We are proud to be here to represent the Atlantic Coast Conference as conference champions. It is something that we have done a bunch of times but the first time that we have had to do it by playing in a championship game. We ended up with one of our better efforts in that game, one of our better team efforts and we were able to accomplish that feat. Our practices have gone well. We usually get nine practices in at Tallahassee and we try and treat like a spring practice where we focus on the fundamentals and working on Florida State. We spend more time on ourselves up there than the people we are going to play.
We are now turning towards Penn State and it is going to be a challenge for us. They are an outstanding football team. You do not go 10-1, win the Big Ten Conference, miss an undefeated season by a couple of seconds and finish up the No. 3 team in the team in the country is you are not. It is going to take our best game of the year in order to be successful.
Q: Michael Robinson can hurt you throwing the ball or running the ball, have you run across a dual-purpose quarterback and do you spy him?
A: Yes we have played against some very good quarterbacks this year. In the ACC Championship game we played against Marcus Vickand I hope thats the last one of the Vick brothersand we have played against some quarterbacks in our conference that do some things very similar to Penn State. When you look at Robinson, you see a unique individual. Hes as big as a runningback, 220 pounds. You do not see many quarterbacks that will drop a shoulder and try and run over you at the end of a play. He will do that. He has the elusiveness that you look for. Hes faster than you want him to be, you see him running by people on good teams, against good athletes. You know that he has the speed to not only break a long one, but to get in the end zone. Unfortunately for us, not only is he the second-leading rusher on the! team, but hes also an accurate passer.
He has a good group to work with. We have seen some people that are similar to him, but no one with his size or overall ability.
Q: How do you think your defensive game will be affected by not having linebacker A.J. Nicholson?
A: We have faced adversity all year. We have lost a total of six starters throughout the course of the year or prior to the season. We lost our starting cornerback who would have been a premier player for us. We lost a defensive tackle in the summer and then we get into the season and we lost two defensive ends, Jones and Wimbley at different times, we have a linebacker break his leg. We have had a total of six with the seventh one being A.J. How you handle adversity is extremely important. Our problem during this process is that we have not had the total depth that we have had in years past. Now our depth become our starters, so we have not been to build up the depth and play the number of players that we like to play during the course of a ballgame.
So you unplug another outstanding player and a guy that was our leading tackler. Coach Bowden has already issued a statement regarding that and the only thing Im going to say regarding that is we are disappointed. What it presents now is a challenge for someone else to step in and take over. We have had to that do that during the year but what makes it more difficult is the guy that was going to be taking his place broke his leg in the last ballgame. So, we have to establish a first-team Will (weak-side) linebacker now and it will take some moving some people around and it will require a freshman playing like an older player.
Q: Is that freshman his brother?
A: He is one of them. His brother players middle linebacker.
Q: Did you address the defense and how concerned are you with where they are mentally?
A: I think our guys understand why we came down. We earned an opportunity to go the Orange Bowl, one of the BCS bowls, which only eight teams have a chance to do. We came down to have a good time, we came down to work and we came down to win a football game and that is why we are here. Did it affect our players and our coaches? Sure it did. You dont just take someone out of your family and it not bother you. Will it keep us from moving forward? No.
We just make it a little more difficult. Our guys know it is just like someone getting hurt on the first play of the ballgame. He is not there and someone has to step up and take his place. And that is not being careless, it is just that coach Bowden has a way of treating facts as facts. We just lost our weak-side linebacker and we need someone to take his place. Yesterday was as good a bowl practice as any I could remember. What it does when you take out a starter and a key guy, our leading tackleryou have to draw from the group. It doesnt fall on one player taking his place. You have to draw from all the other guys and they have to step their play up a little bit too and that is how we overcome it.
Q: Have you all settled on exactly what youre going to do in terms of personnel, or are you waiting to let it all shake out in a couple of days?
A: We have an idea of what we are going to do. We had a plan yesterday. Well move Buster Davis over there and give him some work and then Eugene Hayes, the freshman I talked about, has to step up and that is his position. That is what he has played all year, so it just means now rather than on the third team. Hes going to have to be ready to be a second teamer and on those plays when he gets on the field, he is going to have to be ready to be a first teamer. When he gets on the field, hes not a freshman or a third teamer or a second teamer. He is a starter and that is the thing that we try to sell our kids on because we like to play a lot of people. And it helps you next year by doing that because being a starter is a learning process. You cannot do it against the University of Miami every year without havi! ng done something about it the year before.
It doesnt just affect our defense, but hes also on special teams. So that affects that. We lost some kids at the end of the semester that were special teams players, so that also affects that. We are down to some low numbers at certain positions and we just have to pray and hope that we can be effective and not lost anymore people in the course of the practices or in the game. But we have to prepare, we have to perform.
Q: Coach Bowden said yesterday that Penn State has traditionally lacked that speed offensively and Joe Paterno went out and some great wideouts, can you talk about the challenge they are going to present to you?
A: It is a good match-up because most of his receivers are freshman and most of our cornerbacks that are covering them are freshman too. One thing that we have had to do this year is play 11 freshman and some of them had to be starters. It should be a good match-up. We are still a little banged up back there and have had some kids that played hurt all year and their progress has been slowed down during the week because they couldnt practice full speed.
They are in the process of still learning, just like we are. But they do some things that are so much different than Penn State teams have done in the past. I think you look at offensive coordinator Galen Hall and you can see where a lot of that comes from. He is an outstanding football coach and has worked on a lot of different levels. The things that they are doing are what good teams do. They are utilizing their personnel and getting the ball to the key people in order to be productive.
Q: What familiarity do you have with Penn States staff or program?
A: We played Penn State one time since I have been at Florida State and that was in the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl. We ended up winning the football game and I think it came down to one of the big factors being a punt return. Terrell Buckley returned a punt, a long punt, and set up a touchdown. That was the only time we have played Penn State since I have been at Florida State. Galen, of course, was at the University of Florida and we! played aginst his teams when he was offensive coordinator as well as head coach. Again, he is an outstanding football coach that understands how to get the ball to his big play guys to be effective and productive. That is the key. If you are getting execution, if youre turning the ball over and you are winning field position battle, the turnover battle then you have a great chance of winning the football game.
Q: Can you speak to your career as longtime right-hand man and how you have enjoyed and balanced that against some opportunities to become a head coach?
A: I think the first thing is that I am thankful for the opportunity to be at Florida State for this number of years, 21 years. I have been very blessed to have the opportunity to be around great coaches. I played at the Univeristy of Alabama under Bear Bryant and that is where I got my background, my foundation. A lot of the things we do at Florida State are the things we did back then, we just call them different names. But the fundamentals of the game, what it takes to be successful, it started right there. We have added a few things along the way. And we are fortunate to have been able to hold our staff together for a lot of years. When we lose a great linebacker coach, we get another great one to c! ome in. We lose a defensive end coach, we replace him with a guy that is an outstanding football coach. In all honesty, I dont think there is a coach on our staff that doesnt look forward to getting up in the morning and going to work. Number one: Because coach Bowden lets you coach, he doesnt tell you how to do it, and he just helps you when there is a problem. But the relationship that our guys have with each other, working with each other has just been unbelievable. We do it together, it is not something that I do. Every coach has a strong say so in what we are doing. We even do that in a ballgame and it is just a together thing. We have had some opportunities to go to different places, some we wanted and we didnt get. Some that just werent what we had in mind and we though would be best for us. But we are still trying to do things at Florida State that we came to do and! that is being the best football team and the best football staff in America.
Q: Do you know Jerry Sandusky well, what do you admire?
A: The things you see when you go back to the teams that he coached at Penn State, I have a feeling he would say the same things about coach Paterno that I just said about coach Bowden. He has a great football mind and is a great football coach. He is a guy that stressed fundamentals and doing things the right way. I think one the things you have to do to be successful over a long haul like he was able to do is you have to be able to make decisions on the field or at halftime rather waiting to see what you should have done on Sunday. He seemed to have that knack to be able to do that. Looking back, I think they went through the same thing. They were able to keep their staff together for years and to be able to do that and not get complacent, which you have to guard against. You have to come off that field everyday o! r come out of that office or meeting room and say, I did my best. If you do that, you can live with yourself and the program is better because of what you are adding to it.
Broderick Bunckley, Nose Guard
On whether FSU will have home field advantage:
Our fans are great fans. They travel everywhere. They show a great attitude in the stands and that is key.
On the challenges that Penn States offense represents:
They have a very physical quarterback, a nice running back, a couple of good wide receivers and a good line. So, basically theyre a complete offensive team. Their offensive linemen move well.
Does Penn State remind you of anybody that youve faced?
Their offensive lien reminds me of Wake Forest. The guys are a little bit smaller but theyre quick. They get on your edges. They have a quarterback who is kind of like (Virginia Techs Marcus) Vick or (Virginias) Marques Hagans and a good running back. We have to try our best to keep him contained and keep pressure on him to hopefully force some bad passes.
Does anything that you see of how Penn State spreads the field surprise you?
They do a variety of things from play action to option. This might be the first time that weve actually played an option team in a while. Those are a couple of things to key on that we havent seen this year.
On PSU tailback Tony Hunt:
You want to eliminate their rushing game. Getting them into passing situations creates more of an opportunity to create turnovers. We always want to stop the run.
On Florida States defensive injuries this year:
Weve had young guys step up and play big. We have good talent on this team and its been good to see some of those young get into the game and get the nerves of a first game over with. Theyve stepped up and played. Thats one good thing about the injuries.
On the absence of A.J. Nicholson:
You get disappointed about what happened but ultimately we came to play. What happened is over with. We just have to go out there and do or best.
Tony Carter, Cornerback
On the difference with the Virginia Tech game and the rest of the season:
I think it was a confident thing. We knew we had to play a good game and we came out and played great team ball.
On being the heavy underdog against Penn State:
Everyone has been saying that Florida State is down and is having one of the worst seasons ever. We are here for a reason. We earned our spot in the Orange Bowl.
On the Penn State offense:
They have a big offensive line, strong runners, and obviously a quarterback that can run and throw. We have to make a game plan that will stop their offense.
On the Penn State wideouts:
They have lots of talent and speed. They have been making plays all year long. Their offense depends on them and if we can stop them we stop their offense. Its young on young. We are very young at corner and they are young at receiver. Its going to be a pretty good match-up.
On Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson:
Hes an athletic quarterback. We faced some quarterbacks like him this season like Marcus Vick. The difference is that Vick ran out of bounds and Robinson will try to run you over. We have to lock onto our man because he can buy time and throw accurately to a receiver. We cant worry about him running around. We just have to focus on our man.
On being fooled by the four losses:
People see who we beat and realize that we are a good team. Our ultimate goal was to win the National Championship but things didnt work out that way. We have gotten our confidence back and now are focused on winning the Orange Bowl.
On trying to slow down the Penn State receivers:
Thats very hard to do because Robinson can buy so much extra time. We have to try to cover receivers that have 4.2 speed. Hopefully we will get pressure from the defensive line and linebackers so we dont have to cover so long.
On the A.J. Nicholson situation:
I really have nothing to say about that. Ill leave it up to the coaches and administration to handle it. All we can do is pray for him.
On dealing with the loss A.J. Nicholson due to suspension:
Its been pretty hard because he is a great person and a good player. Hes not that kind of guy to do something like that.
On the Florida State fans:
There going to be wild. Penn State fans have to travel a long distance so its going to be a home field advantage for us. I also heard Penn State fans travel well so well see what happens.
On how Penn State and Virginia Tech compare:
They both have a quarterback that can run and throw. They both have speedy receivers, big offensive lines, and a strong running back. They are very similar to each other.
On watching Penn State when he was young:
I didnt really follow them. Im a Florida guy so I followed the Florida teams. If I saw them on TV I would watch them but I didnt follow them.
On Florida States cornerbacks not having any interceptions:
We had the opportunities to make plays but we never took advantage of them. I feel that I dropped five interceptions alone. We havent given up many big plays so it evens out a little bit.
On what the game means to Florida State:
We want to put the icing on the cake. We had many highs and lows this season. We beat Miami and Virginia Tech but lost some games we should have won. We won the conference title and now we want to finish it off with a BCS bowl victory.
On dealing with the emotional lows of the season:
We had to look to the older players for leadership. They just told us to be patient, work hard, keep playing, and everything will work out. They were able to pull us through the lows of the season.
On what the players have been doing to have fun:
We went to South Beach last night but other than that weve just been hanging out. I stayed up a lot when I was home so Im trying to get rested for the game.
Buster Davis, Linebacker
On shifting to weak side:
Ive played will, and its something Ive played all year. The thing about it is just honing my skills because there are some differences, but there are some similarities as well. It isnt like Im getting thrown in the fire. Im preparing myself to play both positions this week and hopefully it goes well.
On getting reps at the weak side:
I play both anyway – the majority I play middle, but I play will in some packages we have. Switching there full time isnt bad. I know the position, and like I said, I can switch into it. Last year I started at will one game, the starter got hurt. Ive played some there this year. Things like this, its a challenge though. Ill be the guy at will, and [Eugene Hayes] will be behind me.
On Thursdays practice and dealing with the A.J. Nicholson situation:
Its out of everybodys hands. Things you cant control you dont worry about. We just wish the best for A.J. and his family, and hope the case is dropped. I havent talked to him, I guess hes up doing his thing.
On hearing the news:
First thing, you just want to make sure everything is OK with him and make sure that he knows youre thing. This thing is out of everybodys hands, and I just hope for the best for him.
On reacting to the news:
Its something that you never want to happen to anyone you know, not even your worst enemy. They say that, and its like, thats not him.
On the team regaining its spirit similar to the Virginia Tech victory:
I think so. I think its a lot of different things that go into this game. Theyre the No. 3 team in the country, and weve already beat the No. 4 and No. 5 this year. This game is going to set the tone, not for this year, but next year. Weve got a bunch of young players, thats going to be the key next year. And you have the Coach Bowden and Coach Paterno thing, and its going to be a real big game. I think itll be a better game than the Texas game. There are so many variables that go into it.
On the attitude going into the Virginia Tech game:
Everybody discounted us the whole year. We went 5-0 and everybody said Oh, theyre not that good. You got those guys that jump on the bandwagon. Then we lost three straight and everybody got off of us saying were not as good as they thought we were. If you win that game, you go to the Orange Bowl, and if you dont, youve been played already. Who wants to go play in Boise? Theres nothing wrong with that, but thats not Florida State football. We dont play at bowls like that.
On being the underdogs:
I know, Vegas has already gotten mad at us twice this year against Miami and Virginia Tech. Hopefully we can beat Penn State so they can get mad at us again. Everybody discounts us again – you dont want everybody to say we wont win, but I think itll be a big game for us as opposed to the Virginia Tech game in how we come out next year. Its the seniors last game and AJ isnt here, so we want to win it for them because theyre and intricate part of our program.
On what the game means for the team:
This game right here is going to prepare us for next year. We beat the four and five teams in the country, and if we can beat the third team in the country, thatll set us up well for next year. We have a bunch of seasoned players and great freshmen, and on defense well have a bunch of young guys – there wont be a lot of seniors on the team next year. Just to come out and play hard and win this game will give us the confidence for spring practice and next year.
On re-elevating Florida State to a national championship game:
I really think this season was the one to get us prepared for next year. We had a really good start but had some bumps in the road. Injuries really got to us this year. Weve never gotten hit by the injury bug like this, seven or eight players getting hurt. One thing about winning a national championship is that you have to have luck on your side. You cant just be skillful – everyones skillful. Our luck kind of ran out. We came out against Virginia Tech and played very well. That was the kind of team we hadnt seen in a long time. Hopefully we come out on Tuesday and do the same thing.
On Eugene Hayes and Derek Nicholson getting playing time:
Theyre ready. Theyve played 13 games. Theyre not freshmen anymore, theyre technically sophomores. Theyve practiced very hard this week. Geno will play some will, and I will too and Derek and Mike will too. Thatll be the nucleus of our defense next year, those guys and myself playing linebacker. Its good for them to get the exposure and the experience they need.
On the atmosphere of the game:
I think itll be a very good atmosphere. I think itll be a true football atmosphere that were not used to. You only play a game like that once or twice a year – the Florida game, the ACC Championship Game, probably the Miami game. Youre going to see the fans here going at it. I think itll be a very good atmosphere and one thatll a lot of people will want to be at.
On Florida States fans:
Our fans will come with 100 percent. Were in Florida anyway. Were going to have a ton of folks here and were going to have a great game and I hope they enjoy it. I dont know how many the stadium seats, but itll be 80 percent Seminole fans. And as long as theyre [doing the Tomahawk chop], well probably win.
On injuries this year:
In order to win a championship, youve got to be good, you have to have good coaches, and you have to have some luck. Unfortunately, we havent had the luck that we want. Well come out and play hard no matter whos on the field.
On the advantage over Penn State of being more familiar with the bowl atmosphere:
Theyve had some down seasons before this one, but theyre a great team. No matter what bowl game theyre in, Coach Paterno is going to have them ready to play. Is it an advantage for us? Yeah, but its still just a ball game.
On preparing for a team with so many offensive weapons:
Its just like preparing for Virginia Tech. They have a great quarterback, great receivers, and a dominant running back. Theyre a great team and what we have to do is contain [Tony Hunt] so that he doesnt beat us. He did that a lot this year, he beat times by himself because hes such a great athlete. Theyre one play away from being undefeated and that shows you what kind of program theyre running at Penn State.
On belonging in the Orange Bowl with four losses:
Everybody says we dont belong in this game, but we won the ACC championship. Thats in the books. You win your conference, you go to a BCS bowl. We could have five losses, but we beat Virginia Tech. It doesnt matter what other people say, well do what we have to do and well continue to do it until Tuesday.
On keeping up the momentum from the Virginia Tech win:
Well, weve gone three weeks without a game, but theyre gone five. It isnt a big deal. Thats why we had so many practices before we left. We had nine, then another five down here, so thats 14 practices to get prepared for a great ball team like Penn State. Its not the carry over, its just keeping yourselves consistent.
On the quality of Florida States practices:
I tell you what, these past couple weeks have been the best couple weeks of practice weve had in a long time. Starting with the Virginia Tech week on to here, its been Florida State football every day at practice, just compete, compete, compete. Thats something that can only help us in the game. When we practice well, its a very different team, and weve practiced very well this past couple weeks, and itll show on Tuesday. I think for most of us, its a pride thing. You dont want everyone discounting you about not beating somebody. I remember the days when I was coming up, it was Florida State was an expected win no matter what. We kind of got away from that, and I think the Virgin! ia Tech game showed we still have that, we still have that prestige. I think on Tuesday we want to show were still Florida State. Were not an 8-4 team. Weve got to be the best 8-4 team in the country. If theres a better 8-4 team, I havent seen it.
On the defensive mindset against a mobile quarterback:
You think about really honing in on your assignments. If you have to contain, dont let him get outside. Thats the thing about him, hell break containment. He beat a lot of teams this year with his athletic ability. And not even playing quarterback last year shows what kind of program it is and what type of player he really is. Playing a guy like that, like Vick or the guy from Virginia, You gotta have him contained, you have to stick to your assignments, or hell beat you.
On the AJ Nicholson situation affecting the team:
His situation is his situation, We have to move on no matter what. Had it been someone else, wed move on also. I just wish the best for him and his family.
On moving on and adapting:
Its one thing that coach was on us about is cross-training linebackers. Ive cross-trained at middle and weak, [Derek] has done some middle, and we have Geno Hayes. Thats one thing we do is cross-training throughout the year and stepping into different positions. I havent played much will, but Ive played enough that I know what Im doing. This week will just be me honing that and getting the quirks out.
On Thursdays practice going so well:
Everybody wants to hone in on the AJ situation, but that wasnt the case. Its that you want to win the game. If you practice like youre supposed to play, itll be much easier in the game. Coach said its the best practice hes seen at Florida State, and Id have to agree with him. I think these next three days will really show us how ready we are to play.
On Penn States offense:
Im very impressed honestly. Youve got a good passer, a real good running back, a solid offensive line, but a bunch of young receivers, although theyve played. With Robinsons athletic ability and the cast around him, theyre a very good team. Theyre one of the better teams weve played all year.
On Coach Bowdon:
Coach Bowdon is laid back as ever. Hes got his jokes and hes a very funny guy. One thing about Coach, if you ever need him no matter what, day or night, hes always open to his players.
On his impression of Coach Bowdon:
He might come up to you and he calls everybody buddy. Hes a real good guy, a Christian man, and thats the kind of guy you want yourself around. Hes one of the better guys youre ever going to meet.
On Coach Paterno:
Ive met Coach Paterno one time. Penn State recruited me, but it was too cold up there. They recruited my teammate, and I met him. Hes a cool, laid-back Italian. Hes a real good guy for the one time I met him. He probably doesnt remember.
On similarities between Michael Robinson and Marcus Vick:
The similarities between them is that theyre both athletic quarterbacks, but the difference is that Marcus isnt a guy who wants to scramble to run the ball, he wants to pass the ball. This guy is all about running the ball. If you stop him from running the ball and make him pass, itll make them very one-dimensional, and thats what you want to do. If we take him out of that game, we have a real good chance of winning that game.
On playing weak-side linebacker:
Ive played a lot of will. Ive played enough throughout the year that I can hone in on assignments and make adjustments throughout the week. If I have to play one week, I can play it. If I have to play it tomorrow, I can play it. The difference between will and mike isnt a lot. The only difference is the coverage and the gaps. If you can learn mike, you can learn will. Its what Ive done since I got here, is play multiple positions. Theres not much difference.
On Churchs injury:
Eugene Hayes is in that same mold pretty much. He hasnt played as much as Church, but he can become a Church type of player. Hes young and up and coming, and once he experiences everything in college football hell get better.
On his Bowdon impression, again:
I do it OK. He always calls everybody buddy. Hey buddy, how you doing? Im the impersonation guy.
On Bowdon influencing his decision to attend Florida State:
How many people actually get to play for a legend? After Coach Bowden and Coach Paterno leave, whos a legend? Pete Carroll is about the closest. He may win his third national championship. Theyre the only two legends right now in college football. Nobody coaches 30 years anymore because now its all about the money. Theyre all about the coaching and about helping young men become men.
On Paterno and Bowdon coming under criticism in recent years:
Everybody points to Paterno having some bad seasons, that he needs to retire, but he comes out with a 10-1 season, so everyones on the bandwagon. When youre losing, people jump off the bandwagon, and when you win, everybody loves you. You have to take the good with the bad. Thats one thing Coach Bowdon tells us all the time, that we cant worry about what people say about us. We just have to do our thing.
On the two coaches getting players behind them in bad times:
Coach Bowdon has done so much for a lot of guys. Hes not going to put you out.
On Coach Bowdons know about his impression of him:
I dont think he has, but I think hes heard about it. Hed probably just laugh at it anyway.
On getting recruited:
Coach Bowdon is a guy that will answer every question you want to ask, and thats one thing, hes very honest. You cant buy that in a store. He just has that. When he has that, theres not much you can say, you have to come.
On the Orange Bowl experience:
Its my second time. We came here in 2003. I have family down here. Its nice to get away from Tallahassee. Weve been there so much, weve been practicing for a week and a half without school – who wants to do that? Coming down for the holidays, just getting out of Tallahassee, enjoying your family, and going to the beach – its 85 degrees every day – just enjoying yourself, it pays off when you when you win. I dont want to go to Boise. Its too cold. I watched it on TV with all the snow and rain
On the importance of beating two top-five teams back-to-back:
This will be the No. 3 team. We beat the No. 4 and 5 teams previously, itll get us back up where we need to be. It wont get us into the top ten, but itll get us into the preseason top five or top ten next year.
On balancing the fun with the game:
Practice is 11-1 and then you take off the rest of the day. You have to take care of business first.
On matching up with Penn States offense:
I think we match up very well. Theyre a Virginia Tech-type offense, theyre not going to try to beat us with the deep passes, theyll take it one at a time and one down at a time. Theyll try to run the ball and run the ball.
Kyler Hall, Defensive Back
On the chance to redeem their season:
Its a great opportunity for us. Its like (defensive coordinator Mickey) Andrews said we stepped at the right time as a team. We had our best team effort against Virginia Tech, so to be back here for the second time in three years is exciting.
Any time you lose three straight games, your confidence is going to be a little shaken, especially at a school like this one. But the team was closer at that time than at any other time during the year. It really paid off against Virginia Tech.
Its an unspoken thing. There is nothing that needs to be said. Everyones on the same page. We know that we have to come together this week even more than we did against Virginia Tech.
We know what we can do it. We beat Virginia Tech in the last game, when they were number four in the nation, so its exciting to have this chance in front of us. Its a chance to beat the number three team in the nation and put Florida State right back where it should be.
It would definitely ease the pain a little bit. The ACC championship game was a big confidence booster, so to go out and beat Penn State in my last game as a senior would be great. I know all the guys are prepared, so we just have to go out and play ball.
It looked kind of shady, but we pulled it together against Virginia Tech, and had a big win. Its a good feeling to be down here in Miami. We couldnt ask for a better situation. A lot of teams that go on a three game losing streak dont get a second chance to redeem themselves. We did step one against Virginia Tech and this week is step two.
On being a senior:
I will remember the great teammates and the great coaches. You always enjoy the games, but I will remember the times off the field. You cant take away just hanging out with the guys, the friendships Ive developed, those are the things Ill cherish the most.
I couldnt ask for a better to end my senior year. Besides the national championship, this is probably going to be the most watched bowl game. Coach Bowden and Joe Paterno are the two winningest coaches in Division I history, so that match-up alone makes the game exciting and Im proud to be a part of it. I expect it to be similar to the ACC Championship game, in terms of intensity and environment
On practicing for the bowl game:
We had the best bowl practice we had all week (Thursday). It was probably one of the best practices we had all year. When you strap on the full gear you have to step it up a notch. We were working against the Penn State offense. The defense was flying to the ball and forcing turnovers. We had fun, and that was the most important thing. The coaches make sure that we are focused when its time to practice. Yesterday, as a team we were the most focused weve been in a while.
Well go out in shells (Friday). We have to have a better practice than we did (Thursday). The big thing is to keep getting better everyday and come game time we have to put it all together.
Weve seen a lot of film. We watched film in Tallahassee everyday. Here, we watch film before coming to practice. The more film we watch, the better prepared well be.
We just have to focus on fundamentals. We work on tackling and technique everyday. All eleven guys have to fly to the ball and do their job and everything else will take care of itself.
On A.J. Nicholsons absence and its effect on the team:
We still have fun. We just have to be smart and put ourselves in the right situations. We went to a steakhouse last night. Afterwards, some guys went to the hotel, some guys went to the mall. It was a relaxed, fun time last night.
Every time weve had an injury or someone miss a game, someone has stepped in and done the job. Someone will have to step up and make a play like (defensive coordinator Mickey) Andrews said. We definitely had a loss this week, so someone has to step up, but with all the guys we have, I feel confident that someone can step up and do the job.
We try not to listen to (the negative media), because if I was an outsider looking in, Id probably be saying the same thing. When people doubt us, it rallies the guys even closer together and it definitely paid off once we stepped on the field (against Virginia Tech).
Were not disappointed in A.J. at all. Hes our teammate and hes our brother. Were behind A.J., our thoughts and prayers are with him, we have to continue to stay focused and get ready for Penn State, but hes in our thoughts and prayers.
Weve faced adversity all year long, and this is another issue to deal with. Apart from football you never want to see one of teammates get in a situation like that. I havent had the chance to speak with him, but I would like a chance to before the game, just to let him know that were all with him. Im pretty sure he knows that already though.
Thats the thing about football, you never know what get guys motivated, or what gets them up. Whatever it was against Virginia Tech, we need it this week against Penn State.
On Penn States offense:
We can match-up with Penn States receivers. We faced a lot of good receivers this year. It has definitely prepared us for this game. The guys up front will help us with pressure. We are just going to have to win the one-on-one situations.
They have great speed. The receivers are young but theyre fast. They have great playmaking ability. The quarterback is like a running back who can throw the ball. The running back has good speed and can break tackles. They definitely had great speed. We faced a lot of teams this year with great speed and that had definitely prepared us for them.
The coaches harp on get turnovers, thats our ball, the more turnovers we get; the more help our offense out in terms of field position. Thats what we did against Virginia Tech, we had two fumble recoveries and a pick and that has to be our mentality headed into this game.
Weve played a lot of good receivers this season, but we cant let those guys loose, because theyll definitely hurt you. Miami, Florida, and N.C. State all have talented receivers, and that will prepare us coming into this game. We face talented receivers everyday in practice.
Were underdogs going into this game, but a lot of people counted us out before we even took the field against Virginia Tech. We just have to come together as a team and go play ball.
Theyre a very sound offense. They dont make too many mistakes. Theyre probably not going to give you turnovers, you have to force turnovers. Theyre probably the best all-around offense weve faced all year.
We know (Derrick Williams) is a great athlete. He has a lot of playmaking ability. We just prepare for a lot of talented receivers whether he plays or not.
On Michael Robinson:
Hes so strong, we have to stop him. Hes a very accurate passer, hes got good receivers to throw to, and hes not afraid to pull it down and run it. Hes not going to slide, hes going to try to run around you or run you over. Hes one of the more talented quarterbacks weve seen this year.
(Michael Robinson and Marcus Vick) are very much alike. The biggest difference is that (Robinson) is a little bit stronger. He played running back before so hes not afraid to dip that shoulder and run you over. But just like we did against Vick, we have to contain him and make him one-dimensional, where he just throws the ball. Hes the most well-rounded quarterback weve faced this year.
The scout team quarterback is my brother, hes not as big as (Robinson), but hes given us a look.
Kamerion Wimbley, Defensive End
On the opportunity to play the third ranked team in the country in PSU:
I think its a great opportunity to prove the fans and everyone alike that we are one of the top teams and that we do deserve to be here. I know a lot of people think that we dont deserve to be here. We did lose some games that we should have won, but when we played Virginia Tech we stepped it up and we showed everybody that we deserve to be here and I think this is another opportunity for our program and our players to prove just how good we are.
On the importance of winning the game for a springboard to next season:
I think if we come out of this game with a victory its always good to have a bowl game victory going into another year. It gives the younger players confidence and work towards building up the program.
On what he thinks about tape footage of Michael Robinson:
Phenomenal player, I mean hes going to be challenge. He can hurt you with the pass or he can run it, hes dangerous. So we are going to keep an eye on him all night.
On what he thinks about the Penn State game film:
Oh yeah, they are a good team. They are as good as everybody says they are. They are definitely one of the top teams in the country. I think its a privilege for us to be able to play them, so were looking forward to it and it will be exciting. I think everybody will love it.
On if Coach Bobby Bowden is as laid back in practice as he is during the press conferences:
Hes pretty laid back as long as youre doing what youre supposed to be doing. Hes going to correct all of the mistakes; hes a very thorough person when it comes to fundamentals, everything about tackling to throwing to catching, hes going to make sure you got those down first. Then its just execution and then well win the games under his leadership.
On how long its been since he has played:
With any game you get the anticipation and everything like that. You want to get out there on the field and every time someone talks about it youre ready to put the helmet on, strap it up and go. Its been a long time since our last game, and even longer for me being out with my knee injury. So Im looking forward to getting back and Im sure the team is ready to play again.
On whether he thinks about the legendary match-up between Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden:
We know its a big game. Both of those coaches are legendary. A lot of kids in high school will probably be going to one of these universities and I know this will be a big factor in their decision, whether they go to Florida State or Penn State. I dont think they can lose with either coach or either school.
On whether he takes pride on giving his coach a win over Paterno:
You would love to help put Coach Bowden up there and be apart of that history. When Coach Bowden retires or when Paterno retires, Coach Bowden retires and is still the guy on top. You would love to say I was apart of that.
On how fast the Florida State team is:
I think any time you put speed on speed its definitely a good match-up. Speed kills as the saying goes. I think we are a little bit quicker than most defenses. Were undersized, but we make up for that in speed, and I think playing a fast quarterback you have to have fast defensive players. They have great skill players and I think well match up well because of our speed.
On where he ranks Michael Robinson among the quarterbacks that they have played this year:
Hes definitely in the top, hes really dangerous. Weve watched him on film. You can think you have him one second, and then hes down the sidelines the next second. I think hes a phenomenal guy, phenomenal athlete, and it will be a challenge that were looking forward to.
On how he thinks they can stop Robinson:
I think everybody just has to play disciplined. Everybody has a responsibility. If he sees a weakness, or that somebody messed up, hell probably take advantage of that. With us, as long as we are playing with what the coaches are calling and execute that, I think well be fine.
On not being able to worry only about Robinson, but worrying about the other players as well:
I think the coaches have put us in position to make plays on defense. I think as long as everybody executes, dont have any missed assignments, I think well be fine.
On what caused the 3-game losing streak:
I think its definitely hard to put a finger on one thing. We had some injuries through there; maybe we just didnt play as hard as we could have, maybe the other team just stepped up because they were playing a team like Florida State. I dont think there was any one thing to point to; I think it was a number of things and a lot of factors in those.
On how the team turned things around after the losing streak against Virginia Tech:
When we played Virginia Tech, I wasnt able to play in that game, but I was proud of the guys and the way they responded and stepped up to the challenge. A lot of people doubted, but were ACC champs now, and that was the important thing.
On the impact of losing A.J. Nicholson for the game:
Anytime you lose a guy like that it going to be a challenge. The coaches and administration are taking care of it, and I think well be fine.
On his injury, where he is physically, and if he is playing in the game:
I had an MCL sprain. Right now Im almost up to top playing speed. Im sure by game time Ill be up to top playing speed. Im definitely playing in the game.
On if he followed Penn State growing up:
Oh yeah, I was aware of the Nittany Lions and Coach Paterno. I watched them play with Lavar Arrington.
On how Penn State has spread out the offense this year and if he is surprised by that:
They are a disciplined team, they are a physical team, and everybody is well-coached. Theyre not going to miss assignments; the offensive linemen will get their head on. The quarterback is a phenomenal athlete, speedster. They finish plays. Basically, everything you would see in a top-ranked team, top-ranked in the country, I think they have all of those characteristics.
On if anyone FSU has played this year reminds them of Penn State:
Maybe because of the way their quarterback plays, I would have to say Virginia Tech or maybe Virginia. They had a dangerous quarterback similar to that. Maybe if you think back to last year in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia.
On the keys to combating against someone like Michael Robinson and the Penn State offense:
I think as long as everybody does their job and plays physical football and stays where theyre supposed to be at and dont try to make big plays if its not your play, then I think well be fine.
On being the underdog in this game:
I think its fine that we are being viewed as the underdog. Were confident in our abilities and what we think we can do. They are a great team and it will be a challenge. I think at the end of the day it will be the best team that comes to play the game will win the game. And they are definitely one of the top teams and we think we will be able to compete with them.
On when he noticed Penn States resurgence as a top team in the country:
I think from the beginning. The past couple of seasons Coach Paterno has had a tough time as far as not having seasons that theyre used to having, big win seasons. Similar to Florida State, but I think it was evident from the beginning that they would be one of the top teams. You watch ESPN every week and you see them making big plays, making a lot of highlights, here it is at the end of the season and they are rated in the top 3 is not surprising.
On if he has seen any footage of Penn State defensive end Tamba Hali:
I definitely know hes rates as one of the top defensive ends in the country, I keep my eye on that. I like to compare myself with other defensive ends that we face, and Ive had the opportunity to see most of all of the top defensive ends this year with N.C. State guys, and the Boston College kid. Hes right up there with those players.
On if the play he got hurt on was cheap or not:
We went back and watched film. A block below the waist is just football, it happens. Im not angry about it or anything. It might have been questionable, but its gone. Im not even focused on that anymore. Im just happy is wasnt anything worse and I can still come back and have the opportunity to play against Penn State.
On if his injury has slowed him down at practice:
Initially I was slowed down after the injury. There were some activities that I wasnt able to participate in two weeks ago, and now basically its full speed. Im in almost every drill. By game time Ill be ready to go.
On being able to let himself go in practice now without being sore:
I think the first time you get into practice, maybe the first time you do a drill, youre kind of like I dont know, kind of worried about it. After you get a couple of hits in and you know its still fine, my knee is good. Its just right back to where I was before, I dont even think about it. Im thinking about my assignment and what Im supposed to be doing, and playing as hard as I can.