Sept. 1, 2014
After having nearly 48 hours to digest the film of their season-opening loss to Cal, Pat Fitzgerald and the 'Cats were back in the office on Labor Day preparing for their next opportunity this Saturday vs. Northern Illinois. Skip Myslenski also was at NU's Nicolet Football Center Monday to talk to Coach Fitz and select players about what they learned from Saturday and how they plan to move on...
Coach Fitz Monday Press Conference | NU Players
Trevor Siemian sat down behind a microphone on Monday and, as his coach Pat Fitzgerald likes to say, owned it. He owned his performance in the `Cats season-opening loss to Cal on Saturday, when he was a pedestrian 23-of-43 with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
"Not very good," he would say when asked what he thought after analyzing his performance on film. "I don't think that's a secret. I didn't play well enough for us to win. You can't do that. I was just too inconsistent. There were a couple throws that are going to haunt me for awhile, that I usually set my watch on that I missed. I don't really have a reason for them. I came back later in the game and made those throws. Just too inconsistent, like I said."
He is known, of course, for his composed demeanor, for a demeanor that is both goofy (his term) and immune to outside influences. But late Saturday Fitzgerald said he thought Siemian was squeezing the ball too hard in the game just ended, an indication that he was trying too hard. Was he, and isn't that out of character for him?
"Yeah, I think so," he admitted. "I think I was pressing a little bit. Not just me, but the whole offense."
"The why? Trying to make plays for us. There's a fine line when you want to do your job, and you want to make plays at the same time. You've just got to stay within yourself and trust yourself and that's one thing I didn't do very well."
And what can he do to make sure he doesn't press in the future?
"I think it was a little uncharacteristic for me and our offense in general," he finally said. "There's not much you can do, just play one play at a time. I think we got away from that. We tried to get a 24-point touchdown at a certain point in the game. So just take it one play at a time. We've got a really good offense, so just trust in ourselves, trust in the system, and we've got to get better. Flat out, we've got to be more consistent. You're not going to be a good offense if you're not consistent."
A COMMUNICABLE DISEASE: This issue of pressing, of trying to do too much against Cal was not confined to the offense, which safety Traveon Henry had made clear on Saturday. "We (the defense) were a little antsy (early on)," he had said then. "You know, it's the first game of the season, everybody's emotions are running high and everybody wants to make plays."
"I would say most importantly it was the first game," defensive end Deonte Gibson echoed Monday when asked about that issue. "First game, you're going (to have) first-game jitters. And you're also going to get, what you've been planning and scheming for all summer, they're going to throw a little curve ball at you and you've got to adjust at some point. I think defensively we took a little too long to adjust. But eventually we got the point and we stuck to our principles and our techniques and we started to progress a lot better, especially in the second half."
A WORD FROM OUR LEADER: Fitzgerald, on Monday, noted that 21 `Cats had played in their first college game on Saturday. But, when asked the positives and negatives he took away after watching a tape of that game, he also said, "It wasn't our young guys. Our veterans are the ones who played poorly. That was probably the biggest negative."
AND A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM: True freshman running back Justin Jackson was one of those 21 and, late in the third quarter with the `Cats down 24, he accepted a handoff from Siemian, slyly slipped a couple tackles and ran seven yards for a touchdown. "I was just trying to make a play," he said Monday when asked about it. "I saw the linebackers over-scrape, I took the back door, then once I made the first guy miss, I tried to smell the end zone. I knew we were down by 24 at that point and I was just trying to make a play."
"It was good," Siemian said about it and then -- notably in the wake of all that is above --he added: "I think the young guys -- Justin and (running back) Solomon (Vault) and (superback) Garrett (Dickerson) -- the young guys brought some juice to our offense. We talked about it. The vets need to take a page out of their book and the way they competed and the way they played."
QUICKLY NOTED: Jackson, who ended Saturday with 40 yards on eight carries, was named the 'Cats' offensive big playmaker of the game. "Really impressed by the young guy," Fitzgerald said. "Both young backs (Vault is the other) played very well and I believe will continue to perform at a high level and improve as things go along." Later, and not insignificantly, he added this about the pair: "They weren't scared."
After breaking down the tape of the Cal game, said Fitzgerald, "We counted 21 plays where we beat ourselves in the passing game. We're not going go be worth a darn if we do that again, right, and most of those were in the first half. You're talking about mis-targeted throws, drops, poor protection, missed conversions and wrong route running. If that improves, obviously the production will improve." Added Siemian when asked about that: "And that's just the obvious stuff. You probably could have found more actually."
One positive Fitzgerald took from his film-watching session was, "To be down the way we were and the way we fought back gives me great confidence in the fiber of this team. But we obviously can't do that again and expect to win against good football teams, and the last I saw, I don't think we're playing anybody bad."
Asked about receiver Miles Shuler, who went to the locker room during Saturday's game, Fitzgerald said, "He's ready for practice." Asked about corner Dwight White, who was a late scratch before that game, he said: "He's out right now pending some tests."
And finally, Siemian, on preparing for Saturday's game with Northern Illinois: "I think it's like any other week (except) I think guys maybe have a chip on their shoulder. Even coming in this morning, we watched the game film, I was ready to burn it. But I think we're really focused. We've got a chip on our shoulder."
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