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November 16, 2008

Sunday Conversation: Bobby Bowden

On Sunday morning, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden sat down with the media to discuss his team's 27-17 loss to Boston College on Saturday evening. Among the issues discussed was Christian Ponder's play, the usage of D'Vontrey Richardson, the suspensions affecting the team, the future for those suspended, Myron Rolle's pursuit of the Rhodes scholarship, and much more.

Opening Comments:

Well, I haven't seen any of the film yet, but that was a game more of them beating us than anything else. They physically beat us. It started at the line of scrimmage I mean both of us were making mistakes whether it was fumbles or interceptions.

Q: At the beginning of the week, Boston College's defense was compared to Wake Forest's. Were they similar?

Bowden:
Yeah, it's because they prefer to play a zone. They will play a zone all day if you let them. They will play a zone defense. Now when you play against a zone defense, there are open holes out there, but you better hit it. You have got to execute. They make you execute. They try to put pressure on the passer where he can't execute that's about what they did. I didn't see a whole lot of man out there. When they did blitz, it would be a zone blitz. They would zone behind it and send somebody. They really kept us off balance. I felt like it was the first time where our lack of size or experience showed especially on the offensive line. You know, at the end of the game, maybe we were beginning to gain superiority. Then we threw that interception. We were beginning to move the ball, but that might have been our last at-bat, I don't know. You look at the clock and you have got nine minutes and something and they are on the 20, and you think you are going to get at least two more at-bats, then they eat the whole nine minutes up.

Q: Was the offensive line the reason Christian Ponder couldn't find the holes?

Bowden:
I don't know. I would have to look at the film on that and listen to Jimbo's (Fisher) comments. But I think it was both, a little of both. I think it started with the pressure. He has been real good at cover here, cover there, and throw there. He didn't get any second looks last night. If it isn't there, you better get rid of it or they are on top of you. That prevented him probably from doing some things that he does best. Now how much of a role that played, I don't know. When I see the film I'll know, but I know that was true some.

Q: Did you ever think about changing quarterbacks?

Bowden:
I didn't. I leave that up to him (Fisher). I didn't. That's his call.

Q: If it had been your call?

Bowden:
I don't know what I would have done. If you aren't going to protect your quarterback better than what you did, it makes no difference who is back there.

Q: You often compare quarterbacks to pitchers, Christian seemed to be a little wild.

Bowden:
You all got that picture, but I didn't because I was down on the sideline. Ya'll up there can see. I can't tell if he was missing a little bit, or a lot, ya'll see that and I don't. When I look at the film I can tell a little bit more about it.

Q: You have said many times D'Vontrey Richardson is your best athlete but he hasn't been on the field.

Bowden:
You have to move him. You can't practice him at quarterback and then give him two reps out there at receiver and then put him out there at receiver. You nearly have to commit to another position. He's still got time, he's still got time. Right know Ponder is in the driver's seat, and Jimbo might look at that film and there is no telling what he will see. No telling what he will decide to do. I think he will make a wise decision.

Q: Richardson said that he wanted to play baseball in the spring, is that going to end his shot at quarterback?

Bowden:
That is just according to how much practice that he would miss.

Q: Has there been any discussion about getting him some more reps at wide receiver?

Bowden:
I'd doubt if we would want to do that. We got plenty of receivers. They just didn't show up for the game. Really, you got so many that you can't get 89 (Louis Givens) in there.

Q: I don't think you guys went in a five wide receiver set the whole night.

Bowden:
We were prepared, we had practiced it some.

Q: When watching Boston College on film up front, were you concerned that this could happen?

Bowden:
I thought we would eventually get on them. But our kids were pretty beat up when they got off that field, I don't know if you saw them or not. One of those tackles had a big bag on his arm, I don't know what that means for this week.

Q: It looks like you lost a safety celebrating.

Bowden:
Grammatica. It's what he did isn't it. It puts us in a heck of a pickle next week with (Myron) Rolle in Birmingham.

Q: That personal foul on Derek Nicholson was pretty devastating.

Bowden:
That was very critical, very critical.

Q: What do you tell your guys this week?

Bowden:
Well, just try to see what we got back, and if they are healthy. Again, all you can do is go out and play your best and still it's one of those mathematical things I think, but I'm not harping on that. Every time we get into a situation where we control our own destiny, we have gotten beat every time. So we will go out and tell them to play the best they can and have a lot of pride because this team that we are playing is the closest to BC that we play in the conference. There are two teams that are alike, that play alike, and it's those two.

Q: You couldn't stop their running game.

Bowden:
I would have never thought that two freshmen could come in and do what they did. They fit their scheme so well. They have those big, physical blockers. They handled us up front, not every play because we made some plays too, but they could stick on their blocks and that kid could run and find a hole. A lot of kids can't find a hole. They have done that all year. We have watched them do it, we knew what they were going to do, but between the quarterback handing them the ball and the quarterback faking and running, or faking and throwing that was their offense.

Q: You are in that situation again of trying to get more than seven wins.

Bowden:
Yeah we just have to play the best we can play and do the best we can do, that's all we can do. I think we are better than a year ago.

Q: Do you think you will have the suspended players back?

Bowden:
If it is up to me I will. I haven't heard the report yet.

Q: In past years, you don't sit kids until you have had that.

Bowden:
Well I talked to our coaches about that, and the fact that they went over there sure they knew something was up. And yet, you can see why several of them would go so so-and-so don't get beat up. You have to go over there and protect so-and-so. My thinking was that they shouldn't have gone over there in the first place.

Q: Some of those kids are young, but Corey Surrency is almost 25. Has he been an influence on those kids?

Bowden:
No, he's not a bad guy. I know you would assume that since he is that age and he has been through what he has been through that he has made a great change in his life, but he is still one of the guys.

Q: Is Bert Reed going to be ok?

Bowden:
I hope he is ok.

Q: Is it just a matter of him growing up?

Bowden:
I think a lot of that, I think a lot of that is going on.

Q: Do you think out of those five that you will have to suspend them all again or get them all back?

Bowden:
I hope we get them all back, but it depends on that report.

Q: You are going to try to get Myron Rolle up there Saturday night?

Bowden:
Yeah we are going to try. We have got a plane that can get him up there. Of course, you lose an hour coming from Birmingham, I don't know what time his deal is over.

Q: Can you talk about having a player being a finalist for a very prestigious academic award?

Bowden:
Surely that is something you can't rob him over. You can't rob him of that. You could see how we really need him next week, but that is putting your priorities in the right place. It's your education first and everything that comes with it. But it is definitely number one, everything else comes after that in regard to football. That's probably a once in a lifetime thing.

Q: How has he been juggling all of these things at once?

Bowden:
He has been handling it good. You would never know that. You would never know that he has already graduated. You would never know that he is a candidate by the way he practices and everything. Doesn't miss practice, doesn't miss meetings. He is there.

Q: A lot of the talk has been on their third down conversions, but you guys struggled with that.

Bowden:
That's why I said they beat us. It's not like we went out there and gave them the game. Sometimes you give people the game, but they beat us with a nine minute drive like ours against Miami, like ours against Virginia Tech. They put one on us. They kept hitting the third downs. Kept making the third downs. We didn't have the ball, they had it 38 minutes. Again, you would think with nine minutes to go on their 20, we would have at least two more at-bats. We could have won, maybe with 40 seconds left or something like that. We go up there last year and beat them when we shouldn't have, an amazing game isn't it. They lucked out on the elements, I will tell you that now. It was the coldest night we have had, we need them in the heat. You need them in the humidity, it's such a factor.

Q: Well you played them in a hurricane last year.

Bowden:
That's true. That's exactly right.

Q: What do you make of this conference?

Bowden:
You know, we need to pair up with other conferences and just see, but it looks like we are solid enough that a lot of folks can win a lot of games except for the teams that are dominant like Alabama and Florida.

Q: I've never seen a conference race like this before.

Bowden:
I can't remember one either. They are usually decided a lot earlier, you can tell they are going to win that division, you can tell they are going to win this division.

Q: Do you think the events earlier this week distracted your team?

Bowden:
They can answer that. We knew it wasn't good. We knew it wasn't good. I'm sure there was times where Jimbo was about to call plays and think oh no, they are not there. This group is here, but that group is gone. I'm sure that affected his play-calling to an extent. But that didn't stop them from over powering us either. They over powered us.

Q: You made a comment last night that if a group of guys weren't over there you might have had a player killed.

Bowden:
I don't know what I was supposed to say about that. I better not say nothing, but to me it makes a lot of difference as to who attacked who. All I know is that we shouldn't have been over there. The boys should just have not gone over there.

Q: Why have road trips to Maryland been so difficult for your football team?

Bowden:
Probably because it's the same for the other teams that have played them, don't they have a pretty good streak going there at home? Unbeaten at home this year, I don't know how they are in the past but he (Friedgen) does a good job. We had a chance last time to tie it up there at the end of the game and they blocked a field goal. .

Q: Do you think Rolle and other young players will come back or jump to the pros?

Bowden:
It has always been my opinion that any junior would be better if he played his senior year. To me if they come out early, they are never as good as they could have been. I remember Derrick Brooks started to go out but went first round. Warrick Dunn started to come out, but came back and went first round. I can name others the same way. My opinion is that they would be better if they played their senior year.

Q: Have you guys had that talk?

Bowden:
You know what, I haven't talked to him about that, I don't think he has even decided yet.

Q: Joe Paterno said that he is probably going to skip his last regular season game because of his hip, have you ever missed a game because of something like that?

Bowden:
I don't remember it. It might be easy to get sick and stay home. It seems like something like that happened to me but I can't remember if it did.

Q: Should it count to his win total?

Bowden:
Yeah, he is the head football coach. He will be out there preparing them I am sure.

Q: You seem to take losses better when you have been physically beaten.

Bowden:
Yeah, I think it hurts more when you give a game away. Their drive there at the end was identical to our drive against Miami to save that game. Instead of us doing it, they did it. Nothing freakish about it. Maybe without penalties. I tell you that guy, he needs the coach of the year award. He lost everybody last year. I think he lost eight fifth year seniors last year. He adopted O'Brien's team. That defense is good.

Q: Their quarterback did a good job.

Bowden:
When he has a good day they are mighty good. Sometimes he doesn't have a good day. He missed some passes last night too.

Q: It kind of seems like some trouble spots on defense are exposing themselves at this point in the season.

Bowden:
It might be where they were gifted we are not. The next team might not be gifted like they are. Like I said, Maryland and Boston College are as similar as any two teams in the country the way they play, the way they run and pass, and maybe their size, I haven't looked at Maryland up close yet. They usually have a real good offensive line. They usually have a good, solid, defense. They have got a great running back up there, and their quarterback is playing real well. So we are going to face the same thing again this week it looks like.

Q: Things haven't worked out well when you have worn black.

Bowden:
No we sure haven't. It should be BC's choice or something (laughing).

Q: What do you think about the job Ralph Friedgen has done this year?

Bowden:
We were talking a while a go about how the conference is so tight. Even though now they are clicking, their record isn't better than ours, our league thing is different, but overall we have had bad games and good games. Maryland has had bad games and good games. Lost to Middle Tennessee is a perfect example, then shut out Wake.

Q: On that fake punt, was that Graham Gano by himself?

Bowden:
It was called, but he could call it off if he didn't like what he saw. In other words, if he didn't like what he saw he could kick it. Thank goodness he made it.

Q: How many times have you called that and he checked out of it this year?

Bowden:
I know we have had it in there, we usually have some kind of a fake.

Q: He did that last year against Virginia Tech.

Bowden:
Yep, against Virginia Tech.

Q: Was it the same deal or did he freelance a little more on that one?

Bowden:
No it was the same deal. We have got a kick where he can run to his right and kick. If he runs out there and nothing happens, he might take off. Most times it ends up a kick.

Q: He is a pretty good athlete.

Bowden:
He is a good athlete. He has good speed, he is probably second to Stark as a punter.

Q: Do you talk to the kids about the standings?

Bowden:
You know when we are in the running just like against Georgia Tech, "Men, it's in our hands if we win out." Same thing in this game, men, it's in our hands. Win the next two and we will get in. Now it's going to be up to pride now. It's going to be up to pride. We have got to have some great practices and go up and execute, and you never know what is going to happen. Whatever happens, happens.

Q: Does the fact that you are so young help you?

Bowden:
Yeah I hope so. I hope we learned a lot from that darned game and can correct our problems.

Q: Do you think you will find out a lot about your team this week?

Bowden:
Hopefully those distractions are gone. Hopefully there is no more bad news. Hopefully we can get our full team working out there.

Q: Will this week be the most important week because now your back is really against the wall.

Bowden:
Yeah. If you ever wanted to play your best, it would be this week.

Q: If you still had the player dorms, would this have even happened?

Bowden:
Well, but you knew where they were. You put a bed check in, you go take bed check. You take bed check now, well half of them live somewhere else, you can't find them. You don't have time to go to 30 houses, and if you do, they don't have to open the door if they don't want to. If they don't want to answer the phone they don't have to. Up in that dorm up there, you know where they all are, and if they are there, or if they are out, and you can discipline better. They (NCAA) took that away from us.

Q: And the team meals.

Bowden:
Yeah after practice we would all go eat together, but we still make them come in for breakfast. We make them come in for breakfast. We check roll because we want to make sure they go to class. It's a lot more personal when they are all there eating together. Now the way the rules are, anybody can go in there and eat. It has to be open just like a cafeteria.

Q: The food isn't bad.

Bowden:
Yeah (laughing).

Q: Is this a possibility in the future?

Bowden:
The only answer is to build a dorm big enough where all the players can live there and still have room left for the 51% of other students. Put your players in that area, and put your other people in that area.

Q: That would be a huge building.

Bowden:
Yeah, but there are some schools doing that.

Q: Is that a frustration for you and coaches nationwide?

Bowden:
Yeah. We can live with the hours thing, but it's when they are not on the field you have to watch out. The thing you have to realize about dorms, they only have them in the south. The Big-10, they never had dorms. The Pacific coast conference never had dorms. Down here, everybody has got dorms. So we know we can discipline better if they are all in one dorm.

Q: You have had suspensions every week it seems like, have you tightened up?

Bowden:
I think there is a different standard, tighter. Got to do what they say to do. After last spring, we have set new guidelines.

Q: Are they fair?

Bowden:
Yeah they are fair. They are tough. I'm not sure if other schools have it that tough. You have got a kid who is an A or B student, and he is going to make an A or a B, but he cuts some classes. He still makes an A or a B. He knows he can afford to. So he puts his time on something else. Should he be suspended? Right now we do.

Q: Aren't grades the bottom line?

Bowden:
That's how it is to me. That's the bottom line, yeah.

Q: Is it hypocritical to make these kids do stuff other students don't have to on campus?

Bowden:
The thing about it, when you got 115 players out there playing football, 120, five of them got in trouble. Not 120 of them. If you have 115 on your football team, there are probably 15 of them that just want to play football and don't care anything about school. If you make them go to class, they will graduate. But it's not like all of them are like that. You have to put in rules, it's just like laws. If you put in a law that you can't steal, well everybody don't steal. But there is always that percentage that will steal if you don't have that law there.

Q: About tired of talking about that aren't you?

Bowden:
No, I'm mad because I can't talk about it. I can't say what I would like to say (laughing).

Q: Have the kids that have been suspended gotten the message?

Bowden:
Well I am sure they have gotten the message. These kids that got suspended have come by my office and cried, and why me I was just trying to help my buddy, and stuff like that. Some of them couldn't believe they were going to be suspended.

Q: Was part of that message to call a coach or someone?

Bowden:
Yeah, I gave them the police phone number. Call the police, and back away. How many times have I told my kids, but I have done this every year. "Men, you have to back away from trouble." You might look like a coward, but you must back away. As a football player, you do not have a chance. Just back away. If somebody is harassing you, call the police.

Q: Or even you?

Bowden:
Yeah, I said my number is listed call me. Sure do.

Q: Did you get a chance to see Ron Simmons?

Bowden:
I sure did. What a player.

Transcribed by Corey Dowlar.


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