Again, I'd like to say a special thanks to the BCS committee from our team and our whole Florida State family. Vizio and our hosts have been great, providing us - this whole experience has been nothing but first class from the minute we got off the plane until right now it's been a first class experience. Like I said, we don't get to experience this part of the country very often and to be able to come from the south and come out here, this is one of the great games I used to watch as a child and envisioned myself being able to coach in that game one day. It was a tremendous experience for us and our organization.
This has been a four year developmental process for our program and every step has been important. We've learned from everything we've done.
All the players have sacrificed and fought through and helped prepare for yesterday and that opportunity, I talk about the Christian Ponders, the Rodney Hudsons, the E.J. Manuels, the Dustin Hopkins, the Nigel Bradhams, and so many more - Xavier Rhodes, Bjoern Werner, they were all a part of what happened yesterday and we can't thank them enough for laying a foundation for our organization and our program.
I'd like to thank Coach Bowden for his relationship which I have with him, and like I say, that's one special man that I learned a lot from for many, many years. I hope my relationship with him will stay strong. I'm glad he was able to be here and be a part of it, because he branded Florida State University to be able to do the things we're able to do right now.
The goal was to play our best game on Monday, and you're going to hear me say something that may sound funny to you. I think we did, because you never know - like I say, just like I thought our quarterback and our team, and overall - we all played the best game because it wasn't necessarily our 'A' game. We felt jitters, we felt guys wanting to win too much, become outcome oriented and just didn't do some things they did. Auburn did a great job of preparing and keeping great poise. But our kids, to me, it was the epitome of what we believe in our program. We never doubt, we play the next play, and the total focus of toughness, effort, discipline and pride, finding crumbs, going higher, keep competing, not feeling sorry for yourself, not pouting, it's kind of how life is, and to me it epitomized what our football program is all about and to me it was our greatest game because it didn't come easy. It was very hard. That was a great opponent and a great venue, and to do it on the stage in which we were able to do it on, to me just solidifies what we're building in Tallahassee. Like I say, we're not interested in being a great team, we're interested in being a great program, and we want to be around for a long time. We got to continue. I want to say a special thanks to our players, how fun they were to coach, how they allowed us to coach them. Our assistant coaches, how great a job those guys have done this year meshing with six new guys to come in on this staff and be able to function and do the things they do and for them, keeping those players together during that game last night when things weren't going well, and to keep the belief, that to me epitomizes again what we're about.
It shows the trust that we have in each other that the players have in the coaches and the coaches have in the players and our whole organization. I can't be more pleased and happy for those guys and those coaches for what they achieved last night. Very proud just to be a part of that.
You touched on this last night in the postgame, but as you sort of look ahead, ACC football looks pretty bright moving forward. You won two BCS games, certainly had some very competitive games like Duke against Texas A & M, Louisville comes on board, Notre Dame is in there as a limited partner. If you could talk about the future of ACC football. Like I said, I've been in both leagues. The ACC is an unbelievably competitive league, great players, the second most NFL players of any conference in the country, top to bottom. Great coaches. Great commissioner. We had 11 teams bowl eligible. Clemson won a BCS. We won a BCS. Duke played tremendous. Other guys won games, had big wins. It's a great group of coaches and players, and hopefully now we get a little more respect, which I think it definitely deserves because when you go through it from players and the number of NFL players, Pro Bowlers, the whole thing, we're right behind the SEC in everything we do, and it's a great league, and I'm very proud to be in it and happy to be in it.
Kind of a three part question here. Can you talk about your growth from the days when you were a quarterback at Samford to being the coach of a national champion, whether or not you heard from Terry Bowden since the time you won the National Championship, and did you share any kind of private moment with Coach Saban other than what we saw on the set with ESPN? Hopefully my growth - I was always the guy when I played, I wanted to know the whys. I wanted to understand the game. I was a film junkie as a player, I lived it, thought it, breathed it. It was what I wanted to be and I always envisioned, play as long as I can and then be a coach. I mean, that was the ultimate goal, to be a coach at a major college program and win a National Championship.
You have dreams like that and hopefully they were able to come true and hopefully they'll continue to come true in the future. But I was very blessed with the folks I was around as a college player to be exposed to doing things right, and like I say, I was around Coach Bowden a lot as a young guy, as a young player, and very blessed from that.
No, I haven't heard from Terry since this game.
What was the third part?
Did you share any kind of private moment with Coach Saban? Yeah, we did. Nick and I talked - Nick to me is a tremendous friend to me. He always has been. I've learned a lot from him. He's a great guy. He has a great heart. His wife, Terry, she's reached out to me. I talked to her this morning. They were happy. They were very influential in myself and Candi and how we go about our businesses as leaders of an organization. Nick and Terry do it first class. They're great people. Nick and I talked about this, a couple of old hillbillies from those coal mines that came on and became football coaches.
We shared a few moments. Like I say, I have the utmost respect for Nick. I think he's a tremendous coach and a tremendous guy, and he and I will always stay close friends.
You don't call a lot of gimmick plays and I'm sure the scores this year had a lot to do with that, but talk about your philosophy and when you need to use them, when they're good to use? I don't believe you win championships with gimmicks. You can win a game, you can pull out a situation when you need them, but I believe blocking, tackling, lining up, playing base football is what wins championships, and guys that run a lot of gimmicks usually don't end up being champions because there's not enough substance to what you do. Takes too much time to practice them. And I believe in recruiting and doing those kind of things and being a fundamental organization and program. We have them. We have as many tricks as anybody else. I just believe in using them when you think you have to change, but they're momentum changers, and when you do it they change the game and the outcomes. We felt we had to go to that. We've got a bunch of fake punts, trick passes and reverses and we've got all kind of stuff. I can draw them up with anybody. Like Nick used to say in practice, I had a stick in my pocket and used to draw them up in the dirt and he used to get mad.
But I just don't believe you win championships that way. I think you do it with great offense, great defense, great special teams and the tricks are used to change momentum in the game and the outcomes of games when you have to.
Was there a deep moment that you shared with Jameis after he started 6 15, or did you just know that he was going to turn it around? No, you don't ever know because you can say you know, but people who say that, it's not true. You have to believe in the guy and you have to talk him through it and you have to coach him through that situation. We had a moment, we talked about it. You have three quarters, we're still in this ballgame. Like I told him, I've always believed he was a great player. I thought there was something special about him. I told him, the great ones can put those quarters behind them, and when they have a chance to win the game at the end - I always talk about Michael Jordan. You'd see him be 5 for 20, last five minutes of the game he hits seven shots in a row. How does a guy do that? I'm not saying he's Michael Jordan, but those great guys that have that something, they can put that behind them and know there's a moment in front of them and go on and play. The Montanas of the world, the Elways, the Marinos, those guys - Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, those guys that get the ball at the end. I believed he had that and I said you've got to go back to your fundamentals, find crumbs, and that's a term we use to - if the big play is there, take it, if it isn't, just dump it off. Use the people around you. Don't put the pressure up on yourself, and he went back to doing it, got himself in a rhythm. And I'm going to tell you, it's a lot easier for a coach to say than it is for a player to go do that. To me, it was a tremendous growing point for him and I think it's the best football game he's played all year.
Could you analyze the concept of a 20 year old who next year is going to have one foot to the NFL defending a National Championship? I can't remember that happening too much? No, it hasn't, and I think it'll be another growing stage for him and all of us, and he'll learn from it. Again, I think he'll handle it very well. The thing about Jameis, he's a team oriented guy and he's not worried about the NFL or anything else. We don't necessarily know he's going to the NFL, do we? (Laughter.)
Don't assume now. Be careful, Dennis. You know what assume stands for. (Laughter.)
Putting together a new staff like that, can you share any story or anecdote from spring or off season or the summer that was developing chemistry that you knew something was going to work like this and maybe billed to this conclusion? You know, people are going to say I'm crazy, but I felt two weeks after I got them here and recruiting ended, I felt good. And then we were about four or five practices into spring ball, I felt unbelievably comfortable because I'd been with - I knew Jeremy, I knew Sal, I new Charles Kelly. I hadn't been around Jay but I knew Randy for many years. I hadn't been around Brew as much and I had researched. But a lot of the philosophies of the main guys that we had in charge of everything were very similar to mine, and they come from very similar backgrounds, very similar beliefs, and it gelled - it was like, it was a glove. It fit the first day because we jumped right in recruiting and we were able to save the class and be able to have a tremendous class. We went into the off season, they had been through the exact off season that we'd been through. They took the bull by the horns, jumped right in, and actually it was easier, and that has nothing to do with our past coaches. Our past coaches Mark Stoops and those guys did a tremendous job tremendous job. All those coach we had are tremendous coaches and they got great opportunities and I'm extremely happy for them, but these guys come in and had been in this system and been in this philosophy before and we had some conversations, and it fit from day one. My hats off to them. To make the get the trust of our players that quickly, my hats off to our assistant coaches.
A couple of things: How did you celebrate last night? I imagine you gave yourself a little time to enjoy it before you started getting on recruiting like your buddy Nick does. And the other part of it is there was some talk going around that you may have hurt yourself trying to keep up with Whitfield down the sideline. Actually it wasn't Whitfield I got hurt on. I did pull a hamstring. You know what it was? It was when Rashad Greene caught the pass and got horse collared and it wasn't called, badly, and I was running down yelling at the referee. I did pull a hamstring. I was hopping on that one. I was running on the other one. I did, that hurt. It wasn't on the Whitfield one. I was happy on that one. I was alright on it. That was a horse collar call, that was a major call in the game that I thought was a big moment but we didn't have time to argue about it, but I was sprinting down there trying to get on him. That's when I got hurt.
We enjoyed it a little bit last night, mainly just come back and had family, and we didn't leave the room, and my mom and my family, my brothers, my friends, and my wife and my kids, and just all the - we just hung out right there and basically I sat there in the chair and about half fell asleep, to be honest with you. You feel like you want to sleep for about a week after these seasons. We'll get back tomorrow and give the staff a day or so and then we'll get back recruiting and we got to get going. It's time for another one.
How important was it that Bobby Bowden gave you the freedom to develop your program without constantly getting in the way? Tremendous, tremendous, and to me it speaks to who the man is. Like I say, he's as quality of a person that's ever walked the sideline in college football, the winningest coach ever, but the class which he exemplifies himself with and what he represents is tremendous. It's funny, I say this story all the time, back in the late 80s when I was a GA and learning to coach, and I used to sit around at the Bowden Academy, I was a senior advisor for the quarterbacks at that academy. Sitting out back, and just talking by the pool at night and whatever, and every word they would say I would stand on just to try and learn and get a grasp of something. He'd always say, you know, whenever he left he was going to get out of town and leave whoever the head coach - he had he said this 25 years ago, because it happened to him one time in his career, and he saw what happened to Terry a little bit at Auburn, when the old coaches hang around, and they're always doubting and questioning, and he said, no matter who it was, and it just happened to be me, it was unbelievable, but to me it shows the class of the man and who he is and what he is, and like I say, he's as good a man as has ever walked the sideline in college football.
Rashad said that at halftime you told the team that Kermit was going to pop one on a kickoff return. What did you see from the first couple kick returns and how well was that blocked? It was blocked tremendously well, and we've worked on that and he was close. If you remember there was one right there in the first half. He got him by a shoe lace getting down that sideline and we felt very good if we could get a return all week, that we had an advantage in that department that we get a return, and we felt very comfortable with it and I said we're going to get one of those, we're going to get a good return, I said we've just got to believe, and I told our team at halftime, we are right where we want to be. Things hadn't been going well, but you're down 21 10, you've got the ball coming out the second half. You're in a very good position and you'll remember this because the things you remember are the things that are hard. You don't remember the things that come easy to you. You put them away, because you don't appreciate them. Last night's win, you had to dig down and find out who you were and that was going to be a win for our program, and I thought we were right where we wanted to be if we just take the bull by the horns and go compete in the game, and we did. But we felt we had a chance to pop one of those returns.
With so much NFL talent on your roster, can you give us any insight as to what next year's team might look like and how many of those conversations you might have and what that process is? I think it's going to look very similar to who you're seeing right now. I think there may be one or two I've got to have serious conversations with, because we have to get the right information, maybe three, but this team will be - this is an extremely young football team. We only have three seniors on offense, Chad Abrams, Bryan Stork and Kenny Shaw. That's the only seniors we have there. Got a couple guys there that possibly could leave, maybe one, but on defense you may have one, maybe two. Could be maybe three guys max, I think, in the end of it when it really gets down to it. Those guys are having a good time here and we have some great young players coming in behind those guys. So I think this team will look very, very similar to the one you just saw.
We've seen in other sports, particularly in baseball, that adding another tier of playoffs adds to the uncertainty of a postseason. You having been a part of some one versus two games and having won it last night, do you see the two versus three and the one versus four semifinals as adding more uncertainty and just opening it up even wider? I definitely do, but here's the thing I think about this playoff we'd better be real careful about. When I was a child, I remember who won the Sugar Bowl, who won the Orange Bowl, who won the Cotton Bowl, who won the Rose Bowl. It was a big deal to go. We act like that's not a big deal now. That's one of the great things you have in college football. We're so involved in winning a championship that we're forgetting the tradition and history of doing things. And how many times was the BCS ever wrong? How many times did they ever get it wrong at the end? And I'm all for - we've still got the same problem. You're going to argue over who's four and five or who's two and three. What's the difference? And you keep building these games. Now you're playing 15 games. Now you're playing 16 games and then you want to go play 17 games. Well, how many scholarships you got? You need to start letting freshmen play, five for fives so you can have bodies for the attrition. These guys don't get to go play in an NFL season. They don't get to go rehab all day. They got school. They got study halls. They got things to do. Those bodies at that age aren't developed like a man is, and they say, well, the lower divisions do it. Well, I'm going to tell you something, just like the NFL is a much more physical game than Division I football, Division I football is significantly different than the 1 AA, Division II and Division III. Those collisions aren't the same in size, speed guys that matter and you'd better be careful what you're doing to these kids and how you're doing things, and then how are we going to recruit? You keep putting playoff games in there when are we going to ever recruit. If you start in December and finish in the middle of January, when does recruiting season go? You've got a lot of things that we'd better be careful in this playoff system before we go crazy on it. I'm for it. Hey, playoffs if that's what you're going to do we're going to line up and play them. But I just don't want to take the true history and tradition of those bowl games - maybe you're 11 2, dadgum, that's a pretty good year. Now anymore, you act like somebody should get fired. It's a little bit ridiculous.
Following up on that, I asked you Sunday about playing an extra game after this one. What kind of shape, physical shape, are you in right now? Could you go play? Actually we are very healthy. We came out of that game, as physical as it was, we came out healthy. But again, you're flying back, rehab, bodies, now they're going to school, now you've got to fly back, start another semester, start the new semester, which is extremely tough going in for a group of guys now the freshmen got to do that twice in one year, whole new classroom, whole new thing. It's significant. There's a lot going into this that is going to be factored to winning this thing. It's going to be survival of the fittest, there's no doubt.
The punt decision, to actually do the reverse, not just the punt call, what led to that particular call, because it looked like they were actually in punt safe and you still managed to get it. And then secondly, we noticed it in the second half, you brought the towels back out. Was that a situation where you felt like maybe they were stealing signals? They had a couple of our signals a couple times and were getting to them. That happens, people do it, and that's our fault. You've got to change them, constantly rotate them, being able to get them in different ways. That's part of the game. I don't have a problem with that. But the reverse, we though the misdirection they could get the flow and we thought the angle on the backside and how they played the backside we could definitely get the edge, especially with Carlos' speed and ability, and you put the ball in his hands of one of your best playmakers in that situation, and we had to change the momentum in the game. We were down 21 3. We had to get momentum.
Momentum is critical in football games. We talk about Xs and Os and all that, but momentum, when you're 18 22, momentum and the whole psyche of the whole situation is critical, and we had to change the momentum, and we weren't doing it an offense, we weren't doing it on defense, so we had to do it on special teams.
You've been a part of some great games as an assistant and as a head coach. Would you say that was the best game you've been a part of? It definitely ranks right there at the top, especially with the significance of what it meant and the stage it was on. It definitely ranks right there at the top, there's no doubt. That was a tremendous game by both teams. Both teams competed very hard in the game and we were very fortunate and very happy to come out on top.
What lessons will you take from being at LSU in '04 because it seemed like Nick ended up that season so unhappy and he left. He did. I mean, just that you've got to go back to ground zero and you can't worry about expectations. You've got to play it. At that time we were breaking in a new quarterback, too. That was part of the issue, too, you had a new quarterback coming in that year. But I think that's the thing - once expectations get so high, is to not let complacency set in. I'm going to tell you, what kids do and what fans do, fans do, writers do, players do. It's human nature, you take winning for granted. You take success for granted. And how hard it is to grind and win football games. You can't lose that edge. If you ever lose that edge, that chip on your shoulder, you're just another team. I don't care how talented you are. This team has to go back, get its own identity, get it's own leadership and develop that, and that's going to be our challenge now. It's how hungry can you stay to be able to do it over and over again, and that's going to be the challenge and our mindset and that's going to be my temperament going in, to be able to set that stage so we can do that and stay on top and be very competitive at the top. Again, it's human nature to get complacent. Like I say, the relief syndrome. I made an A on the test, I probably make an F on the next one and I get a C, it's no big - if I get a D, I get a B. That's our nature as humans, it's not too grind, it's not to push. That's why there is only one champion at the end. And to me, I think it's another stepping stone for our program and our organization and we have to take that next step and I've got to set the tone for that from day one.
With the history of that FSU had to start the BCS making the first three championship games, what does it mean to you to finish out the BCS? It's kind of fitting to me because Florida State was - like I say, I remember the SEC dominance for so long. The SEC couldn't get in. I was in the SEC. They said we wasn't good enough. It was Miami and Florida State every year. They had the teams. They were in it, the Nebraskas, the Oklahomas. The SEC couldn't get in it. But I think it's very fitting that Florida State come full circle back and like I say, maybe we don't play in the SEC but we play in the south and we've got good football, and Florida State, it's like the reckoning. Things are getting back in order again.
Jameis made a comment last night that you had thrown him out of a recent practice during two minute drill you were so frustrated with the way he was playing. It was the one right before we came here.
What was going on? I'm assuming you didn't really throw him out of practice? Yes, I did. (Laughter.)
I did. I sent him to the locker room.
But the mindset which he had and the situation, understanding the gravity of how important two minute is and the decisions you make and how you go about your process, and the thing about two minute that you've got to be careful of, it's not about you. You can get so involved that you're going to win the game in two minutes. To me, the key to those is using all the weapons around you and I think he did that in that game, and I think how you manage the clock, how you manage the situation, you're not always playing your opponent, you're playing the clock at the same time. It's number one, the opponent is number two and the mindset you have to have going in, which he had all year. I just saw it drifting. We had some points and he had some points, so it's good to be the king. (Laughter.)
He'll be the king one day. When he's in pro ball he might have thrown the coach out.
But the thing about it, though, and I say this, he waited for me to get off the field and we had a long discussion and we had it out. He's an unbelievable guy to be able to process and transition and go right back.
It was not - it was his passion for wanting to do something, it was just a point I thought I needed to make to him at the present time as a young guy, and like I say, sometimes you have to be their coach. You can't be their friend. We'll be friends and respect later on, just like when you're a parent sometimes. It's not your job to be your kid's friend, and that's part of the problem in the world today. We want to be our kids' friends and not be their parents and make them do what's right, because in the end, so he can be on a stage like this and be able to do what he did in that situation. He learned from it, he grew from it, and I grew from it. I grow from those situations how I handle it every time with those guys, too. Wish you didn't have to do it, but I think it just made our relationship that much stronger and we understand each other that much more.
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