to start your first game in. Again, I saw him not panic, anyway."
What do you do with Chris Rix this offseason?
"Well, we'll go back, get everything started. Get him back, make sure he don't miss nothing. That's been his problem, missing things. I know why he misses them, but there's no excuse. You've simply got to be there. We'll get him back, get him started, and go from there."
Will he enter the spring as a backup? Will it be wide open?
"Right now, it looks like Chris is one and you start there, it looks like. If we'd have won that ballgame, I'd have had to put Fabian up at number one. I'd have had to say, ‘Chris, you'll have to come back and try to take the job from him, because he's the number one quarterback.' We've got all spring to work that out. There's no telling what I'll do, thinking about it for a month and a half before spring training. Talking to the coaches, we might decide to do this or do that or this or that. Right now, it's Chris and Fabian, and you've got Wyatt Sexton."
Will there be a competition?
"We'll keep it competitive. We've done that every spring. We do always try to keep it competitive in the spring. You actually could win the job in the spring. Not just by one good practice, but if every practice you're dominating over and over and over, you could win the job. Like I say, when they come in, if we line up Chris number one, whether we line up Fabian number one, whether we line up Sexton number one, it doesn't make a difference. We've got 15 days of practice to sort itself out."
It would seem that Chris has a major challenge, to win his teammates back. Is that going to be possible?
"Oh, yeah. I've already heard the players talk."
What have they said?
"They'd like to have him back. Last night. He's just got to do what he's supposed to do. He let the team down. That upsets them. I know some of them have called him and talked to him, and I can get the gist of how they feel about it."
Will you monitor him closer, to make sure he keeps up with his responsibilities?
"We'll monitor him as good as we can – there's no question about that. We've got to now. We expect them to get up and go to class. We expect them to go eat. We expect them to go do this and that. Things that are very important, we'll check, just to be sure he's getting it done. He don't do it out of spite. He'll miss because he overloads his time schedule, and can't get up in the morning."
What have you seen from Wyatt? Can he get in the mix in the spring?
"During spring training, we like to give all quarterbacks an opportunity. Give them as much as we can. One of the things we'll do is go in and look at it kind of like this: Fabian and Chris, or Chris and Fabian. Then Sexton, maybe at another level. Now, let's find out how close Sexton is to this level. Now, let's find out how close Sexton is to this level. You've got to let (Walker and Rix) work out, one of them's one and one's two. You've got 15 days. Now, can he get up and challenge them for 15 days. Those are the things we'll try to find out in spring training. After spring training, we'll come out with a one, two, and a three."
How much of an advantage does Rix have in the competition?
"Next year is the year he's supposed to have been starting. Not last year. Not this year. You don't start for us until you're a redshirt junior. Next year is the first year he's supposed to have been starting. He's got two years under his belt. That's a plus."
Do you have any plans to play Anquan at quarterback?
"I don't want to put him at quarterback. It wouldn't be fair to him. He's more dangerous as a receiver. We had a lot of stuff in there for him last night. We had reverses, we had flea-flickers, we had this. But we had to use him at quarterback – we couldn't do all the stuff we were going to do."
How amazing was his performance?
"It was something we hoped he could do. We weren't sure that he could still do it. Then, the bad thing about it is there was nothing hardly structured about it. It wasn't like it was one, two, three, (throw). When you put a new quarterback in there, all that stuff's gone. Now he's going back and running around back there, waiting for somebody to get open. Just sheer athletic ability. He got one touchdown out of it, should have had another one out of it. Just on individual performance there. The best chance for us to win the game, in my opinion – and I said this to Bob Griese and them – is Fabian starts and finishes the game. That is a good sign. We're more dangerous with Anquan out there at wide receiver. If this guy here is getting the job done, we've got him out there and (Boldin) here (at wide receiver). But if he (Fabian) has to come out, we have to take probably our best receiver and move him back here (to quarterback). Now you're minus your top receiver, and you've got a quarterback that doesn't know all the plays and the timing. We got called for a delay of game several times, where we couldn't handle the noise, couldn't handle this or that."
How much of the offense was available with Boldin under center?
"Nearly every running play, he could handle. In other words, if you ran the tailback, or the fullback, he could handle all the handoffs. But there's a lot of the passing game – you could give it to him, but there's no way he could accomplish that, because he hasn't done it enough. There's so many reads going on – you kind of give up your reads. The whole deal where you call a pass, your quarterback goes back, you got three out over here, two over here, and the quarterback's got to look at this guy, and read where that safety went, and see how they did this, and do this, go over there. There's no way he could get that, and no way that Fabian could get that. We had to cut out a lot of that stuff. We nearly had to tell ‘em where to direct the ball. We didn't tell Anquan – he might do anything."
When you went for it on fourth down early in the game, were you trying to send a message to the team?
"I think so. As much as we try to go back to a hammer running, possession game, it don't work at Florida State. This football team this year, this offense, we started off with kind of the old Florida State offense. Then it became obvious, in the Louisville game, we need to get that running game going. But that was in the mud – a very poor time to decide. We felt like, with that tailback, we better start getting him the ball nore. So then, he ran up and down the field against Clemson. And he ran up and down the field against Miami. Against Notre Dame – no telling what would have happened that day if we don't drop passes. This has not been a lucky year for us. I'm not using that excuse. We lost five ballgames – at least we got a BCS (bowl). But I swear, I can never remember the things that happened to us this year."
Would you call it the worst season of your career, given the expectations?
"Well, there were so many odd things that happened to us. Losing your first-team tailback, and your second-team tailback, and your third-team tailback. Instead of losing one tailback, losing a tight end, losing a tight end, losing a linebacker, you're losing three of them at one position. All of a sudden you're bringing in your fourth-team tailback, the true freshman. He did good, and that shows good ability and good recruiting. Then of course, you have your quarterback. We never got our quarterback stable until the last game – Florida – and then we lose him. That's strange."
Anquan played most of the fourth quarter at quarterback. Was Fabian too hurt, or was he more effective?
"It looked like, number one, they were determined to blitz no matter what. Fabian couldn't handle the blitz. Number one, you've got to be able to check off, be able to hit your checkoffs. He was getting sacked, over and over. So we felt like we had to get somebody that can move back there."
Given everything that was missing in this game, do you feel better about the loss?
"I think we're real close. I mean, you look at the first half. We had the ball more than they did. (21:43 to 8:17) If it's 21-8 (time of possession), and you are behind, somebody's making some mistakes. It ain't like they're physically whipping our tail. Something is happening if you've got the ball that long and they're ahead of you. You go back and you see a turnover here. You see a pass interception for a touchdown. You see a long pass for a touchdown – you see those big plays getting away from you."
You had more first downs than they did, and nearly as many yards, in the game.
"Really, from a personnel standpoint, you'd say, ‘they must be pretty close.' They had better execution. They executed better."
What can you take away from this loss?
"It's less damaging to me for several reasons. One is, our kids never quit. Our kids kept fighting, thank goodness. Number two, we're looking at the No. 2 team in the country, not No. 3, after Ohio State or (Miami) loses, they'll probably go to No. 2. You look at a team that had it all. We couldn't pick on their punter, he was too good. We couldn't pick on their kicker, he was too good. Couldn't turn their receivers loose – they were too good. You had to get after that quarterback – he was good. Then they had an excellent defense. And the tailback just ran beautifully. They had all the stuff out there."
They bring back a lot of personnel from this team. Do you see them possibly being a favorite to win it all.
"Well, let me say this. Georgia is one of those jobs that can be good every year. Any time you're in a state that has players, and you're the leading school, you're in a place where you can win. Georgia is one of those schools. Total college football players – California is the number one producer. Texas is number two. Florida is number three. Georgia is four. Used to be Ohio. Used to be Pennsylvania. If you can get the best kids in your state – which you should do – you're the state university – you're going to be good every year. Whatever he's got coming back, with them there, doing the job they're going to do, they've got a chance to be good every year."
Are you planning on being more aggressive with your team next season, in an effort to turn things around?
"I don't know about that. Georgia didn't. Georgia didn't do anything (like that). Georgia played very conservative, error-free football and won the game. If I thought gadgets and stuff like that would be the difference, I'd do it. That really has the opposite effect."
Not in play-calling, but in other areas. Would you try to change things throughout the program?
"We had all that in last night. Of course, Mark Richt has been around me long enough to know everything we've got. Every trick play I can think of, he knows I've done it. The main thing is just blocking and tackling. We've got to recruit and play better. You have to keep things in perspective. Everybody don't win. We went through some years where we did win all the time, but look. Notre Dame got beat yesterday. There's just a few up there, and they ain't there every year. They come and go."
How much does your defensive line need to improve?
"We've got to continue to work there. It might be that we were running a stunt or something that gave them the middle, trying to get to the outside or something. Sometimes that'll happen – you'll stunt yourself out of the way. When they had to bear down and stop them, they did. I'm sure, to a point, you're right. Of course, we're there with our two starting tackles out. Notre Dame was complaining because their (offensive) tackles were out. But we didn't play with (Jeff) Womble or (Darnell) Dockett either. Plus (Broderick) Bunkley, who's having a heck of a freshman year for us. I don't know, but that's the way it's gone all year.
"I think you'll have to dissect it. You'll have to say, ‘defense, you played against the No. 2 team in the nation. Offense, even though we made mistakes, you made more first downs, or as many first downs.' You kind of have to dissect it."
Last night, you said you were glad it's over. Is that how you feel?
"Yeah. The good thing is, now we can start working on next year. We'll go recruit and start working on next year, get this thing out of the way. This year was odd. It was strange. If we had won that game, I would have had the feeling that we've been a very unlucky football team. We're pretty good, but we've been unlucky."
Will this season affect recruiting?
"We've been able to do it so far. We did it last year. We lost four and had an excellent recruiting class. We've done it since I've been here. Kids don't sit there and look at who wins or loses. It don't mean that much to ‘em. In some cases, it might a little bit. I'll be honest with you, I'm not expecting a decline in our recruiting."
What do you tell recruits about your future?
"Myself? My plans are to be there as long as (they) are there. I'm not recruiting you with the idea that I'm going to leave next year, or two years, or when I get 74, I'm leaving. I'm recruiting them because right now, I have no desire to retire. That's all I can say. I'm honest there. Now, I'm not God. I don't know when I'll leave this Earth, but as long as I'm healthy, I simply have no desire to retire."