Here is what Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher had to say about his upcoming game against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship.
Will Jermaine be able to go? Yeah, Jermaine will not play.
How about Ty Jones? He is doing good, banged up, so we will see. He will have to nurse it through.
Will we see Lonnie at running back? Yeah, Lonnie is going to be back there, and then you got to work Dunham at fullback and do some things back there. Him and Debrale (Smiley), we have got to get those other guys ready to play.
You mentioned teams can only have so many highs during a season. Are you worried about coming off an emotional high of beating Florida? No. I have always said one of the toughest things is the way the schedule is for Florida and Florida State, and if you are going into a conference championship game the very next week coming off of a game that is not a conference game, but is so meaningful and then you have to come right back and play another meaningful game the next week I think is very tough. You have to deal with the hand your dealt, and I don’t think our kids know because they are so hungry for success and they are proud of what they’re doing, confident in what they’re doing and where our team is and the way they carries itself I think we will be ready to play.
They will be ready to practice and play, because I have said all along that our team has practiced well all year. They have come to work every day, and that is what I like more about this team than anything, it comes to work and it doesn’t get too high and doesn’t get too low. I think they will be ready to play come Saturday. I feel very confident in that.
Is this the most efficient you have been this season? Yes, because we were focused. We had the same opportunities the past couple of weeks, but we didn’t finish them, but we were focused in this game. We were focused and we executed. When you focus you have detail, when you have detail you have execution, and I thought we were tough. My definition of tough is having the ability to focus no matter the situation, and I think they did it for 60 minutes and stayed into the ball game knowing they had to play well and they did it in run, pass and protection.
When guys get to where they are supposed to get to, run good routes, then you see what you can do and we protect the guy standing back there is pretty dog-gone good. We were able to run. I thought we ran the ball effectively. We didn’t run up great numbers, but we ran it for short yards, we ran it goal line, we ran in the red zone and we ran it the last four minutes of the ball game. That is when you go to run. The other times you pick and choose, and we were inches from breaking a couple big ones, but when you play good teams that is how it is, but we were able to create plays in the passing game and be efficient in all phases.
What was the main reason the passing game was able to click so much? Ran routes the right way. Got to where we belong. You laugh, but that is exactly right. I said it last week. The ball went out of bounds last week to Rodney Smith. He is supposed to go three steps, three steps and then to the corner. He goes two steps and then runs to the sideline. Guess what? Ball is going out of bounds. Bert Reed is supposed to run an eight step flag in the end zone at the end of the route. He runs six steps and goes out. Guess what? The ball is going to be out of bounds, you ran the route to quick. You run a jail break screen, you are supposed to have split at the bottom of the numbers, but instead you’re inside the number. You are supposed to go three steps slow and inside and be outside the tackle. Instead you are standing over the guard where there is a rushing guy and the ball is on your back shoulder.
You get to where you are supposed to get to he will get you the ball. That is what I have said all along. He will miss a throw or two, even on Taiwan’s route last week when he got spun around, it was high, but Taiwan is supposed to run a five step route and he runs a three step route, so when he turns he is inside quicker and he has to hurry, the ball goes high, and he gets banged up. They ran where they were supposed to run, they got the depth where they were supposed to run to, and we protected extremely well. That was the best pass protection game we have had all year, by far. We protected well, indentified blitzes, and got to where we had to go. We were efficient and so we moved the football.
It sounds like you are a little frustrated with the two junior receivers (Reed and Easterling)? No, I am not frustrated. It’s just what they are, physically. They are slot guys. The big guys are outside. Usually your speed guys are playing slot and the size guys are outside. You can make a case that all the success they (Reed and Easterling) have had here are when they are in the slot. They did some good things outside, but primarily they are slot guys, and that is where their strength is. The quick routes, the option routes, doing all those crossing routes on the inside, getting on a backer, which is their strength. So, you are asking them to do things that in positions that wasn’t their strength. It wasn’t their fault, because they had to wait until the other guys matured so they could go back inside. Now they can play outside, and there are certain things they do well, but primarily you lined them up and said where you are going to play them, you would play them in the slot while the other guys developed outside.
I wasn’t frustrated with them; it was just part of where I knew we needed to grow. I kept trying to explain that to you guys, but you kept wanting to create other reasons for what is happening and I was trying to tell you that we were an immature football team on offense this year. Because of maturity out wide, of what we had to do and Beau Reliford has really started to immerge as a player too. Now, we have that weapon again, because Caz was a very sound player last year you forgot about, because he has developed into a player. Then you had those offensive line issues, because you had guys playing that were not playing. They haven’t played, Henry (Orelus) and all those guys were getting one on one protection, and they had to get beat a few times to learn how to block.
Henry, Stork, Rhonne and those guys, they have emerged and I am proud of them. I am extremely proud of how they went through and how they have developed. They are getting better, but still have a long way to go, but as we are starting to play with better consistency, now we are starting to throw the ball and with certain teams being so big upfront and they stack the box, you have to create plays in the passing game, and we will continue to run it because we want to have balance. You can bank on that.
How important is it, with so many guys coming back, to win a game like this and play for the ACC title? It’s huge. To understand the environment, and not just how to play in it, but how to prepare for it. The expectations, the mindset, and the way you look at things, the ability to understand you have the ability to play at this level. The expectation level, the confidence level, which is the key to help them grow in these situations. To understand and expect to be in these situations. Not hope to be, but expect to be, that is the motivation you have all offseason, and then you set the standard for them so when the new guys come in all they do is watch the older guys. Then you grow and start to develop a program. Right now we are still a team. We have to keep developing the program, and that takes a little bit more time. We are a team right now, and that is a good team and I am proud of our team, but a program sustains it for a period of time and they have people ahead of them to learn from. That takes a couple more years as they keep going on. We have to keep developing the program in where we are going, and I think this is what allows them to do, and allows us to do.
How big was the play Ochuko Jenijie made on special teams to prevent that fake punt? Jenijie and Justin Bright both recognized that play and making that play on that fake punt was critical. The other big play in that game to me, was Mike Harris interception, because now they go back to a two score game, we are in the redzone and they have the ball coming back in the second half to get it to a one score game and then you are back in a dog fight. Those two plays, in my opinion, were critical in that football game. Jenijie, what his role as a teammate, a team leader, as a team player, I have the upmost respect for Ochuko Jenijie. I think he is a complete person, and I think in 5, 10, 15 years you will look back and say look what that guy is doing. It will not shock me one bit how successful he will be as a person. For what he stands for and what he does, and that to me he signifies the unselfishness we went into this year with and the various sacrifices that the coaches have asked them to do and whatever the role is. That play was huge in that ball game.
Can you talk about Rodney Hudson and how good he has been? Phenomenal. I will tell you he is different because he is not the huge guy that mauls you. He is a quick guy that is athletic, but he does have power and speed. The thing about Rodney Hudson is that he loves football. He loves everything about football. He loves the toughness issue, the practice issue, the weight lifting issues, and the studying film issue. He is the guy that stands there when Coach Trickett says hey someone get over there of defense. He is an All American and does everything in the world. He is first guy that to pick up the bag, run on the other side and hold it there for the second team guy to block him. How many guys do you know that does that? Especially a senior and All American. He will run over there and Trickett will yell get out of there, and get someone else get in there. He doesn’t do it for show. We are working. That kid’s work ethic is, I talk about Christian all the time, but his work ethic is unbelievable. McMahon has a great work ethic too, but boy Rodney Hudson is just one of those guys that come around every so often that’s just very rare. He is a pure football player and loves every aspect of it.
On ACC Championship Game: I’m very excited to bring our team to Charlotte. We’re looking forward to this great opportunity to be able to play Virginia Tech. I’m very proud of our kids and what they’ve persevered through during the year. We had a great win against one of our arch rivals in Florida. It was very good for our seniors to have an emotional win in their last game at Doak Campbell, to play so well against a great rival.
They know to put that behind them because we have such a great opponent ahead of us. We hope to come to Charlotte and play well and represent our division. So we’re looking forward to the challenge.
Jimbo, I was just curious what the scene was like after your game. I believe it was over with, and you guys – I mean, did you all sit around in the locker room and watch the end of the Maryland game or what? Just tell me how that went down: We actually didn’t. We actually didn’t. We were concentrating on the Florida game. When someone informed me of the score with two minutes to go, I think Maryland was up 14, but NC State was driving – They said, they may score. I told the kids, there’s an opportunity we may be playing in the next game. We’ll have to wait and see. We’ll worry about that later.
We went on with our press conferences, and right at the end, there was a bunch of guys sitting around in the players locker room. I was on the radio show, and maybe 20 or 30 of them were sitting and watching the end of the game. They were all very excited about the Florida game. I told them our motto is control what you can control. That was something they couldn’t control. They watched as much as they could anyway.
I’m curious, in a situation like that, do you call Ralph or text him? Do you tell him thanks for helping us out? I was going to. I didn’t have a chance today. We had a bunch of recruits this morning. I’m going to definitely have to tell Ralph thank you. They played a great ball game. Ralph’s done a great job this year.
This is kind of a follow-up to the question I was going to ask you before that. I was going to ask you, you guys are going to vote Ralph coach of the year award for the ACC. Seriously, Virginia Tech’s had a hard time over the years with Florida State. Although they were favored five years ago, they were ranked fifth in the nation, and Florida State beat them. Is there a psychology that gets involved sometimes in these kinds of ball games? I think for each team it can if you let it. Each team has its own way of handling things. I know Frank’s been around a long time, and he’s a heck of a football coach. He’ll handle his well, and hopefully we’ll handle ours.
With some of those yards, we’re going to have to establish them on our own. I think that’s up to each individual team. Those guys on our team, except for Christian, a couple years ago I remember playing against Virginia Tech, but not a lot of guys on our team have played against them. I don’t know if it will carry on or not.
You did beat them here. Was that two years ago? I think it was three years ago. Think it was Christian’s sophomore year. I can’t remember. It had to be. I think it was. Oh, wait. I think you are right. Some of our seniors did play on that game. That was a great ball game, by the way, that was decided late. We played very well in that ball game, toward the end.
That’s always been a great rivalry, though. The games have always been close, I know that.
Jimbo, obviously taking over for Bobby Bowden is not an easy task, but you seem to have managed it pretty well. How has this season gone, according to your expectations and the realistic goals that you had set coming into it? Did you exceed them? Have you surprised yourself? No, I don’t think we’ve exceeded them. I think this goal here is very attainable. We felt that going into the season.
But the goal that I’m the most happy about is the way our kids have dealt with all the things that come with being a new program, new schedule, the attitude. Our attitude has been wonderful. Our practice habits have been super. And our kids’ ability to deal with adversity and now deal with success have been better.
I think maybe you have to learn to deal with both, but I like how our kids have kept a great even keel and learned to move on to the next week and play one game at a time. Their attitude and work ethic is the big thing I’m extremely happy about. I was hoping we could get it done this year, and sometimes it takes a couple years. For the most part, I think that’s the biggest goal I’m most excited about.
When you came in, you were able to win right away. Does that take pressure off of you or set the bar higher moving forward? I think at Florida State the bar is always high. That’s what you’re expected. That’s one of the reasons this is such a great job. I think it takes it off in the part they realize that our staff and the things we’re doing do work and we can have success. Hopefully, that will bring in more recruits and more things.
The bottom line is you’ve got to win anyway. That’s the name of the game. And hopefully it will just help us move in the direction and have the confidence and the expectation to win, like our players do.