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    Northwestern vs. Rice Post Game Quotes



    Nov. 12, 2011

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    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald Quotes
    Opening Statement
    "It's a very business-like performance by our guys. We had the right focus all week, we prepared properly and we came out and had a really solid plan. We weren't sure quite how they were going to defend us, so we had to do a little adjusting there in the first couple sets offensively. Once we saw they were going to load the box we would take advantage by throwing the football. What a day for Jeremy Ebert.

    "Then same thing by our defense. Our defense is really starting to come into its own and starting to gain confidence. They're playing much better-having 11 heartbeats play as one. Now as we move forward, there is a huge challenge for us this week. [Minnesota head coach] Jerry Kill is a gentleman I have the utmost respect for. While he was at Northern [Illinois], we were really close. We continue to be really close. He knows me well, I know him well. I've got the utmost respect for the way his teams have always played.

    "We're happy and proud for our senior class; becoming the all-time winningest senior class in program history today on our home field is pretty special. To have that happen with three games moving forward is something pretty special. We have a lot of work to do and we are looking forward to getting back on the field and getting back to work with the guys."

    On the unpredictability of Rice's defense...
    "Well, we're out of conference so [there is] an unfamiliarity with how they might defend us. We know how they defended us a year ago but that was early. Chuck [Driesbach] and his staff do a great job there defensively. It didn't go how they wanted it to at Houston, but you could see how they were able to eliminate Houston early and then it got away from them a little bit. So we've got a ton of respect. Coach Bailiff and I spent a lot of time sharing the No. 1 graduation rate award together. He's a great man, great coach and they've got a great staff. I thought we adjusted well and 73 plays for 533 is pretty good."

    On the potential to be bowl-eligible...
    "There's a lot of ways to motivate your guys, and yeah, you better believe it's out there. I was here back in the day when we didn't do that. We have an expectation here in the way that we should play, we have an expectation with the way we should prepare, and we have an expectation for the postseason. We didn't get it done in the month of October, but we're fighting, scratching, and clawing to make this a November to remember. We've got a lot of work to do this week; we're playing a very talented team this Saturday. It's going to be great to be back here at home."

    Northwestern Player Quotes
    WR Demetrius Fields
    On being one game away from being bowl eligible...?
    "I mean, that's the main goal now. We're taking it one game at a time, but that's definitely where we want to be in the future and this game allowed us to get closer to that goal. We're taking it day-by-day because we have stepping stones to get to that point."

    On how helpful the defense's performance is for the offense...
    "I think it's very helpful, especially when you see the struggles we've had throughout this season. When we see that the defense has stepped it up to a higher level, it just gives us more motivation to go out and do what we need to do. It definitely helps when our [offense] is not executing at the high level that we should be."

    WR Jeremy Ebert
    On his one-handed catch...
    "I don't know. It just kind of happened. Dan [Persa] made a great throw, and I was able to come down with it. I saw it, but the wind was throwing it over my other shoulder. I kind of ended up being a ballerina out there."

    On long touchdown catches the past two games...
    "It's awesome. I haven't been able to do that since high school. It's a pretty surreal feeling to just be running with only green grass in front of you."

    QB Dan Persa
    On his injured shoulder...
    "It's all right, hanging in there, it's still attached. It feels good to not have to go for an MRI or an X-ray (after a game) for once." On wide receiver Jeremy Ebert... "When you have special receivers, you can just throw the ball up and let them make a play on it. I think we did a great job of that all day. I think the comfort we have attests to all the preparation we've put in over the past couple years. We know what each other's thinking, we watch a lot of film and go through a lot of stuff in the summer together." On the team's recent success... "I don't really think there's that big of a difference, we still turned the ball over too much today but we made some big plays when it mattered. I think obviously the difference in our team is in the defense-hands down. They've really stepped it up the past couple of weeks and they're the reason why we're winning now." On becoming winningest senior class in school history... "It's special. We're real proud of it but at the same time we realize we've got a pretty good opportunity to finish the season the right way and we're more focused on that then being the all-time leaders in wins."

    LB David Nwabuisi
    On Dan Persa's comment that the defense, not offense, is responsible for the past wins...
    "I disagree with that. Whenever your offense puts up 28 points a game, it's up to the defense to make sure they [other team] don't put up more than 28 points. He's [Persa] being modest. The offense is definitely doing their job out there. It's definitely a team effort." On defense's improvement the last couple of games...
    "Everybody is learning their job and playing hard, and with more passion. A lot of guys are making plays and we're all having a lot more fun out there."

    On Coach Fitzgerald's comment that the defense was overthinking early this year ...
    "That makes sense. We used to have a lot more in our game plan early in the season, but we had to just tell the other guys to loosen up and have fun. Our offense is going to go out there and put points up. We [the defense] just need to go out there and do our jobs and have fun. That's the message we tried to get through to everyone. It paid off. Everyone is doing their jobs and everyone knows their assignment."

    On the defense's mindset in the first half... "At the end of the day it doesn't matter what the offense does. Technically, if they [the offense] score one touchdown, they did their job for the game. Our job is to keep them out of the end zone."

    Rice Head Coach David Bailiff
    On the overall game today...?
    "When you go on the road against the Big Ten, you have to put it all together, offensively and defensively and with special teams, and we didn't do that today. It starts with me, I've got to do a better job coaching. Offensively, we couldn't get a rhythm going. Last week we had big plays and ran the ball and this week we really didn't get any rhythm of any offense going all day long today. Defensively did some incredible things but we gave up two big plays in the first half and gave up points on that turnover. If somebody is making big plays, you've got to make them right back at them and we didn't do that."

    On Coach Fitzgerald and Northwestern...?
    "They're just solid everywhere, offensively and defensively and their special teams. [Dan] Persa is one of the most consistent, solid players in the country at the position he plays, and he just doesn't make mistakes. And [Jeremy] Ebert, what a receiver, he makes catches and blocks effectively. This is a program, Northwestern, that every year we need to become more like in that we're going to bowl games and we're consistent in our play."

    On defensive performance today...
    "We had three turnovers on the day, we stopped the rush, but it was those big plays. We had them trapped and that 90-yarder-you can't give up those kind of big plays unless you make the big plays right back at them. Normally in a football game, whoever has the most big plays and turnovers or takeaways wins. We had takeaways but we didn't have any big plays today."

    On Northwestern QB Dan Persa...
    "He did that a year ago, where you think you have him trapped or sacked and he just puts the ball right where it needs to go. He's very patient, confident and understands the offense. He's one of those guys who's so good at what he does that you're not going to deceive him by coverage, where your safeties are, he sees the whole field and really knows the strengths and weaknesses of what you're coming at him with."

    Rice Player Quotes

    RB Tyler Smith
    On the performance of the team in comparison to other games...
    "You know it is really tough trying to be consistent, moving the ball up and down the field. Their defense is really solid and really sound. It is just difficult to come back. You just have to execute the plays and your one-on-ones and just beat the guys on the other team. It was a really tough loss today."

    On Rice's running game vs. Northwestern...
    "Exactly, the defense was very sound like I was saying and they executed it really well. It was very hard to break these big plays and that is what we needed to overcome in this game."

    On team consistency...
    "We have a hard time, especially at away games, coming out with a win. And (consistency) is where we really struggle. We need to be able to carry these games over to the next game. We need to learn from our mistakes and we have to improve and play better as we progress."

    On games left...
    "We have to finish strong, keep playing and just know we have two games. These two games are winnable so we just have to focus for the next game and go all out."

    LB Justin Allen
    On giving up big plays to Northwestern...
    "The big play has been our nemesis all season and as you all can tell that's what hurts us. We played them pretty tough (but) you can't win when you give up big plays. It's like coach says, whoever makes the most big plays is going to win the game most of the time. We just could not make the plays when it counted."

    On Northwestern QB Dan Persa...
    "Persa is a great player. He reads the field really well. He knows where to make the throw and he has a good arm. I thought that he made the plays that he needed to and helped his team get the win."