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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald covered nearly every aspect of Saturday's 24-17 season-opening win at Boston College on Monday.

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald covered nearly every aspect of Saturday's 24-17 season-opening win at Boston College on Monday.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Sept. 5, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening statement...
    "Looking back I thought it was a good win, a couple of areas that we need to improve on that I'll point out. No. 1, our passion on the sideline from our next group in was awful. It was as bad as we've had and that's an area that we take great pride in so we need to improve on that. Our strength staff is in charge of that and to have them say that was the hardest they've had to work on a gameday was disappointing.

    "Our third and fourth-down efficiency on both sides of the ball were not where they needed to be. Our kicking aggressiveness, especially our kickoff unit, was not where it needed to be, disappointed in that group. Disappointed in the penalties we had, especially in that punt play. I'm going to talk to (Big Ten director of officiating) Bill Carollo about that, I thought we were legal on the play but the referees did a great job communicating with us. They told us earlier in the game that our guards were a little deep, we told them to move up but obviously we left it in the officials' hands so we have to clean that up. At that time of the game, that's a critical penalty and we can't have that happen.

    "Our turnover ratio, to come out of that game even after putting the ball on the ground two times -- really three if you count Kain's on the last drive, was pathetic. Not to get the `rip' attempts on defense that we stressed throughout camp is a concern. We'll get that fixed as coaches but our effort level on defense ripping the ball out and going after it needs to improve.

    "I did like the way we ran the football, the way we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, proud of a young guy going out in his first start at quarterback but he can play a lot cleaner and a lot more efficiently. We had too many drops, too many detail errors in the secondary and our passion level overall need to improve. Good first game from the standpoint of getting a first victory on the road. I'd really like to thank our fans, our fan support in Boston was spectacular and great to see the Purple Nation out there. It's nice when you go on the road and you have to sing the fight song to two different groups of fans, usually we only have a little sliver.

     

     

    "Looking ahead, for a number of reasons it's an exciting time. No. 1, it's the home opener. It's great to get back home, have it be our second annual Evanston Day with a pep rally Thursday at Independence Park. All of those things are a little bit of a distraction but watching EIU on tape from a year ago, they're very fast and athletic. Coach (Bob) Spoo in his 25th year, one of the giants in the coaching profession. He's a St. Rita grad like my dad, he coached down at Fenwick, he's got a 140 wins, he's the winningest coach at EIU, 11 winning seasons in the last 15... it's going to be a challenge for us if we're not focused on the things we need to improve on. That was a huge win for (EIU) last week, rivalry game and they played very passionate football. That's what jumped out to us. If we don't match their passion, it's going to be a long day.

    "It's also Heroes' Day. Hopefully the way we prepare this week really honors those that went through one of the worst tragedies in our country's history on Sept. 11 as well as those in the military. Obviously you know Bryce (McNaul's) brother being in the military that are home and abroad defending our freedom and protecting us on a daily basis. Obviously thinking back with a heavy heart to 9/11, we all remember where we were and the experiences of those days. I think college football gives us a chance to step out of reality and hopefully the way college football conducts itself this week will lift up those who had a tragic week 10 years ago and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

    "On our injury update, the only update I have is that Jack DiNardo will be out this week with a leg injury. Everybody else that played we expect to play and those that did not play, I would list as day-to-day. That's all I'll talk about injuries.

    On injuries on the defensive line...
    "We've developed good depth there. We're going to get Jack back, and we're going to get Brian (Arnfelt) back. Once we add those two pieces of the puzzle we've got a wave of 10-11 guys we think can play. On Saturday we had Chance Carter, Will Hampton played a bunch, so one of those two guys will start this week. We'll rotate in our bigger end to add some depth, I'd like to see Anthony Battle and Davon Custis step up this week along with Sean McEvilly, those three need to step up for us to get the depth we need."

    On his memories of 9/11...
    "We were here. We had just come out of a staff meeting which was interrupted to alert us to what had happened in New York. I have a couple teammates there, my cousin works around the corner from the towers, so there were many Aon employees there with Mr. Ryan's company and the many Northwestern graduates at the time. It's one of those surreal events you'll never forget. For me personally, Stacy (Fitzgerald) was in transit relocating from Idaho to Evanston so she was driving somewhere in Montana or South Dakota so I couldn't reach her. Cell phones were just getting as cool as they are now.

    "We made the decision to go out and practice not knowing if we would play or not. The one thing I do remember is being out at practice and seeing a plane in the air. Especially here, as all the planes circle Chicago and over campus, you're used to seeing airline traffic but it was surreal. I think it was a military plane to be honest."

    On Kain Colter's performance at BC...
    "Going through not only the prep for the bowl game but then spring ball, the summer and camp, Kain really showed experience in being comfortable in the role (of starter). He's a young many who's unflappable, very poised, the biggest sign of maturity was his emotional control. He was pretty enthusiastic at the bowl game and as a quarterback he's kind of got to stay even-keel. It's a great sign of maturity in the game and leading up to it. Most teams make their biggest improvement from week one to two and so do you as a starter. I really liked the way Jimmy Hall played in the kicking game for his first time being out there, but again he was like, "Wow, I can be better." Kain is one of those guys, too."

    On playing three true freshmen in the opener...
    "We're going to reserve the right to play the best 11 guys on each play. Jack Konopka earned that through camp, he played with an attitude Saturday. He didn't look like a freshman out there, he got (Luke) Kuechly down a few times on some option plays, was physical at the point of attack. Looking at Treyvon (Green) played, we'd like to get him a little more involved in the backfield but I liked how he played in the kicking game. The guys come to me after every the kicking play so we can talk about it and get some immediate feedback and he knew exactly what that guy was doing against him. `Coach, he's folding, can I get a little more depth...' Now he has to finish better and be more physical but his first rep was kind of like Adonis Smith's up at Minnesota where he gets his lips knocked off. Welcome to Big Ten football, it's not Texas anymore.

    Then Christian (Jones) had the nice play but he has to stay healthy, been battling some leg stuff. I thought we had a nice one-two punch out there with him and Rashad (Lawrence), two big guys who are physical and can make some plays. We'll see if any of these other rascals can get out there, we have some competition going on in practice right now."

    On Chance Carter's play...
    "Chance got better as the game went along, he's a long young man that when he plays with his feet apart and uses his leverage has got really long arms. If he uses his technique I think he's going to be a force in this league for a number of years. He's young but has a bright future. Not a man of many words but the future is bright for him."

    On safety Ibraheim Campbell and the defense...
    "Welcome to college football, it's pretty important how you fit especially when you're at the point of attack. When you're in the A-gap when you're supposed to be in the C-gap, it can lead to a 69-yard run. I liked his response like I liked our defense's response. We didn't play great team football but that was a great response by our defense. Our offense doesn't execute the coming-out situation, we blow a protection and give up a terrible sack, Brandon Williams gives us a great punt into the wind out to the 40 and we hold them to no points. Our defense put the fire out there. We found a way to win but we have a lot of work to do if we're going to accomplish what we want to accomplish.

    "I'm not taking away from what we did, I saw a lot of positives -- we tackled better, we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides, I like how we affected the quarterback on defense. But we have to communicate better. There also were some times where we need to get the ball out of our hands. Kain is going through the same lesson Dan (Persa) did, Kain's a little sorer than he should be today because of Kain. So hopefully he's going to learn, if not he's going to get his lips knocked off. Like I tell Brendan all the time, hot or caliente, it burns. He'll learn or he'll be sore on Monday."

    On his impressions of Kain Colter...
    "I saw a lot of similarities between this game and Dan at Vanderbilt last year. There's only so much you can do as a coach. There were a couple times Kain should have pitched it but didn't. There were a couple times the concept wasn't there, get rid of it quicker. It's all part of the process, and he's going to be better this week if his number gets called. For the most part I thought he handled it really well, I'm not trying to be overly critical of a true sophomore in his first collegiate start."

    On Colter's mental toughness after the interception...
    "Both guys, he and Jeremy Ebert, were really disappointed in what happened on the play from a miscommunication standpoint. But the guy who was a catalyst to solving the issue was Dan Persa. The first guy that Kain and Jeremy talked to was Dan Persa. I thought Dan was outstanding on Saturday. You don't want to have Dan Persa as one of your coaches on the sideline on a Saturday, but in that role we couldn't have asked for anything more out of him. I thought Dan was a calming force and Kain was unflappable. It was nice to have that going on and I thought Mick (McCall) handled it really well. The initial part that I was part of was technical, then after the set I talked to Mick and he said he thought Danny handled it really well."

    On the 23-yard completion to Ebert over the middle...
    "There were some things we thought we could take advantage of that we did. Once we were able to get to a point where we could throw the ball vertically based on what they were doing schematically, we did. I've been called conservative, I think that's not the worst thing I'll be called, but we're trying to win and not play for stats. I'm a defensive coach, I hate to disappoint all those who want us to have 6,000 yards per game but we're trying to win. That was there, Kain did a nice job having patience in the pocket and letting the concept unfold, great route by Jeremy. Now what I'd like to see is our offensive line covering the play, receivers go and finish their blocks. Like I said, there were a lot of little things we need to clean up to play the Wildcat Way. That's on us as coaches and I'm looking forward to practice tomorrow."

    On recruiting Kain Colter...
    "Obviously there were the ties with his dad playing at Colorado, Mick being from Colorado and his brother being at Cherry Creek, so we had some in-roads and we felt all along Kain was going to be a quarterback. We also told him, similar to what we did with Andrew Brewer and Eric Peterman, that if it didn't work out, we definitely believe you can play something else offensively. But we're going to start you at QB until playing time or your role determines it to go to another place. I'm not quite sure what happened at the other school, nor do I really care, but I think you know my recruiting.

    "We're going to be brutally honest and if that means we lose a guy, so be it. I'm not really concerned with what other schools do just to get kids. But he got banged up and the other school made their decisions and I think that just shows the character we have in recruiting. We're going to stand by young men that get hurt. The only reason I'm going to drop a guy is if academically it doesn't work, or socially they become a knucklehead. I'm not going to punt on guys that make a 17-year old mistake but if the mistake is so unbecoming of being a Wildcat then I'll punt on them, I'm not going to put those guys in our program. We felt all along Kain would be a quarterback here and he can do a lot of things.

    "We thought he was a playmaker. I was not concerned about the labrum or the surgery, that just takes time. Maybe I'm a little jaded because of missing the Rose Bowl and breaking my leg and my ankle but those come back. It's a win-win, the young men that commit before their senior years, they protect themselves from injury. We're going to honor their commitment and stand by their word. Other schools punt on kids and that's disappointing. It goes back to this whole verbal commitment thing and coaches always say it's the kids de-committing, and that's part of it, but it's also coaches who punt on guys when they get hurt, it's pathetic. It's these kids' futures. If the young person can't play, then we'll redshirt him, and if he can't play after his freshman year then he'll be probably be medical'ed, we get the scholarship back and the bad news is he gets a Northwestern education. I'm not trying to be on a high horse or be holier than thou but that's one of the darker sides of college football when we have coaches trying to play games that way."