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September 7, 2008

Sunday Conversation: Bobby Bowden

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden spoke with the media Sunday morning, following the Seminoles' 69-0 victory over Western Carolina. Here is a partial transcript of that conversation.

Opening statement:

It was really what we needed. How long has it been since we finally beat somebody? I know the opponent was Division I-AA, but it seems like the last few years, if we won, it was close. We've had a couple of people jump on us. We needed that.

We've got a lot of young guys, and you've got to feed them baby food before you start giving them steaks, and that's what we did last night and I saw nothing negative coming out of it. You're looking to see if one of your guys is just getting killed or a guy isn't as good as you thought he was, or these quarterbacks couldn't handle the competition under fire, things like that.

We passed all of that. It just feeds us onto the next ball team. I'm sure that Chattanooga will be superior to Western Carolina, and then of course you have Wake Forest coming after that. That's the way the menu is right now.

I'm pleased with our quarterbacking and our catching, and I'm pleased with our offensive line. They did a good job. They protected the passer better than I thought they would, and the running game, the stats speak for themselves when you take into account who you were playing.

Q: Can you remember an opener where you had no interceptions and allowed no sacks? I don't think you even had a holding call?

A:
What were our penalties for, illegal procedure?

Q: You had two for procedure and one for illegal shift and you had two on pass defense. That's five and I think you only had eight.

A:
That's good, especially when at Florida State, there's our history of penalties. That was a plus there. Again, you go through your career coaching major college football and seldom do you start freshman. Jamie Dukes started every game he was here. We had some, but not many. Last night, you had a bunch of them. Whether they can hang onto their jobs, I don't know.

Q: Did last night remind you of your first year at FSU, with so many freshmen starting?

A:
My approach when I go into a job at least it always has been is to take what's there, and try to do it with them. Now, if they can't get it done, then we'll just start it all over with freshmen. So my first year here, the idea was just take what we've got and get them out there and get them ready to play, but it was evident that we didn't have the confidence that they would win. So in my first year against Oklahoma, we started seven pure freshmen, and played them good, led 6-0 for a while.

Q: What did you see from your two young quarterbacks last night?

A:
I saw their passing didn't surprise me. I'm sure their ability to run the ball was what Jimbo Fisher was looking for. That's what offensive football is going to nowadays, a quarterback that can move. That's creating problems for everybody. I was excited with D'Vontrey Richardson's run, and Ponder also had a couple of nice runs. That's what Jimbo was hoping for, I'm sure.

Q: How much more difficult is it to make wholesale changes to the roster, and to sign off on those changes being made, at this point in your career?

A:
It's not hard at my age. It's not like I'm trying to build a reputation, like a 35-year-old who is trying to make it. I've been at the stage where I can step out anytime I wanted to, and not had to put up with any kind of pressure. I can exit stage right at any time and so it doesn't bother me as much as it would a younger coach.

Q: So the paranoia isn't there anymore?

A:
Not as much. The enthusiasm down inside of me is as strong as it's always been. I can't tell any difference down inside. I can tell when the football season rolls around every year, that I get a feeling deep down inside, an anxiousness, an excitedness and expectancy that goes on down in there. I can tell when that comes

Q: Jimbo Fisher said that mobility with a quarterback would be key because of the young offensive line.

A:
That has something to do with his thinking that we have a young offensive line that is pretty quick, and we might have to get outside more than we have in the past, and the quarterback might have to dodge bullets more than in the past. I'm sure that had a lot to do with his thinking.

Q: How has Drew Weatherford handled his situation?

A:
Not many people can handle it like Drew. Many of the modern athletes can't handle it like he did. The guy is a strong guy, as you can tell. I told him the other day, "Hey Drew, we've got 13 ballgames left. A lot of things can happen" Really, you don't have to tell him that. He, to me, is an example of a guy where life is bigger than football. A lot of these guys in football think it's the only thing there is and it's all I live for and if you take it away from them, they'll die. That's not his motivation. I was thinking about that last night, I wish there was someway I could tell him, but I don't know if I can express it that not a lot of guys can handle it the way he has. I haven't even seen him pout. His attitude on the sidelines is helpful, wanting to help and being ready to go. It's amazing.

Q: Is there still a need for him to play in some meaningful minutes in the next game in case you have to go to a veteran?

A:
I don't think so. I think we're OK. Those guys last night did about what we thought they might do. The thought last night was that Ponder did about what I thought he'd do and D'Vontrey did better than I thought he'd do. D'Vontrey is the one that's got so much talent that everyone better watch out. Everyone better keep looking over their shoulders.

Q: Do you suspect that next week will be about the same thing, that you'll get both those kids work?

A:
I'm sure. I think what Jimbo will do, if everybody stays healthy because the kids are pretty stable. It's not like, "Next week I don't know what his attitude is going to be." This is pretty steady people, all three of them. You can nearly feel what they're thinking. So I would think he'd want to go back with a plan of Ponder, have a series for (Richardson) where you're not scared to put him in anytime to do it, and then have Drew sitting there as a fireman in case.

Q: When you say "they better watch out," do you mean opponents or your other quarterbacks?

A:
The other quarterbacks. He's got a whole lot of talent sitting back there.

Q: You talked about the fire down inside you this time of year. Opponent notwithstanding, how excited do you still get when you see guys make plays like they made last night?

A:
Excited. Darn excited. I told our team last night am I wrong on this? that we ran for more yards than we passed. I can't ever remember Florida State doing that. Some teams do that, but we actually had more yards rushing than passing. Like Jimbo mentioned after the game, he was happy about the balance.

Q: What do you think is Christian Ponder's most impressive quality?

A:
He has a great arm, good presence in the pocket, can run better than you think, and he's pretty big. I think he's 214, but he'll be a 223-pound quarterback by the time he's done. And of course, he's very smart.

Q: Talk about that intelligence and what he's able to do with it.

A:
Jimbo requires a lot of checking off. I never checked off as much as he does. I was always afraid they couldn't get it. But he does so much checking off, so whenever the quarterbacks go to the line of scrimmage, they have to see what you're in and decide is this play better than that play. And if they don't get it, Jimbo will jump right down their throats. Drew's got that, too, and that's something that D'Vontrey's gained on. When he missed that spring to play baseball, he got behind in the mental part of it, nearly to the point of not playing. Then he got into it and he's really come up as far as understanding.

Q: What did you think of Corey Surrency's blocking last night?

A:
I was glad to see that. We knew he could catch. I wish we could have gone to him more, but we're not going to go to anyone a whole lot because there's too many of them. I really like our receiver group. Who are you going to throw to, (Greg Carr) or (Surrency)? What about (Jarmon Fortson), the new kid? How about (Rod Owens) or (Taiwan Easterling) or (Bert Reed) in there? Then we get (Caz) Piurowski back. Who are we missing?

Q: Preston Parker. (laughs)

A:
Yeah (laughs). Who is he? (laughs) Let me tell you something, why Preston Parker is a great player. I saw it last week. Here's a guy who's the star of your team last year. He gets suspended the first two games. Well, those guys suspended, instead of practicing with the first or second team, ya'll gotta go over there with the scout squad. He works as hard over there as if he's playing in the Rose Bowl. Most of them will try to get there in the back so they don't have to get in. He goes over there and works. I can see how he's such a competitor. He takes the defense as such a challenge. He'll try to beat them on everything he does.

Q: A lot of the coaches have mentioned that those suspended guys have taken things really well.

A:
You know, they have. I mentioned Preston has been working. Dekoda Watson has done the same thing and (Budd) Thacker has done the same.

Q: How will you do that when everyone comes back? How will you rearrange the chairs?

A:
The same way you put Ponder at quarterback? If that's what you think, you think it. But when they come back, the coaches will say, "This guys given us a lot of help, but this other guy is better," or it might be, "You've gotta work your way back in. This guy here is playing winning football." It'll be what I call a good problem. I love good problems.

Q: How excited were you to see the fan support with the opponent being Western Carolina and the weather problems?

A:
That was as strong of fan support as I can remember here. Of course, as you know with the weather, a lot of them had gone home. But they yelled and screamed and for the first time got out there early when we were warming up. That's what we had hoped would happen, but the fan support was unbelievable.

Q: What did you think about the defense?

A:
I was concerned there for a while. They had something like five first downs before we got one. In fact, I told the kids on Friday, you can have all the skill you want, but if you can't take the ball away from anybody, you're going to have problems. So early in the ball game, the time of possession was looking bad for us. I was concerned at first, but I thought it got better as the game went on, but Western Carolina also got tired.

Q: Did you see something different in the way Antone Smith ran the ball?

A:
He ran good. I wish we could have played him more where we could have gotten him yards. But that position is getting mighty thin right now. We're going to have to pace that position for a while. Ty Jones got hurt and I don't know how bad that is. And we lost Pressley and that was the guy you were counting on for depth. Antone has practiced good and what he did last night didn't surprise me.

Q: And what about Jermaine Thomas?

A:
That impressed me. And there's a kid that missed about 10 days worth of practice getting his papers all in to get into school. We had seen it in practice, but not on a consistent basis. In that game, he ran well.

Q: Jimbo had said in the days leading up to the game that Thomas and Jones had both caught back up.

A:
It began to show last week, especially (Jones). It's a shame he got hurt.

Q: How much do you anticipate using Parker at tailback?

A:
It would be based on injury, but with our situation like it is, it looks like he's going to have to play two positions. We're deep enough at receiver where you can do that. If Antone stays healthy, we'll be OK. But you never know about those tailbacks. They go down so easy.

Q: Talk about the job your assistants did in recruiting talent in this freshman class.

A:
That is big. That is so big. It's like [offensive line coach Rick] Trickett says don't give me any of them five-star athletes. I want them threes that are hungry. There's a little something to that. The five-stars, or what they call the five-stars, some of them ain't five-stars. So you need a better job of evaluation. And that's something I think the coaches did a pretty good job of.

Q: You didn't have Graham Gano, but it didn't seem to hurt the kicking game. Shawn Powell had a couple of nice punts, and you seemed to get good kickoffs from James Esco as well.

A:
It was good when you're No. 1 guy was out. Esco and Powell and [Zack] Hobby were better than good.

Q: Any word on when Gano will be coming back?

A:
I think next week he will probably start kicking.

Q: When you made this year's schedule, you guys decided to open with two I-AA schools because of all the suspensions and needing work for the younger players. But after seeing the result of this game, do you wish that you had picked a stronger opponent for the second game?

A:
No. I'd take another one the week after that too. I found out I coach better. The big thing we'll have to watch out for this week is that the kids don't get full of themselves because of what happened and go out there and take this next team for granted and play without enthusiasm. Our kids played with a lot of enthusiasm last night. As long as we've got that and don't make a lot of mistakes, we've got a chance.

Q: What were your impressions of Jermaine Thomas?

A:
That was a surprise and a need. We knew that No. 6 [Antone Smith] did not need to go back in that ballgame. [Thomas] played really well. All the signs were encouraging. We just have to remember that we were not playing Miami.

Q: Do you remind your players of that after the game?

A:
No, I didn't. You want them to enjoy what they got first. It will be the first thing I mention Monday.


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