No. 13 Florida State Seminoles football, for the first time in the Mike Norvell era, is part of bowl season.
The Seminoles (9-3, 5-3 ACC) were selected on Sunday to take part in the Cheez-It Bowl, slated to face off against the Oklahoma Sooners (6-6, 3-6 Big 12).
It’s the first time FSU has faced a Big 12 opponent since 2014 and its first game against the Sooners since 2011.
After the announcement, Norvell met with the media to talk about Oklahoma, his squad’s approach to the postseason and more.
Below is a full transcript of the presser:
THE MODERATOR: Coach, looking forward to having you down here, face Oklahoma in the Cheez-It Bowl on the 29th, 5:30 here at Camping World Stadium. If you could start us off with an intro or welcome to Orlando. How are you feeling about the team’s bowl destination and opponent?
MIKE NORVELL: We are so excited and grateful for the Cheez-It Bowl and the committee to select us to be able to stay home in the State of Florida and to play this game. You know, and two storied programs, very explosive football teams and the opportunity for our group to be able to play one more game together for this season.
You know, try and go get our tenth win, really proud of all of the steps that our team has taken. You work hard through the year, and these guys have responded throughout, and to now have an opportunity to play in such a great bowl game, against a very explosive and talented Oklahoma team and just really proud of our guys and the work that’s gone into it. You know, excited about the experience that’s ahead.
Q. I know you’ve been on the road this week. Do you have any clarity about who you may or may not have in the Bowl game?
MIKE NORVELL: We will continue to evaluate that as we go through the Bowl practices. I know a couple guys have already come out with statements of their availability, and you know, it’s things that we’ll continue to discuss. I’m excited about the way the guys have been working, and how we’ll continue to work leading up through our bowl prep.
Q. You talked about when you took the Florida State job, it was iconic, and Oklahoma is, as well. When you heard there was a possibility for this matchup, how excited for you about the matchup?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s a great matchup. It’s a great opportunity with two of the great storied programs in all of college football history. To be able to link up in a great game and a great place, great atmosphere, I’m glad we have been able to play here in our home state.
This Oklahoma team we are playing has a lot of great players. They have recruited well over the years, and it’s going to be a challenge for our guys. They have had some close contests throughout the season, but it’s going to be — it’s what you want towards the end of the year.
You work hard to earn a bowl game, and then to be able to have a matchup against a very talented team is something that I know our players are going to be excited about.
The destination for our fan base is great being in Orlando. We have so many great Seminoles there, throughout the state but especially there in Orlando, for them to be able to come. I know it’s going to be a wonderful atmosphere, and to be able to have these two programs matching up, it’s definitely going to be one of the most exciting Bowl games I think of this Bowl season.
Q. How far back did your relationship go with Brent Venables? And as a first-year coach, what do you remember about your first year as a head coach, some of the growing pains or some of the learning you’ve had in year one that just set a foundation to get to where you are right now?
MIKE NORVELL: Coach Venables, he was at Oklahoma when I was at Tulsa, and you watch his career and all of things he’s accomplished. He’s a great coach. Very passionate. Does a great job with the schematic part and putting his guys in a wonderful position to achieve success.
All the great teams and defenses he led there at Clemson; had to go against him there a year ago. But when he got the opportunity at Oklahoma, that is a great place, and it’s a place that he was familiar with, but also now, being a head coach, it’s that transition.
It’s about establishing the foundation of your values and the things that you want your program to be built upon, and there’s no manual for what to do and how to do it. But you know, just being able to stay true to who you are throughout that journey.
I think back to all of the decisions, whether it’s the first year at Memphis or even coming here to Florida State, every decision impacts on such a grand scale, and it’s one of the things I actually love about the position of being a head coach because it’s impacting people. I know Coach Venables has done a wonderful job with that and establishing that foundation.
In today’s age, it’s unlike any ever before in college football with some of the different dynamics, whether it’s the transfer portal or different things that we have to face. But you know, it’s definitely a unique time and he’ll do a great job with that.
Q. Talking with Brent a few minutes ago, he said that he noted that this is your third year, but it’s your first bowl game and he said, “Mike has built that program the right way.” Could you expand on some of the foundational principles you just mentioned, what those were, and how you got to this point?
MIKE NORVELL: Coming in, there had been quite a bit of change at Florida State over the years prior to being able to come. You know, it was important that we set those values and really establish an understanding for our players and what to expect, because there had been different leaders. With every leader, there’s going to be different languages and different expectations.
So trying to establish just that overall mindset of the willingness to work, being able to push to that standard of being your best day-in and day-out, and being able to do that in all aspects, not just in one area, maybe on the field, but being able to carry that over into the weight room, into the training room, into the classroom, into the community, and all the things you do pushing yourself to that expectation. You know, it takes time to build trust.
And you know, obviously, our first year coming in, we had another challenge with COVID and not being around the guys and just having to do a lot of that virtual, which was unique to itself. I’m grateful for every step in the journey we’ve had, and even through those challenges.
The experiences, we’ve been able to gain confidence in, like I tell our team, sometimes you have to go through what you need to prove you can get through. And we have proven that we can get through some of the adversity that showed up and some of the unexpected bumps that we’ve had to face.
But it’s all about that continued growth, but being able to be consistent and to have continuity and for our players to now take ownership in that and really help us accelerate that process is a lot of things that we’re seeing this year and I’m really proud of them for all the work that they have put in.
Q. Obviously, you had some history with Dillon Gabriel. I don’t know if there’s any question about whether or not he’s going to play, but how talented is he, and what do you expect to face against him?
MIKE NORVELL: He’s an extremely talented quarterback. You see the way that he’s played this year. He just continues to get better. He is just — his vision, his talent, the things that he can do, he just has that natural play-making ability that shows up throughout the course of the game.
I think they do a great job in their offensive scheme and try to utilize their personnel with Coach Lebby, I’ve known him and watched his teams over the years.
And so it’s a very well-coached team, and they have a great quarterback, and they have some very talented skill players. They have been able to do some great things there offensively throughout this season, so it’s going to be a wonderful challenge for our defense, and I know those guys will be excited to go to work in our preparation.
Q. How challenging is it getting ready for a bowl game? You haven’t had to deal with this for a couple years, but how challenging is it with recruiting and transfer portal everything and going on over the next couple weeks as you try and prepare for this Bowl game?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s something I’ve put a lot of thought into in trying to create a schedule that will allow us to prepare but also make sure that our focus right now is the personnel that’s on our team and that’s currently there and then continuing to build that through recruiting and whichever — whichever area, whether it’s high school recruiting or the transfer portal or continuing evaluation, trying to find those best fits for Florida State.
You know, we are going to be able to have more times put aside for our bowl prep and I’ve had many different models for depending which bowl we would go to, just to be able to implement that and maximize all the time that we have for the coaching staff and our players to prepare our players to go play our best game. That’s the objective. We have one more opportunity as a football team, and this has to be our best.
I thought we got off to a great start this last week with practice coming up this next weekend, and every one of them, we are going to count on putting us in the best position to go achieve our objective, and that’s to be the best we’ve played throughout the course of this season. I believe our players are bought into that, and now we just have to go put in the work.
Q. What does playing in an in-state bowl game, two national brands? What does that do from a recruiting standpoint and just a branding standpoint?
MIKE NORVELL: I mean, I think it’s a great match-up. This is a team that obviously has a great tradition and has been among the elite in college football over the last, you know, decade-plus. You know, for us to — some of recruiting battles that we’ll face, some of the things that — we know this is going to be a game that this is going to be well-viewed, and to be able to be in our home state and to be able to play there in Orlando, it’s great in all ways for us.
We are definitely excited about it, and we’ve taken a lot of positive steps as a football team this year; and now to be able to go against another very talented football team and a great brand, a great logo, it will be a showcase game and one I know our guys are going to be excited to go put forth their best effort to put ourselves in a position to go be our best. Like I mentioned, that is our key focus as we end this season and show that those continued steps of where we are going to make sure we put a stamp on this year and try to go get that tenth win.
Q. You talked about having a plan, a couple plans in place with bowl preparation, what do you want the players to focus on the practices?
MIKE NORVELL: It’s a simple objective, but it’s been our year objective. Each day that we go out there to improve upon the experiences that we’ve had, to continue to make sure that in all things, functionally, communication, the overall execution, that we grow from that.
I like the setup of kind of Bowl practice because we have some of those developmental days where there’s not a whole lot of focus on the opponent, it’s on the toughest opponent we face; that’s ourselves. That’s the great challenge that our guys have to overcome is that even with a little bit of time and you have that human nature that wants you to relax and be able to go through it. But still, to fight against yourself to go push to be better than what you’ve been.
We are going to jump back into this here next weekend and continue to push in all areas where, whenever we get back on that field, to get better as a team. That’s my commitment to our guys is that I’m going to push them with every opportunity and every snap that we get to take on that practice field to go be our best.
I expect that same effort, and I’ve seen that up to this point and I’m just really, really proud of the work that our guys have done throughout the season, and you know, what a great way and a great place to be able to finish the year with the opportunity there at the chit Bowl.