Q&A: Savannah State's Steve Davenport

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
9:00
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There are plenty of football coaches around the country who woke up Sunday morning with memories of an ugly Week 1 performance still lingering, but no one had it worse than Savannah State head coach Steve Davenport.

His team fell to Oklahoma State by the score of 84-0, and it was only that close because the Cowboys pulled their starters in the second quarter.

It was ugly, and Davenport knows his program, which has won just 12 games in the last five years, was in no position to handle the defending Big 12 champions.

But Davenport's Sunday didn't end with watching the game tape of his team's epic beating. After that was finished, he got a chance to flip on the game tape of Florida State, his Week 2 opponent.

No coach in the country will have a tougher job of rallying his troops this week, and we caught up with Davenport to see how he plans to do it, what he expects from his team against FSU, and what he saw in the Seminoles' 69-3 win over Murray State in Week 1.

NoleNation: Well, first off, how's your team -- physically and mentally -- after Saturday's game?

Davenport: Health-wise, we're decent. We have one kid who suffered a concussion who has been ruled out (CB Javon Moore). Those things that happened, that's part of the game, part of football. … That was the only big injury, and other than that we're as healthy as we can be.

Mentally, we'll find out. Sometimes, your fortitude is tested, and ours was certainly tested in Stillwater, and as you well know, we have just as tough a venue coming in Tallahassee. It'll be interesting. You find out a lot about kids. You find out a lot about yourself when you go through tough times. That was certainly a tough time we've got to get over, and I don't expect Florida State to feel sorry or any empathy for us. They're going to go out and try to win a football game, just as we are.

It is what it is, and we've put that one on the shelf, so to speak. I watched it on Sunday, and I learned whatever there was to learn from it. We had an opportunity to make some plays we didn't make. That's football, but we've got to make those plays this week and give a better showing of ourselves. I think that's the one driving point for our kids is, 'Hey, we're better than that.' At least we think we are. And we have another opportunity to go out and prove we're a step above what we showed.

NN: What did you say to your kids after that game was over?

Davenport: You always want to hold judgment as a coach until you've seen the film, but the one thing that stood out to me watching our guys Saturday was that they kept playing. On that last drive, we had one of our safeties make two or three great plays, and that's what we wanted as a football staff. We felt like our kids would play as hard as you can play until the clock hit zero, and don't worry about anything but that. In certain instances, we felt like we got that.

The reality was that those guys were a cut above. They were bigger, stronger, faster than we were. I think if we were playing a little seven-on-seven gig, we might have had a better chance to be competitive, but the game of football is won and lost up front -- and up front, we got beat up pretty good. The reality is we're a young and growing program, and we feel like the future is going to be bright here. But we've got to go through the rolls and bumps and bruises, and we're on that path now.

NN: In the wake of that loss, more than a few pundits have argued that these games should't be played, that they're bad for college football, endanger the kids, and don't provide much entertainment for fans. On the other hand, you're trying to build a program and these games provide finances to do that. What's your take?

Davenport: I think you've got to consider where you are as a program when you do those kind of things. But up until kickoff, our kids were as excited as they could be. They were in one of the fabulous college football venues, and they're going to be at another one this week. When Chief Osceola runs out with that spear and plants it in the middle of Doak Campbell Stadium, that's one of the most exciting times in college football, and for our kids to be able to experience that, there's a level of appreciation for that.

But as you say, there's a reality of -- can you really compete? I would venture to say that you've got to try to drive your program to get to that. I'm not one who would say that should be outlawed or relegated to just Division I against Division I. There's some Division I-AA programs that can go out and give quality showings of themselves against some Division I programs. Savannah State's goal is to get to that level. It may be a necessary evil in terms of playing those games to get the revenue base to build the program.

It's one of those cart-before-the-horse kinds of things. It's something that's necessary to do if you're going to get competitive, and if they take away the ability to do it, then how competitive can you get? Those are questions that people brighter than me and above my pay scale ought to be talking about. From my perspective as a head coach of a I-AA program, our kids look forward to the opportunity to go and be in those venues, and they're looking forward to going down to Tallahassee as well.

NN: After Florida State's win Saturday, Murray State coach Chris Hatcher said the Seminoles had one of the best defenses he's seen. What did you see on film as you prepared for this week's game?

Davenport: I got in about 4:30 Sunday morning from Stillwater. I took a little nap and got in about 10, 10:30 on Sunday and put on Florida State, and it was the proverbial frying-pan-into-the-fire kind of deal.

They are outstanding. I saw where (Brandon Jenkins) may be out for the season, which is a blow to those guys, but the other two guys looked just as good as him from my perspective. They're really good, really fast, really physical. And they're mean. When they get there, they get there with purpose.

We'll have those concerns again about leaving Doak [Campbell] healthy. We've got every goal we've set for our season still before us. It doesn't matter about this game. Neither one of those games are even mentioned on our goals we set as a staff or as a football team. Our season is ahead of us, and we feel really positive about our ability to be in the MEAC and compete, so we're looking forward to that. But Florida State is a really, really good football program, and it didn't take me watching film to know that. We're looking forward to being in the venue once again, but obviously we've got a tough task ahead of us.

NN: So if your goals are all down the road still, what would constitute a success for you this Saturday?

Davenport: Reality, we want to survive. I want to walk out of there with all my guys healthy -- mentally as well as physically -- and get ready for the season. Obviously, the ultimate dream of getting away from there is with a win, but anything short of that, we want to make sure we survive, make sure we're mentally prepared for the season that's ahead of us.

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