But mere seconds, not minutes, but mere seconds later he would also say, "But our focus now will move quickly, as in right-now-tonight-when-I-go-home, to our coming opponent."
* The common application after a game is the 24-hour rule, which is the length Fitzgerald allows for enjoying a win or lamenting a loss. But here, when asked about it, he said, "It's already over."
For just him or his players as well?
"More for the staff."
* The 'Cats now stand 6-5. Back in 2007, that season the current fifth-year seniors were true freshmen, they finished 6-6, but were spurned by the bowls. "So we know what we have left to do," said one of those fifth-years, running back Jacob Schmidt. "Six wins doesn't guarantee you anything. We learned that lesson. So we've got to work our butts off this week. If we can get to seven, then we're guaranteed to go somewhere and hopefully somewhere warm. So we're going to move on pretty quickly."
"I am. I'm sure the whole team is," said another fifth-year, safety Brian Peters. "We're still not satisfied as a team. Six wins is cool. Yeah, we're bowl eligible. But we're going for seven and Sparty stands in our way."
* That is Sparty as in Michigan State, which has already assured itself the Legends Division title. "They've won our side. They won it with a week to play. That'll tell you how good Michigan State is," Fitzgerald said of the team that visits Ryan Field next Saturday. "This is our Big Ten championship game."
* The game with the Gophs, in contrast, was much like a preliminary round a team must survive in order to reach a tournament final. The 'Cats handled it, just as it handled the previous week's affair with Rice, in business-like fashion. They scored on their first three possessions, mucked around a bit through the second and third quarters, then closed out with a pair of drives that ate up 10:56 of the final 15:40. "We," said Schmidt accurately, "showed we could finish strong and overcome our own doings."
* The Gophers methodically marched to a touchdown on its first possession and, on the day, rolled up 269 net rushing yards. But, for the third consecutive week, the 'Cat defense was stout and responded when needed. After quarterback Dan Persa threw an interception early in the second quarter, it stiffened and held the Gophs to a field goal. After the Gophs drove 55 yards with the opening kickoff of the second half, safety Brian Peters forced and then recovered a fumble. After running back Treyvon Green fumbled away a handoff later in the third quarter, Peters collected a deflection in the end zone to kill off one more Gopher drive. Then, in the fourth quarter, they limited Minnesota to just a field goal. "The defense showed up and won the game for us again," Persa would later say. He was correct.
* Peters broke his hand in the first quarter of the 'Cats' win over Nebraska, but he has played on and on Saturday was nothing short of a tyro both on the field and off. Of the fumble he caused and then recovered, he said, "I didn't wrap up that play, which is a bad thing. I actually missed the tackle, but hit the ball (with his head), so it worked out. Then it was sitting between my legs. I was trying to hold onto it while these guys were ripping at it. I only had one arm, so it was fun. Some words were exchanged."
Then, of his interception, he said, "I'm pretty sure (safety) Ibraheim (Campbell) should have caught it. But it played off his face mask, popped in the air and I ran to it and cradled it."
Finally, of his unit's improved play, he said, "The five-week slump we went through, a lot of that was defense. We gave up plays and we didn't execute and tackle like we should have, and you're going to get beat if you do that. When we come to play, we're a good team across the board because our offense is going to put up points no matter what. So it falls on our shoulders."
* This was not, to be honest, an award-winning, five-star smash performance by his defense, which was gouged too often by the runs of Gopher quarterback MarQueis Gray (147 yards) and running back Duane Bennett (127). But, in (again) business-like fashion, they limited the damage caused by their breakdowns and catalyzed a victory. "They just firmly committed to it," Fitzgerald said when asked about the Gophs' rushing success. "And when you've got a quarterback like MarQueis, how many of those yards were after he had someone on him and they broke? That's what I'll look at tomorrow. I'm going to assume it's over 100 yards. With that being said, we gave up over 100 yards on broken plays. So I'm not going to lose sleep over that. I'd like the guys to tackle, obviously. But he's 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. The kid's a great football player. So. The most important stat you see is we had 28 (points) and they had 13. We can psychoanalyze everything if you want. But the most important stat is we won."
"We still had a lot of mistakes. Some runs creased us, we gave up some passes we usually don't give up," Peters would echo minutes later. "But we competed and that's all that matters. We competed and won a game. The hardest thing to do on a Saturday is win a football game and we did that."
* And finally, Fitzgerald, when asked if getting bowl eligible had been talked about by the 'Cats: "For the last month, yeah, yeah, absolutely. We put ourselves in a position by the way we played early (where) we knew our backs were to the wall and the only way we were going to get to where we wanted to be was fight our way out of it. The credit, as always, goes to our young men. They've been out there playing their tails off, especially the seniors. . . It's amazing. You work, I guess, 11 weeks, and then you go back all the way through fall camp, summer workouts, spring ball, winter workouts, and it comes down to one week. I guess we have a flair for the dramatic."