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    Postgame Quotes

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Nov. 19, 2011

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    Northwestern Coach Quotes

    Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    On general feelings after the game...
    "It's great to get to number six and be bowl eligible. We now have a big week coming up for us as we look forward to playing a great football team-Michigan State-who, if I've heard correctly, solidified winning our division today. Looking back at the game real briefly without having a whole lot of thoughts, it's great to win. It was awesome to have the 1996 team and Coach [Gary] Barnett and his wife, Mary, back. It was a really special weekend, and great to see the way our guys played today. We've been very business-like the last month-especially the way our defense has stepped up and played the way they're capable of. It gives us the opportunity to win football games. We have to take care of the football better. We obviously have to stop the run better. Our kicking game had a huge challenge today and the guys in all phases-our PAT field goal and our PAT field goal block-really stepped up. Obviously we're going to need it again next week. It was a great win, great to get to number six. Our focus now will move quickly, as in right when I get home tonight."

    On if becoming bowl eligible was a driving motivation coming into this game...
    "For the last month, yeah. Absolutely. When we put ourselves in that position by the way that we played early-by beating ourselves-we knew our backs were against the wall, and the only way we're going to get to where we want to be is to fight our way out of it. The credit always goes to our young men. They're the ones that did it. They went out there playing their tails off...especially our seniors. It's a special group of guys [senior class], and to see the way they have responded and the way they have led is why we're in the position we are in right now. It's amazing. You work 11 weeks and then you go back all the way through winter weights, spring ball, summer workouts, and fall camp, and it ultimately comes down to one week. I guess we have a flair for dramatics."

    On slow offensive rhythm in the third quarter...
    "We were not very good. For a lack of anything else, they did things we expected them to do and we just didn't adjust very well in the field. I thought we settled down a little bit at halftime and then we were 'just okay' in the third quarter. We have a lot of things to clean up-it wasn't our best game of the year. A lot of credit goes to Jerry [Kill] and his staff. He's a tremendous person, a great coach and they have a great staff. Their young men have been battling, as you all know. They've been playing their best football over the last month and for us to take control early and stay in command the entire game shows the maturity of our football team."

    On quick offensive tempo throughout the game...
    "We are going to try and play with tempo as much as we possibly can. Obviously, when we get some things moving, it can be to our advantage. Mick [McCall] has always done a good job calling a great offensive game. We thought we had an advantage there, especially with their lack of defensive depth that they have right now. We were able get tempo and keep their guys off the field. They [Minnesota] like to go into nickel-package, and make them run left and right, and on and off the field as much as possible." On seeing some of his old teammates from the 1996 team who visited this weekend... "It's been really special weekend. It was special to see Coach Barnett and his wife Mary down at the luncheon on Friday, then to have a lot of my teammates come and be a part of the walk-through on Friday night, and then we had a great reception at the team hotel on Friday. They [1996 teammates] were having a lot more fun than I was. I was gassed, so I just went to bed. But they had a great time. It was special to see them again today. We stand upon their shoulders-to go 15-1 in the Big Ten over that two-year span. They're a special group of guys and it's amazing to see how successful they are at 36, 37 and 38 years old. I told Coach Barnett that he was the architect of the team. Because of the vision and great staff he had, he attracted all of us to come here and change that culture back in the mid 1990's. To get bowl-eligible five straight years is special, but we learned five years ago, 6-6 can also keep you home. We know we have to win this week's football game and we're going to do everything we can to win this game. We can control what we can control. This upcoming football game [against Michigan State] can put us in the position to definitely be in the postseason."

    On the progression of the Northwestern defense this season...
    "I think as the season has progressed we've progressed to have better depth and increased our experience. We were solid about our depth going into the year but we were making too many mental mistakes and obviously we weren't simple enough. They've gotten some experience and we've simplified and in between it has now become a Big Ten-level defense."

    On safety Brian Peters...
    "It was a great tip [by Ibraheim Campbell] but how about the one-handed man with the club on his hand getting the pick? It was hilarious. Brian [Peters] had a great game and he's been playing so hard. He's our quarterback back there. To see a senior have that kind of game with a recovery and a pick in the end zone, that's huge."

    On NU's special teams units...
    "We knew that their [Minnesota's] kickoff team had great speed and, schematically, they had really gotten after some people last month. We really challenged that group [Northwestern's special teams] this week. We didn't think we were very good on that team a week ago. Matt MacPherson has the primary role in that and to see how the players responded today make me really proud of the young men. And to kick it over the gale-force winds out there was treacherous."

    Northwestern Player Quotes

    Running Back Jacob Schmidt
    On interacting with the 1996 Northwestern Football team... "It was really cool. They were the last team to do really well here, getting to the Rose Bowl and being Big Ten champions. To listen to Steve Schnur last night and to be able to see those guys around is important to us because it shows us just how far this program has come in the last 10-15 years. The foundation that they laid, obviously, allows us to be where we are today. It was really fun."

    Quarterback Dan Persa
    On the business-like performance of the offense...
    "We were a little sloppy on offense, but again, the defense showed up and probably won the game for us. I think that's what we need. As an offense, we came out firing, but then we stalled out. On my interception, I wasn't making the best decisions, so that kind of hurt us a little bit. Like Jacob [Schmidt] was saying, when it mattered and we needed to get a score in the beginning of the fourth quarter, we got it done."

    Safety Brian Peters
    On dramatic improvement of the defense...
    "We finally were able to take some of the weight off the offense and decided to step up. It was due. The five-week slump that we went through, a lot of it was due to our defense. We gave up plays and didn't execute and tackle like we should have. You are going to get beat if you can't do that. When we come to play we are a good team across the board because our offense is going to put up points no matter what. A lot of that falls on our shoulders, so when we execute and do our jobs, we operate pretty smoothly."

    On his interception...
    "It was a man blitz, but Ibraheim (Campbell)'s guy came across on a slant. I'm pretty sure Ibraheim should have caught it. Played off his face mask, popped it into the air and I ran to it, kind of cradled it, slash attempted to run, but I took a knee and that was that."

    Minnesota Head Coach Jerry Kill

    General comments on today's game...
    "I congratulate Coach Fitzgerald and Northwestern on the victory, they've got a good football team and they played hard. They made more plays than we did at the end of the day and held field position and executed. So I congratulate him, he's done a great job here, he's a good man who represents college football very well."

    On defensive adjustments after the first quarter...
    "Offensively, we started to do some things, I think it was a confidence level. The pace of the game was much different as the game went on. You can prepare all you want for no huddle, quick pace offense, but until you get into the game it's a different deal. I think they settled down as the game went on. We had a couple issues on defense early in the game and it hurt us. We played hard, and in my opinion, we played well enough to win the game. We just didn't make enough plays offensively. We moved the ball but didn't make a few critical plays, and we got beat in the kicking game."

    On getting beat in the kicking game...
    "Follow my career for a long time and we've always been good in the kicking game. It's frustrating. We got beat in the kicking game and didn't perform as well. The kicking game is the difference. Their punter hit a 70 some-odd yard punt and we hit a 15 or 10-yard punt, that's a 60-yard play. One of the biggest plays in football that people don't realize is the punt. It's one of the biggest offensive plays in football and so when you lose that much yardage, it's a pretty critical situation. And again, that's my fault. We work with the kicking game all the time and it's our responsibility to get better. I take full responsibility. It's not the kids' fault, it's my fault, we've got to do a better job of coaching."

    On the two turnovers in the second half...
    "I'm sure it's tough but you have to be relentless. Life's tough and you've just got to keep battling back and as I told Duane Bennett and I told everybody in the locker room, that kid showed a tremendous amount of courage. He fumbled the ball on the 25-yard line, he's frustrated as heck, and then he came back and ran like a man possessed. To be honest with you, we need more kids that learn to fight back through adversity. Sometimes we have some youngsters make a mistake and they can't get over it then they make another one and another one and then that's how you get into having some bad plays out there, and I think Duane taught us all something today. He messed up, he goes back in and plays as hard as he can play and that's what growing up is all about, that's what life is going to be all about. He's going to learn that as a life lesson because when he gets to be your age and sitting in that chair, there's a lot of other problems besides just a football game in here and hopefully he'll battle back and handle adversity like he did today because he handled it well. He didn't sit over there and pout or anything of that nature. He took the challenge and made the best of it. Nobody feels worse than him about that and I feel bad for the kid because he's a good kid."

    Minnesota Players
    DB Kim Royston
    On the game today...

    "They run a fast, up-beat type of offense and there is no way of doing that in practice. Unfortunately it took us a drive or two to get used to that pace, but once we did that I think that we settled down pretty well. You know it is a team game. We have to be better in the kicking game. We have to do better on offense. We have to do better on defense. If one of those groups do not do well it will have an effect on the whole game. I think we have come a long way since game one and I think that this program is heading in the right direction. You know I have one more game here and I am going to play that last game like it is the Super Bowl and leave this program on a positive note. Hopefully that positivity carries over into next year."

    On the defensive performance... "We can obviously do better on defense. I think Northwestern averages 35 points a game, 400 something yards a game. So we obviously can do better on defense. But I think holding them under their average says something."

    RB Duane Bennett
    On reaching 2,000 career rushing yards...
    "To have that under my belt is a real accomplishment. It is a milestone that I am happy I have accomplished, but at the same time I would have taken a win any day. The record in general I give that all to my front line, my receiver, my quarterback, my coach because without them I would not be in the position to make plays and it never would have happened."

    On the game and leaving points on the field...
    "Of course it was frustrating. I felt like on the offensive side I feel like we could have finished a little better. That is just something that I think we have to go back and figure out how we can get better and finish. Because we went out there and put ourselves in a great position to move the ball up and down the field. First drive we came out and showed what we could do, but we stalled after that. We kept getting down there but we could not finish. And that is something that we have to look in the mirror and figure out what we can do to finish those drives."