Q: You are coming off an emotional victory and now must go up and possibly clinch a conference championship at your son's (Tommy) expense.
A: I imagine our boys will enjoy this win Saturday night and Sunday and once we get on with the preparation for Clemson, it will behind us. The closer you get to the final ranking, which we are in now because of Miami's loss, every game becomes important. The Clemson game all of a sudden becomes the most important. When it's over with, it's not any more important than the one after that. And that one is not any more important than the one after that. It's going to be that way every week.
Q: You've said over the past few years this has always been a difficult game. With his situation, does this make this any different?
A: No, it won't make any difference. We will play as hard as we can. I know Tommy will play as hard as he can. That's what we expect. That's the way we were raised. We know this profession is like that. It's very precarious. It's very precarious that it's come out like this. In the long run, I think it's worth it for both of us, no matter what happens.
Q: What are your thoughts on the polls (FSU is third in both)?
A: I was glad to see that because I think that's moving, from five to three, which is good. That gives you hope in the BCS. We still could be three there, or could even be four or could even be two. I don't know how that's going to come out. Thank goodness there's three more weeks. We are in position now. It's a matter of us - we must win each ballgame.
Q: Can you assess the offense's performance and were you happy with Chris Rix's performance?
A: I was very happy with it. Very happy with it. There's interceptions and then there's interceptions. They are two different things. There's interceptions on your end of the field and there's interceptions on their end, which is as good as a punt. A couple of times we had interceptions I told Jeffrey (Bowden), I said, 'Jeffrey it's as good as a punt. Don't worry about it.' They couldn't take it and drive for a touchdown. When it happens on your end of the field like it did last year, I believe, those are interceptions. I think his three interceptions were deceiving. Now, if we had not aired the ball out like we did we would not have had a 17-0 lead or a 24-0 lead or a 30-0 lead when our interceptions occurred, if we didn't air it out we wouldn't have been ahead of them like that. You look at those statistics and you would say, 'Darn, there he goes again.' But, again, I thought those were interceptions down at their end of the field and we were in pretty good shape in score at that time. I still don't like them but I think you see the difference.
Q: In the rankings, the title game could come down to a number of teams with one defeat. Are you intrigued by how this is shaping up?
A: You betcha. I am. We all are. I think anybody in the Top 10 with one loss is excited and yet, it doesn't mean a thing if you lose the next game. We simply have to win. But you don't know what's going to happen in front of you. Let's just say in the BCS Southern Cal is second, and we are third and somebody else is fourth and fifth. In a week, after a couple of losses, whoever is fifth might jump up to No. 2. Or Oklahoma could lose a dadgum game unexpectedly. I think it's exciting. I think it's intriguing. We are just glad we are one of the number but we might not make it. But the BCS has been pretty good to us.
Q: What do you anticipate the response of your players?
A: It would be very exciting if we moved to second. I am still leery of that and am thankful we have more time. It would excite your players. I think it would motivate them. If Southern Cal is there, they are going to be motivated. If we're there we are going to be motivated. If we are not there we are going to be motivated because we are in the hunt. I like that.
Q: Aside from experience, what do you chalk up your defensive improvement to?
A: You just said it. Experience. They are a year older. They've been through it. Last year against Notre Dame, first play of the game, we got beat for a touchdown pass. Last night we didn't. I think you would say they've learned through experience and are handling it better. That doesn't mean it can't happen next week or the next week. Or it might happen two times next week. It scars you to death. But it has definitely been better. Now if you asked me what I could put my finger on, I would say a year's experience.
Q: Can you talk about how resilient your defense has been this year when you've made mistakes.
A: That is the difference between this ball club and a year ago. If you remember in the Louisville ball game, when we got into overtime, and we threw an interception the first pass. Then our defense went out on the field and what did they do? A 25-yard touchdown on the first down. Okay, that's the way they responded. All right, we played Notre Dame and had in interception. They brought it back to the 20 and we held them to three. We return a kickoff and fumbled around the 4 or 5, and they scored in one play. Then we got the ball again and we fumbled the football and they scored in about three plays. That's the way our defense responded last year. Now, this year, every time that has happened our defense has stopped them. That's the difference between this football team right now. And we talked about that the first of the year by the way. That was one of our goals. And we always relate it back to the '93 team that stopped Kansas 10, 11, 12 times inside the five. We've always used that as our barometer.
Q: What is the secret to that?
A: I think you already named it -- intestinal fortitude is good. You can shorten it to guts if you wanted to. Again, go back to a years experience. And Mickey (Andrews) and the defensive staff making that a goal. That is one of their stated goals. When we went into the season, let's stop the long pass. We haven't given up many long passes. That's where we made our living Saturday. I just think Mickey and them put more emphasis on it.
Q: You mentioned you were pleased to hear your players had a sense of playing that well in Notre Dame.
A: We went up there in '93 and I tried to downplay the tradition of Notre Dame. I did that purposely because I didn't want to scare my team. I didn't want to go up there with an undefeated team and think the spirit of George (Gipp) was going to beat us or the spirit of Knute Rockne was going to get us, or the building they got down there with the picture (Touchdown Jesus) on it. I did want our kids to think that's what was going to beat them, so I downplayed it. Darn, if he didn't come off that building and beat us. This year, I approached it a little bit different. Yes, they do have great tradition. Yes, they do play with a lot of spirit. Yes, they do play there better than they do on the road. And we approached it - I discussed the tradition of Notre Dame with them. We forget this generation don't know all that. When I came up, it was the tradition. Now these kids coming up today, as I mentioned last week, they don't even know who Bear Bryant is. In 15 years they won't even know who Bobby Bowden is. I felt like they felt the tradition of that stadium and what it meant to being there. I told them when we go out in that stadium, take it as an opportunity. You are going to get an opportunity that most kids never get and this is to play on a football field where football started in this country. I think the forward pass started there. But there's so much history. I just told the kids to approach it as an opportunity and don't worry about who wins it.
Q: You've talked about attitude and experience, is that also a difference in the play of Craphonso Thorpe and P.K. Sam?
A: It is experience. P.K. has really gotten better this year. What do you relate to? He tried hard last year and he wanted to do good last year. Well, he has a year experience and he's a year more confident. I think that has made the difference. Probably the same thing in Thorpe. Where Thorpe has helped himself is he did something they all ought to do -- he went out for track. I thought it improved his speed. It's really a benefit.
Q: Did you think the Clemson job was a good one for Tommy and now, looking at some of the struggles he's had, do you still think it's a good job?
A: Well, I thought it was a wise move to go from Tulane to Clemson. I also knew it would be a much more pressure job but that comes with our profession. I felt he had a better chance of winning a national championship at Clemson than he would have had at Tulane. You go undefeated at Tulane and you go undefeated at Clemson you are going to be ranked higher at Clemson because of the schedule and so forth. But with that comes the pressure. I am sure Tommy is feeling the pressure now just like I felt it at West Virginia. I have always felt - I would say Bob Davie at Notre Dame and so-and-so at this school and so-and-so at this school, when a coach having to struggle and having a rough time, it's just a matter are they going to have patience. Are they going to have patience? But I think coaches usually work it out. They wanted to run me off at West Virginia in 1974. If I hadn't see that, if I hadn't see the fickleness of fans, I probably would have stayed there. But when I saw how fickle fans were, I said to myself if I have an opportunity leave I probably ought to leave. Anyway, it's a fickle thing and a lot of it is just according to what kind of patience the people have you work for.
Q: You are saying people ought to be patient with Tommy as well?
A: Well I would say you ought to be patient with any member of my family.
Q: How much do you two share information?
A: I would exchange anything I knew that could help him win, except when he plays us. He won't get much information from me this week. We both want the other to win. So, we would exchange information in regard to anyone we would play. Except when we play each other. We will be very quiet in that.
Q: How do you separate the feelings when you play Tommy?
A: When that game comes about, once kickoff starts you are a coach. It's Florida State versus Clemson. Until that kickoff, there's no reason you can't be father and son. Talking on the sideline. Talking before the ballgame. That's about the way I approach it and probably the way he approaches it. Once that kickoff starts, you are thinking one thing, and that's winning the game. That's exactly what Tommy will be thinking.
Q: It looked like the last couple of games your freshmen and sophomores are getting more and more time.
A: That's true. I think it reflects back on the recruiting that John Lilly has done. It's funny. The last two years we've lost more games than we had the previous years. So, everybody just assumes your recruiting is terrible. It ain't either. We play a lot of sophomores out there. We play a lot of redshirt freshmen out there. And they are playing winning football. It's like (A.J.) Nicholson, he's a dadgum sophomore, a true sophomore, and he's playing as good as any linebacker we got. And (Sam) McGrew is playing good. And Ernie Sims is playing good. We played 56 people last night in the first quarter. That's counting punt team, kickoff team, return team and all that. That's a lot of people.
Q: Getting back to playing Tommy, does it make it tougher knowing he's getting more and more heat at Clemson?
A: It makes it very tough. It makes it tough on me and him. Yes, you want to see him succeed. I remember I have another son on my staff. I ain't interested in feeding either one of them. I want them both to make it. I mentioned this about three years ago I said, this is really fun when we started this series. Father-Son. It's really fun. But about three years ago it ceased being fun. Why? Because one of us has to lose.
Q: When looking at Notre Dame, did you see something that would allow you to throw long?
A: We worked on our game plan the other night, Friday night. We practiced all week on things we think would be good. I will be honest with you, when we were practicing I am thinking they shut us down last year and they got seven of them back and I don't know if we can block them. That's the kind of feeling I had. Then we had our game plan Friday night, when we work on every situation we can think of. And I don't ever remember one of our coaches mention we got to go deep. We got to go deep. We were looking at drags, we were looking at square ins and corners and outs. Anyway, Jeffrey and Daryl and them call the plays and they decided to go deep. You know what? I didn't call any of them. That was exactly where we beat them and I was sure happy.
Q: What are some of the qualities that Tommy has that mirror you?
A: Tommy and I, our personalities are very much alike. I know our demeanor is a lot alike. Our desire to win. All of that stuff is very much alike. Terry has that do. And Jeffrey has that to. I think Tommy is more like me in personality. That's what everybody says. His mother says that. People who know us all say that. And so anyway, Tommy's team kind of reminds me of Georgia Tech. They just blow a team out. They blew Georgia Tech out, then the next week get beat pretty good. If you see Wake Forest play, you can see how that can happen. You saw it happen to N.C. State, which was a big surprise. When they get to a rolling, you know how they did us. We've been holding everybody to one touchdown, 10 points, and they get 24 points against us. You can see how it happens.
Q: Have you spoken to Tommy?
A: I hadn't time but I will be talking to him pretty soon.
Q: Jeff Bowden said after the game that maybe he last year (against Notre Dame) he was a little timid (play calling). He said he wanted to make sure he called enough long passes yesterday. How much of that is Jeff growing up and having more confidence?
A: Again, you are probably looking at a guy with another year of experience of doing this thing. He hasn't been the coordinator here, this is his third year. I would say it's another year of experience and realizing what you have to do to win and then spotting a weakness and picking on it. I was very pleased. Most of them were simple take offs. They failed to cover them sometimes.
Q: The last two games your team has played like they know they have a chance (national title). It seems like they sense this opportunity and are going to go out and play like they know it.
A: The thing that makes it possible is your defense. When you know that your defense can hold people, then you don't have to panic on offense. What causes panic on offense is when your defense can't hold people. The last couple of years we've had a hard timing doing that. People would take eight-minute drives, 12-play drives. Like Iowa State did last year. Like North Carolina State did. Now you get the ball and you panic. You are behind and you are afraid if you don't score, they are going to get to score again and they will be two ahead of you. Now this year our defense has held people when we couldn't get anything going. We can't get anything going, we can't get anything going and then, all of a sudden, bam, bam, we get something going. And your defense has been holding them all that time. Now that's a different thing. That's what Miami thrived on. Offense always gets the credit. Or the offense always gets the discredit. Well, that's not true It's the defense. Boy, our defense has been playing winning football. I hope we can keep it up I think that is true and again I think it comes because of what the defense is doing. I think it affects the whole ball club.
Q: Can you talk about Michael Boulware and what he means to this team.
A: No. 1, he brings a lot of athletic ability to the team. He could have played wide receiver at Florida State. He's that good. He could play tight end at Florida State. He could play safety at Florida State if he started as a freshman. He's playing linebacker, kind of like a strong safety. He can probably play defensive end. His athletic ability really stands out. Now, his leadership ability is even beyond that. He has always been the spokesman for the defense. If the boys on defense wanted to tell me something, they would send Boulware. He's one of the first guys I put on the Unity Council because I know he doesn't mind expressing the feelings of the team if we have any kind of issue.
Q: Beyond family reasons, are there other reasons why you think Clemson should be patient with Tommy?
A: When you say Clemson, I am talking about all schools. I don't think Duke was fair to (Carl) Franks. I don't think that was fair. He had four more games. What if he stayed there and they won three of them. They would extend him another seven-year contract probably. But they cut him right in the middle of the year. That's what I mean by patience. Is he doing as good as they want? No. Is he winning as much as they want? No. But, again, you bring another guy in, you start all over again. I don't coach up there. I don't know everything that does on up there. It's my son and I want him to do the best he can do. I know he wants to do the best he can do. Whatever happens he can handle it like a man, I know that.
Q: Your defense has been able to get more three-and-outs recently.
A: That's probably true per game. There are some people you can get out and some people you can't. I think early in the year there were times when we got them out of there pretty good. We might have gone through a span of three games where it was more difficult. So, that's something you have to measure per game. That's definitely a defensive goal when they walk out there. I hear them yelling it. But that's hard to do nowadays.
Q: Talk about Chris Rix's long pass completion to P.K. Sam.
A: If I was grading it, I would have to give him three different grades -- F, F, A..F was when he rolled back into the end zone and escaped that guy. He should have thrown the ball away. The other F was when the other guy was about to get him and he spun all the way around, spun all the way around -- turned his back to everybody - and ran out. I would have to give him an F there. But then when he runs to his left full speed and throws way back to his right and we catch it, I would give him an A. That's how fickle I am (laughing). That is him. It's amazing. He comes back out right before the half and sprints to his right and throws an interception right into the hands of one of their guys. That's what can happen on something like that. You don't coach it that way. It's a funny thing. He has does that so many times in his life, where he's doing something and you sitting there yelling, 'No, no, no, no...yeah.
Q: Craphonso Thorpe had a superb game despite the emotion he was dealing with last week (grandfather passed away).
A: I learned a lot about him this week. Lost his granddad unexpectedly. He had been with him the night before or maybe the night before that. His granddad felt good and his granddad was real close to him. So, they had the funeral Friday morning. Of course, we are going to depart Friday morning. And if he don't come with us, he's going to have to catch a commercial flight and he's not going to get in until 12 or one or two that night. I knew that was going to be a distract full. So I called him into my office and said, Craphonso, you need to go up there with us. You think it would be okay with your parents if you could fly up there with us where you can honor your granddad this week' He said he was worried about his dad. It was his dad's dad. So I learned something. He said he was worried about his dad. He said, 'Coach, if I come up there you don't have to worry about me being ready. If I walk out on that field, I promise you I will be ready.' When he told me that I said, 'Son, that's all I want to hear. You go ahead and go to that funeral and we will see you up there when you get there.' I learned something about him right there. You are always afraid the state of mind won't be there. He won't be able to make the team meal. Won't be able to make the team meeting. He's going to miss something he should have heard. You just feel like there's no way he can come up there and perform like you hoped. And what did he do? He went up there and performed better than you can expect.