You've said a few times in the past that Xavier hadn't practice well, hadn't been consistent. What did he do differently in practice last week?
Bowden: . . . Let me give you a pretty good picture. No. 1, I watch quarterbacks a lot. They go out there and go through the warm-up exercises, and then they go through individual drills. They'll throw passes to the wide receivers by themselves, nobody on them. Then they go through throwing passes against the defensive backs, just the receiver by himself going against a DB. Then they go to skeleton, where our defense puts our skeleton secondary and linebackers out there, and the offense puts receivers and backs and we have a skeleton practice. Then we go 11-on-11. OK, let's say when we do that. On average, when we do that, let's say out of 10 throws during those drills, let's say Drew is eight out of 10 . . . Those figures aren't exactly accurate, I'm just trying to give you the picture . . . If those figures are true, that he's eight out of 10, invariably Xavier would be five or six out of 10 - not as consistent. He'd miss that easy throw. He threw it 5 yards over his head. He threw behind him. He did this. He did that. So those are the things I look for in that tower.
When I see somebody hitting everybody, then he's about ready to go. Now last week when he practiced by himself, did he do that? No, but he did a lot better.
Since you aren't playing for a conference championship, what will you focus on with this team in terms of motivation for the rest of the season?
Bowden: Well, still trying to complete the season on a winning note. We've got four games at home now, then down at the end of it you've got one of the best football teams in the country coming in. Wouldn't it be great if you could win games and then play great in that ballgame? So, again, there's still enough down there to motivate you to want to play hard. And that's the one thing our kids have done . . . they've played hard every down up until the last minute. They did it last night, but that's not the first time they did it. They also did it against Clemson. They did it against N.C. State. They did it against Boston College, which also beat us. So it's encouraging to me that they've kept their heads up and next year we will have our team back, plus some of those guys who are in the hospital. That's encouraging . . . I can't stand that . . . 'wait until next year' deal but, who knows, it could happen next week.
In the past when you've lost there has been criticism against either Jeff or the quarterback, but this year there seems to be more directed at you. Does that disappoint you considering everything you've done for the program?
Bowden: Oh, I guess I'm going to have to dangle Jeff out there a little bit more. I need to get the hook back in his mouth and dangle him out there. 'Don't get after me. Get after Jeffery.'
If I had been coaching only 10 years, all that might bother .. But I've been through this . . . I went through it at West Virginia. I went through this in '82, '83, '84, '85, I went through it then. My fourth year here we were undefeated. My fifth year we played in the Orange Bowl and went to our first two major bowls. Everybody thought we were on our way. Then the next five years, we struggled. Well, people didn't like it then. Like I said, I've been through this before. It's part of the game.
Do I like it? No, I don't think anybody likes it, but that's not going to change.
The guy that gets maligned is Jeffery. That is ridiculous. Here, last night, we had twice the offense as Maryland, and Coach (Ralph) Friedgen is recognized as one of the finest offensive coordinators in the country, and I agree with it - he is. But the most maligned in the country is Jeff. If he wasn't my son, it wouldn't be happening.
Have you looked at the blocked field goal and seen what went wrong?
Bowden: I sure did. I looked at it over and over. It looked like they . . . We had to kick it at a left angle because we were on the right hash . . . They got a little penetration over there. A little penetration, and the guy got his hand up, and our kicker had to hang it in that line. It could be that we didn't kick it high enough. Now that just shows you the importance of grounding that ball. When we grounded that ball, not only did we lose a down, but it set us back 15 more yards (Lee was sacked for 8 yards, and FSU was assessed a 5-yard penalty and a loss of down when he tried to throw it away as he was being tackled). Normally, the further you have to kick it, the lower you have to kick it to get it there. It could be that our kicker didn't get it up as high. There's no doubt he didn't get it up as high as he should have. But the guy got his hand on it.
You know, the star of the game was No. 40 (Jeremy Navarre). He's the guy that broke through on our fourth-and-1 and stopped it and he's the one who got his hand on the ball on that blocked kick. I saw him make other key plays, too.
There would be kicks that we've made in the past where we would have gotten it up higher and over that guy. That one we probably were a little bit low with it. The only thing is the film I looked at, none of them were ground level where I could really judge the height of the kick. I did see some penetration from their No. 40. We should have gotten it higher or we should have kept him out better.
Gary Cismesia had been on a roll. Do you think that having it blocked will affect him?
Bowden: No, I don't think it will more than the Penn State game did where he missed an extra point and field goal in overtime. That just comes with the territory.
Like all learning experiences, we'll learn. Maybe our guy that let that guy get a little bit of penetration might learn something.
You mentioned the problems with the kicking game being the primary reason you lost to Maryland, but you've had problems in other games with either the offense or defense. With that lack of consistency in any one area, does that cause you concern that the players might start to either lose confidence or try to do too much and lose their focus in these last four games?
Bowden: Again, I haven't recognized that. Our kids keep fighting. Our kids keep coming back. It's not like we fold up tent in the middle of the third. We didn't fold up the tent the other night when we were down 20-7. It looked like they had momentum and just might kill us, but we came back and scored. We kept doing it all night. We've done it most of the year . . . I haven't seen any indication of that. I just see us . . . I look out there on the field, and I might not catch it until I watch film, but I look out there on a punt and I see walk-ons covering punts. I see offensive players covering punts. Where did they learn how to tackle? Why? Because we have to; we've got to have speed. But if they don't tackle when they go down there, it's inconsistent. Then I look at our defensive . . . four dadgum freshmen. Four freshmen. Did you see us miss that open-field tackle where we would have hit the guy for about a six-yard loss, but we didn't get it under control, we missed him, and they get a first down. Then we get a penalty for a face mask. Those are things that freshmen do. It's hard enough to cover one up. When you've got to cover four of them up, I'm amazed that Mickey (Andrews) and them can do it.
You went for it on fourth down on the first drive of the second half, but I was wondering, was there any thought of an on-side kick after Greg Carr caught the touchdown pass at the end of the first half and Maryland was penalized 15 yards so that you were kicking off from the 50?
Bowden: We talk about that, but it could be that they get the ball on the 55 . . . Well, there ain't no 55 . . . but now they are in position to do something, you know. Most of the times I think people go ahead and kick it out of the end zone and put them on the 20 so they don't have time to score.
Tomorrow you will go to the booster luncheon. Do you anticipate a lot of those folks will ask whether Xavier is going to start? That his performance puts him in that spot.
Bowden: Oh yeah, they're going to have some fun with that. You'll have followers, or fans, of all of them. You've got to be sure you don't let that affect your judgment as a coach, letting fan popularity allow you to decide who is going to start. We've got to see what is best now?
This is what I debated with our coaches when they told me they felt like we should start Xavier. I said, 'Now hold it. Now this is before I talked to the doctors and they substantiated what my coaches were saying. If Xavier goes in there and has a bad day and we get way behind, how are we going to put a crippled quarterback in there and expect him to get us back in it and pull it off. Now, if you start Drew, and he can't do it, if he can't move good enough, it's very obvious he can't do it . . . Now you can come in there with Xavier and you've got nothing to lose. I told them, 'Now y'all be thinking about that, and we'll decide after warm ups . . . Meanwhile, I talked to the doctor and he recommended that we hold Drew out if we could.
The fact that you are losing close games, does it tell you anything about this team?
Bowden: Well, what if we had lost by 40, 50, 30 and 25, would that tell you something?
Is losing close the silver lining?
Bowden: Does that make me happy? Oh no, I'm not happy. We've got four losses. We've got four losses. But again, I'm realistic enough. Don't cut your wrists. Don't throw your team away. Don't sell them out. One of these days . . . What I told them last night playing Maryland, I said, 'Men, this is the game we've got to turn it around. This is the game we've got to turn it around.' Well, we got beat. But dadgum, we fought it through. Now next week . . . Somewhere along the line, this group is going to do it. I don't want to wait until next year. I want to do it this year. That's the motivating thing. These kids are very attentive. We've just got too many on crutches right now that can't come out and contribute.
You haven't been able to force as many turnovers as in the past. I believe in three of your four losses, you didn't force any.
Bowden: It's killing us. It's killing us. All you've got to do . . . .I said a while ago that the kicking game lost the game, and there's no doubt about it. But the one thing you've got to have is turnovers. If we don't give Boston College that pass for a touchdown. If we don't give Boston College that roughing the punter. And if we don't give Boston College that fumble where they get it on the one, they don't beat us. Now you take the one fumble we had the other night, (Maryland) took it and scored. We didn't get a single fumble. We didn't get any kind of field position, you know. That hurts. But again, you've got so many guys out on defense hurt that they are having a hard enough time just lining up and playing football. That is, we are way down in the statistics when it comes to turnovers.
How much does the inexperience and youth on defense contribute to that lack of turnover production?
Bowden: Big, big, big, big. Big. They don't know when to grab the interception instead of the tackle . . . They don't know when to scoop up a ball and run with it rather than dive on it. There are so many things like that, they haven't learned it yet. But it will come. They've got talent to learn it with. I'm encouraged.
Would you have to go back to your first season to find a team that had such a small margin for error? You almost have to play nearly flawlesss every week to win because there always seems to be one element keeping you from winning.
Bowden: We've had it a little more recently. There were some of those years we were so superior you could get by with that mistake. There were some of those years we were so superior we could get 12 penalties and still win, you know. Now it's too tight. Maybe it would not have been as tight if Hayes hadn't gotten hurt, if (Derek) Nicholson hadn't gotten hurt, if (Jae) Thaxton hadn't gotten hurt, if so and so hadn't gotten hurt. If (Anthony) Houllis hadn't gotten hurt . . .. If Paul Griffin, if Emmanuel Dunbar .. We'd have had to have been better. Instead, we are getting a lot of experience. Ol' Budd Thacker is a pure freshman that we thought we would redshirt. Losing (Alex) Boston to a tackle where he ought to be at an end. There's no telling what we would have done.
But I guess that's a song sung throughout the country because everybody in the country isn't winning right now.
With all the excitement over what Xavier did, does this loss seem different than the other three?
Bowden: I think in each game you see things happen that either leave a bad taste in your mouth or a good taste. I had more good taste left in my mouth last night than I did bad. When I looked at the film today I saw something I didn't realize the other night. We had the heck kicked out of us in the kicking game. When we had the wind, we utilized it. When they had to go into the wind, that's when they made their darn plays. That's when we should have been stopping them. That's when they drove for a touchdown. That's when something else happened. . . We had the wind and punted and they nearly ran it back for a touchdown instead of us punting it way back there, pinning them back there, and making them fight their way out. Let us get one of those short 25 yard punts. Instead, there guy nearly broke it all the way for a touchdown, brought it way down to our 25 or 30. That's when I looked at that film to see who is missing those tackles, and I could say, 'Well, I understand now.' We've got some guys out there and these young me can't tackle very well.
Is punting, not just the coverage, something you want to look at after having so many short kicks?
Bowden: No, that was wind. That was the wind. That was the wind, man. How much have we ever practiced in the wind? Where can we go to practice in the wind? That wind, the higher you kick it the further it's coming back to you.
Their guy did a little bit better than ours, not a whole lot better, but he did a little better.
At 4-4, you are getting to uncharted territory as far as your record this late in the season. Do you think it will impact recruiting?
Bowden: It will be normal. It will be normal. We'll recruit another good group. A lot of people may not understand that, maybe your opponents will try to use it against you, but it don't work. We know better. Recruiting is a funny thing.
Sometimes you can be so good that nobody wants to come to your school because they don't think they can play. 'That team has so many good players I ain't going there because I won't get to play.' At the same time, there's another team not doing as well, and they need tackles, and if I'm a tackle I'm going to go there where they need me. So really, the record doesn't affect it that much. There might be one kid that is a front-runner who may decide . . . 'You are in the top 10, so I'm going to your school.' There are a few front-runners out there. Most of them want to go some place where they know they can play and so forth.
In this state, if there were only 20 good players out there, you'd say you have your hands full (trying to recruit). But there happens to be a hundred and nobody can get them all, so you are going to get good players.
Let's say this state has 10 outstanding receivers, maybe more. Let's say we only graduate but one wideout so we can only sign one. Let's say Florida can't sign but one because they've got all theirs coming back. Let's say Miami can sign three. Well, that's five receivers. What about those other five? Somebody is going to get them, and they might end up better than the ones you took. We've had that happen before, both ways. Who would have thought Greg Carr would be a star? That's what you've got in the state of Florida.
We'll recruit like we always do and we'll probably do good as we always do. We won't be able to sign a lot of numbers this year because we don't lose hardly any people. But that recruiting thing is . . . It's not like if you are winning you will get all the good ones and if you are losing, you won't.
If Xavier is the starter, seeing as how you said you'd like to see him run a little more, will that figure into your game plan? Will you add things to take advantage of that?
Bowden: You want me to give Virginia our game plan? No, yeah you would try to expand it.
When you hear some of the things like 'Coach should retire' does that almost make you want to stay in there and prove people wrong?
Bowden: It does. And yet, I also have enough pride that I don't want to stay here and do something I shouldn't be doing. I just can't convince myself yet that I can't do it. I've always followed Joe Paterno pretty closely, and three or four years ago they were ripping ol' Joe to pieces, and ripping his son to pieces, and I'm kind of using that as a guideline. Look Bobby you are going to get the same thing. If you don't win, you are going to get the same thing. Then Joe comes back last year and wins the Big Ten and comes within one play of being undefeated and maybe playing for the national championship . . . My goal is to win national championships. I also know I can't last forever. I know it’s not meant for me to last forever in this business. I’m doing my best to keep my eye on it.
Now does it make me mad and upset me when people talk who are committed or interested in Florida State … Oh, I wish it wouldn’t happen but I know that’s the way it is. It’s that way and in ain’t going to change. I learned that so long ago it’s unbelievable.
Coach Paterno did make some pretty dramatic changes to his staff before the `11-1 season. At this point, have you decided anything along those lines when you get to the end of the season?
Bowden: No, sure haven’t. What did he do, just kick somebody out and get rid of them. Is that what you do? … Does somebody have to be sacrificed? I don’t do that. I don’t do that. I’ve got nine coaches. We all win. We all lose.
How did Jae Thaxton do?
Bowden: You know, I was watching the film, and he was doing good, then I didn’t see him any more. I don’t know if he got hurt again or what happened. So I’ve got to find that out in the morning when I meet with the trainer.
One of the writers mentioned to me that they didn’t see him at the end of the game. It could be he got dinged up.
Is this what you expected out of Chris Davis. The last two weeks he’s really looked strong.
Bowden: I did… I hope we get (De’Cody) Fagg back too.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Posted by tallynolefan at 12:01 PM