Sep 9, 2013
Monday Press Conference: Free Preview | All-Access
It was a satisfying win over Syracuse Saturday night, to be sure, but as Skip Myslenski explains in his weekly Monday post, the 17th-ranked Wildcats are not about to rest on their laurels.
THEY OPENED their season on the road two time zones away against a PAC-12 opponent with a new coach, and found a way to grab off an impressive win. They then returned home to take on an ACC opponent that had scared Penn State in its six-point loss, and ran away with a victory. But now the 'Cats bump up against a far different foe and it is not Western Michigan, the Mid-American Conference member they host late Saturday night at Ryan Field. It is the lurking threat of complacency that that can come with facing a team that is not only 0-2. It is also a team that last week lost to Football Championship Subdivision Nicholls State and, in its opener, managed only 11 rushing yards while falling to Michigan State by 13.
"We're always going to focus on ourselves. That's all we can control," Pat Fitzgerald would say at one point Monday when asked about taking on an opponent with that bleak resume. "We can't control what's said about us externally. We can't control what they do and how they prepare. You've always got to expect you're going to get the opponent's A game. So the focus is always on us. It's inward. It's the way we prepare. We talked to them (the players) about that this morning. There's nobody walking around here feeling we've arrived, I can promise you that. We are far from the team we're capable of being in all three phases."
Then, later, he would tack on this. "This is a very hungry, very focused ball club that has a determined approach to the way we're working right now. We've talked about all the scenarios of where we might be at going into this week starting back in March with the Leadership Council. Now it's time for that leadership to step up. I'm looking forward to watching the way they work this week."
SHORTLY AFTER Fitzgerald concluded his regular Monday briefing, a trio of 'Cats sat down on the stage he had just graced. The same topic, inevitably, was tossed its way and each echoed themes that are now so familiar. "Every week we just focus on going 1-0," said the linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo. "So every week we're always focused, everyone has the same mindset. It's the beginning of the a season every week."
"We're just trying to improve every week," added the offensive guard Ian Park. "Like Chi Chi said, 1-0."
"We're going to get in, watch film, see they can do great things just as the other teams could that we've played," concluded the corner Dwight White. "We just have to take it on just like Chi Chi said and focus on going 1-0 every week."
LAST WEEK, against Syracuse, the 'Cats put on an impressive display, but it was not one of those ever-elusive masterpieces. That was obvious from these comments of Fitzgerald, who said this about:
The overall performance: "We played really dominant defensive football for about nine of the 12 series. Then three of the series we didn't play the way we're capable of. Same thing offensively. We've got to be more consistent, especially coming out in the second half."
White, who made his first career start against the Orange: "He's got to tackle better on the corner. He had a couple opportunities. Same thing with our whole secondary, especially in the second half. Our back seven didn't tackle very well, not just the dbs. The linebackers didn't tackle very well. We've got to work on that tomorrow.". . .
The kicking game, which he oversees: "We've got a lot of jobs up for grabs now. I don't like the way we're playing in our return game ... Our kickoff return game needs to improve dramatically. The scheme works. We've got to get better fundamentally, so we've got to coach our guys that way. Then we've got to get personnel changes, potentially. We'll see how that plays out this week. If we don't see consistency there, we'll make some changes."
Venric Mark, of course, is NU's return ace, but he was limited in the season opener with Cal and sat out last Saturday with lower-body issues. That is why Fitzgerald was asked if he might be reluctant to use him in the kick game when he does return to health. "No," he said. "We're absolutely playing him in that role. Absolutely."
Ariguzo would eventually second his coach's comments, saying, "After watching film, everybody saw they could have played a lot better than they did. So everyone's just focused on getting better and getting ready to play the next game. We've got to keep our mindset that we can get better each week. We don't want to take any week for granted."
Wideout Tony Jones is tied for the Big Ten lead in receptions with 14 and Monday, as he had Saturday, Fitzgerald lauded him. "When we recruited him," he said, "we knew he would be a dynamic playmaker. We thought he'd be an impact player in what we do. He's really lived up to that everyday. It's just unfortunate he's had some injuries. So we're very happy as a program for him. He's a guy who had to battle through injuries, adversity, things out of his control. He's handled it well, his attitude's been great and now he's kind of seeing the fruits of that labor of working hard to overcome that.". . . Trevor Siemian is averaging 267.5 passing yards per game, just fourth best in the conference. But breaking the numbers down further we find this: he is averaging 16.2 yards per completion, by far the best of the nine other quarterbacks listed in the top ten.
AND FINALLY: The 48 points the `Cats laid on the `Cuse Saturday were the most they scored in a home opener since their 62-0 thumping of DePauw way back in 1944.
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