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    Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas -- Postgame Quotes

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Dec. 31, 2011

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    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Opening statement...
    "Thank you to (Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas executive director) Heather Houston and all of her support staff for an incredible bowl week. We have been to a handful in a row, and I am not trying to minimize the other ones, but this was a really special week. First class in every way, shape and form; from the way our young men were treated, our fans, our coaches, our staff, our wives, our families; just absolutely first class. I want to thank everyone from Meineke, for obviously being the title sponsor and to have to opportunity to be here. The Board of Directors and everyone on the selection committee made a decision to bring us here and hopefully we didn't disappoint.

    "We were disappointed that we didn't win, but our fans came down to Houston to support this great community, and hopefully our football program showed why we should have been here. Disappointed, obviously, in the outcome of the game; I haven't seen the final stats, but it comes down to self-inflicted wounds on our part. We had some one-man break downs in the second quarter when things were pretty much neck-and-neck that gave A&M some pretty big plays. It's very tough, and not being able to sustain drives and pick up third downs in the first half put us in a bit of a hole. We came out to start the second half and I thought we adjusted a little bit, and obviously we didn't do a good enough job and the credit goes to A&M.

    "I want to congratulate (Texas A&M interim head coach) Tim DeRuyter and their staff; they have been through a ton. Our thoughts and prayers from the entire football family here go out to Joey V (deceases OL Joe Villavisencio) and his family. Obviously it has been a very tough month for the Aggie football family; to see the way they came out and played today is very impressive and it's because of great leadership, and it starts with Tim. They made the play that winners make and unfortunately we ran out of time in the end. Again congratulations to A&M. Thank you to everybody here."

    On playing in the city of Houston...
    "It was first-class in every way, shape and form. When you look at the experience the guys had when we showed up here early in the week to all the way through today in one of the most incredible venues we've played in, it's just a spectacular venue and a great atmosphere. Everything was just as first-class as can be."

    On three false start penalties at end of third quarter...
    "Well, when we're making our cadence call and linebackers go, `Move,' that's how it happens. That's exactly how it happens. So, they were stemming and making move calls and they said, `Move,' and we jumped. It's embarrassing. The guys came over to the sideline and we moved on. You guys have been to practice. My ears are still ringing because of the noise. The roof was closed. It went from a home game to super home game for them, and we knew it was going to be that way. We thought we prepared for it. Obviously I didn't do a good enough job."

    On kicking deep as opposed to an onside kick after last touchdown...
    "Well, obviously the onside worked so spectacularly earlier, so I thought going back to it would work again. Six minutes and change, I've got three timeouts, we had been talking through it the whole drive. If we scored there with over five minutes, we were going to use our timeouts to try to play field position. We got to third-and-long twice and obviously didn't give our guys a good enough call to win. (Texas A&M quarterback Ryan) Tannehill's a great player. He's a great player. Credit goes to him. Spectacular football player."

    On the key to consistent ball movement late in the game...
    "We talked as the week went along about understanding the environment we were going to be in and how at some point, for us, there was going to be a little lull because of the atmosphere and environment. We kind of get through that first wave of emotion of playing in a big atmosphere and a big game and how we responded to that would determine whether we were going to go into the half successful or not. Obviously, talk is cheap. Our actions weren't where they needed to be, so we lost momentum there in the second quarter and it carried over a little bit in the first couple of drives of third quarter. To the young men's credit, they were resilient, they responded and we got momentum.

    "In the game of football, momentum is the secret weapon. We had it and were just one stop away, one more third down pickup away and one onside kick away. It was kind of indicative of the year. We've been `one this' and `one that' all year and that's why we sit where we sit right now. As a coach, it's an incredible motivator. I think for all the young men, as I address the team that will be coming back for the future, will be incredibly motivated."

    On the Northwestern senior class...
    "We're just thankful for our seniors. This group that came in, they lost their head coach they were getting recruited by when they were seniors in high school. That's real, kind of like what happened to (late Texas A&M OL) Joey (Villavisencio). That's real. You're talking about 17-year-old young men who went through that. That was the start of their college experience. To see what they've done and how they've responded, the way that they've built an incredible foundation of success for our football program, I don't think I can describe in words how I feel about that group. It's unbelievable. Ten of them are in graduate school. We sit here right now, 19 of them have already graduated with their undergraduate degree. They walk away as the all-time winningest senior class in our program's history. So yeah, we want to win championships. I won two of them as a player. It's the most special thing you can do. Most importantly, we want to mold great men and develop them to be the best they can through the game of football. There are 25 guys who are going to walk out of this locker room who are pretty good, pretty special. We're just thankful for them."

    On noise affecting the communication with the offense...
    "I'm not sure how much the noise impacted so much as the self-inflicted one-man breakdowns. I don't think we saw a whole lot different than what we expected to see. They're talented. They're a really talented football team. (Former Texas A&M Head) Coach (Mike) Sherman did a great job recruiting very talented young people, and obviously (Texas A&M Interim Head Coach) Tim (DeRuyter) did a great job molding them for the game. They responded. They used their talents to their strength, so you've got to give them credit for that. When we have to go on silent count from time to time, sometimes your line gets off a little bit slower. I can give you all kinds of excuses. I'm not going to do that though."

    On what he expected from A&M after a coaching change...
    "There was a little bit of the unknown, but not on defense with Tim (DeRuyter) still being here. I thought our film prep, and there were some teams we thought they would kind of mold their game plan around, we thought the option would hurt them a little bit. At times it did. They're a very athletic football team on defense. They can really run. Schematically, they're going to put pressure on you and put you in one-on-ones a bunch. Again, to their credit, they were able to create a pretty good pass rush. When we executed, we were pretty good. We just didn't execute enough. You know, you take the responsibility and shoulder the blame. I'd like to get back to work tomorrow, but the NCAA doesn't allow us to do that. We give the guys a couple of weeks off, have some couple of discretionary weeks, then come back and get our winter workouts going."

    On the bowl loss hurting worse than others...
    "They all stink. That's real eloquent, I know. They're all awful. They're all equally up there. I look back at the great seniors who have gone through our program. I've been with this group their whole run as the head coach. I had been with previous seniors as a position coach. It's frustrating. You know I love you guys who write for us in Chicago and I know you'll beat us up with it and the monkey's still on our back. We'll worry about that next postseason. We've got some other things we've got to fix. We've got to play more soundly and competitively in some position groups. We have to execute more consistently. We have to do that through competition. We have to do that through coaching fundamentals. I love (Houston Texans Head) Coach (Gary) Kubiak's `Be Accountable.' We have to be accountable to ourselves and to each other in the program. If we do that, we get over the mountaintop and win a championship and win a bowl championship."

    On Northwestern's offensive production...
    "They were pretty good today, obviously, on defense. What were the sacks? (8 for 65 yards) Yeah, that takes a lot of yards off, obviously. You have to give credit to A&M. They had a great plan. Their young men went out and executed. They out-executed us and that's our responsibility as coaches. We have to do a better job next year."

    Quarterback Dan Persa
    On the emotion during the game...
    "I think we hit a little low at the end of the first half, but we came out pretty strong. We didn't execute on some things but I thought we picked up back when we needed it in the end, in the fourth quarter. I think that lull cost us."

    On the speed of the Texas A&M defense...
    "They are a great team, but we knew how good they were. We broke down on some one-on-ones and I have to get rid of the ball. It was combination of things, but for the most part we hurt ourselves more than they hurt us."

    On the effectiveness of the Aggie pass rush...
    "They just won some one-on-one battles, and I have to get rid of the ball. They just kept coming at it."

    On NU's bowl-victory drought...
    "We failed in that regard. We let everyone down and we know it. Hopefully the foundation of our work that we laid and the work ethic that we showed in the offseason will show up in the kids that are still around and push this team over the hump."

    On becoming the NCAA career leader in completion percentage...
    "My teammates make me look good more often than not. The coaches have pushed me through and not everyone thought I could do that when I first got here. They helped mold me into a better quarterback. Thank my coaches and receivers and offensive line for helping me out."

    S Brian Peters
    On the emotion during the game...
    "During the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter the defense didn't come out swinging, then we picked it up in the fourth quarter and kind of brought the game back. A lull there, you can't have that. We lost momentum.

    On NU's bowl-victory drought...
    "From the time that we came in five years ago, the competitive atmosphere on the team has changed drastically. We came into a program that was still learning how to work and work excessively. That's the biggest thing and we notice even the competiveness from position to position as well."

    On giving up first downs late in the game...
    "It stings. When you get the ball back to compete and try and win the game, and get the ball back in the hands of (QB Dan) Persa, (WR Jeremy) Ebert and (QB Kain) Colter and all of those guys we have a chance of winning. There were a few lapses, one-man breakdowns, that cost us. We have to do our job and it cost us."