NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

Official Store

    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Pat Fitzgerald held his weekly Monday news conference in NU's Nicolet Football Center.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald held his weekly Monday news conference in NU's Nicolet Football Center.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Sept. 12, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening Statement...
    "Outside of a couple plays our defense played really well. The biggest issue that I think we have right now are penalties in the red zone on both sides of the ball. We have first-and-goal at the 1, we've got to correct that if we're going to be the team we're capable of being. Flip it over to defense, the pass interference calls are tough and allows them to sustain a drive. Rushing for 320 yards was positive, rushing 67 times is positive.

    "Looking ahead it'll be a great challenge for us -- the discipline, the toughness, the physicality that Army presents with their triple-option attack and double-eagle defense. Schematically it will be a challenge, mentally it will be a challenge, so we're going to have to rise to the occasion, not just on Saturday but through the week. They're ranked No. 2 in the country in rushing offense, they outgained San Diego State 446-292, and held the ball for over 42 minutes. Time of possession is going to be critically important, that we sustain drives on offense, pick up third downs and then on defense we're going to have to win first down. You have to win first and second down and get off the field on third, win the turnover ratio and continue to play fast in the kicking game."

    On the status of RB Adonis Smith...
    "He was doing fine today, I'd probably list him as day-to-day from an injury report standpoint. I'll know more later in the week."

    On facing Army's double-eagle defense...
    "It's everybody from a standpoint of our run-blocking, who our aiming points are, where we want to take the ball; in protection how we're going to implement a plan to protect the quarterback; that's based on what our receivers are going to have to do so everyone's on the same page. You see it every week and you have a plan but you don't see it every play like you will this week. It's a great challenge. We've been working on this since the offseason, we went through our winter study, we went through this in spring, all through camp, so we've allocated a lot of time to it. Hopefully we'll work hard on it this week and be able to execute. It's always on the center, it starts there up front, but having Ben (Burkett) next to (Brandon Vitabile) has helped him already, having a guy who's been there and done it.

     

     

    "You can call it the Bear defense, or the flex-bone, whatever you want to call it, the flex that Coach Ellerson ran as the D.C. out at Arizona State. You see the center covered up a lot with two 3-techniques, they're going to have a flex backer potentially in that B-gap and their terminology is the quick end, a stand-up guy. They're going to have five guys on the line of scrimmage with the potential for a sixth that'll go off either wedge. It's similar to what the Bears ran back in the day. The thought process behind it is to put a lot of guys on the line and be aggressive, try to create and cause confusion in the gap, there's also twist games and schemes they run. It's unique, and their offense is unique, so it makes the whole program step out of what your normal game-planning is and go into a different mode. But it's something we've studied all winter long, researched the heck out of it, and work through some different things."

    On the last time he faced the double-eagle and triple-option in one game...
    "Probably the last time we played Navy? So in 2003. We saw some semblance of it out at Colorado but obviously I prepared for it multiple times as a player when we played Air Force. Sometimes they'll be in the wishbone when they have three backs in the backfield, sometimes they'll have two-thirds of a bone and motion a guy back in, have a short-fly in motion and have a fly-sweep. They have the triple and double-options but they also have the non-option plays that make it so difficult to prepare for, you have a whole gamut you have to prepare for. If you stop chapter one of an offense, they goto chapter two, you stop that they might go back to chapter one or chapter three. They know exactly what they're doing in their plan, they're very physical, they run a lot of guys through and they execute it very well.

    "The biggest issue for them in two weeks is the turnovers. No disrespect to Northern Illinois or San Diego State, but Army hasn't been slowed down yet, the fumbles have really hurt them and killed drives. It's a great neutralizer. It makes you have to play disciplined football and be focused on what your job is. They don't make it easy on you. All through the camp we've put the right guys in the right spot to give us a look. We've got a couple guys that are going to be running the quarterback position that ran it in high school, with similar offenses."

    On weaknesses in the double-eagle defense...
    "The key to us being successful on offense is to sustain drives and win on third down. We're going to be in some third-down situations on Saturday and we've got to possess the ball. I can't come in here next Monday and say Army had the ball for over 35 minutes and expect us to be successful. That just can't happen. If they're over 40 minutes, we've got an opportunity for a recipe for disaster. It's a combination of our offense having to move the ball, sustain drives and score touchdowns and our defense has to get off the field and create turnovers."

    On preventing big plays on defense...
    "The one play that we're looking at (against Eastern Illinois) is the pass play. The run play we had a lot of guys in there that I don't think took a rep of practice with our defense so I'll chalk that up to youth and not getting a week of practice, let's throw that one out. The pass play is a rep that we expected to see, they ran it exactly as we saw it, we just had a couple men break down and we give up the big play. We prefer that it didn't happen and like I said we have to coach it better, and that's frustrating.

    "(Army) is going to make some plays. They run it and they run it well. What I liked best about the long run at the end was Davion Fleming's effort to go chase him down. It was a great effort play by him, and he played really well in the kicking game on Saturday, best he's played since he was hurt. That was encouraging."

    On the special teams play Saturday...
    "(Jeff Budzien's 45-yard field goal attempt) was close, it just was a little bit wide to the right, he hit it off his toe. He had not hit a ball go left to right maybe since he's been here, his plant foot was a little off and he cut it, he came across it. As I told those guys, it's going to be great, I'm going to sit in the press conference and they're going to ask me why you weren't perfect. That's the life you live now, welcome to being a celebrity, it's a Brad Paisley song. We kicked the ball out of bounds, cry me a river, we shanked a punt, cry me a river, and we missed a field goal. I wanted to know exactly where your mind went after that play -- I asked them that on the field and I asked them that in the locker room. All three guys are pretty young in their roles, I thought Jeff came back and kicked it well, I thought Steve (Flaherty) came back and kicked it well. That's what it's all about, especially when those guys are young. It's not going to be perfect. Would I like to see Jeff make that kick? Absolutely. But I also put him in a tough situation, a little bit by design, 45 yards into the wind, not a great situation but I liked how he responded. That's part of the process, of the journey of a young kicker."

    On the atmosphere of playing at Army...
    "Just from my research, there's going to be tremendous pageantry right there on the Hudson and you're exactly right, we've got the utmost respect for our military and our armed forces, but it's a bit of a different situation, we're playing football. We've got to avoid the distractions, I'm sure there's going to be great pageantry before the game, with their pregame ceremonies and things they do. I know when we played at Air Force and that bomber came over, it shook me to the core a little bit. We'll try to build in some distractions to practice. They do a nice job of having the visiting team be a little bit distracted."

    On getting ahead on the scoreboard vs. a triple-option team...
    "Looking at the Northern Illinois game, that was the key to the success. Northern jumped on them quick and had a big lead and now Army's going out to execute their offense...as quick as a triple-option team can strike, there's also a station-to-station, rep-to-rep, take 10 to 12 plays to get the ball down the field routine and rhythm. That's also part of their plan, to ball control that way. Scoring and scoring early and starting fast is going to be critically important. We're going to do the best job we can in simulating the speed of the option but that's going to be a big challenge. No. 1, it's completely different from anything else we've seen, and No. 2, getting up to game speed on defense."

    On who will be playing scout team quarterback in practice...
    "It will be (Cermak Bland) and Torin Dupper, then Zack (Oliver) will be ready to simulate in certain situations, but those two guys will do a nice job."

    On why the triple-option is run by so few schools...
    "You see Coach Johnson down at Georgia Tech running it...From my standpoint I think it has a little bit to do with recruiting. It's pretty tough to get skill guys excited to come in and block. With that being said, you also have the quarterback at risk on every play. There's always an evolution. You go back into the 50's and Coach (Darrell) Royal (of Texas) days, this was the offense, this was in vogue. There's a semblance in a lot of what we do of double-option. The core of what happens is spread out through every offense in the country, just maybe not in the formation or that whole program approach of this is what we're going to be and this is our identity. Then also, with the roster cap at 110, there's no way we could run this offense and be able to get prepared for our opponents each week. I can't speak for everyone else in the country but I can just speak for us."

    On Kevin Watt moving to the interior at times...
    "He's probably our most dynamic guy mentally from a standpoint of understanding every position, not only on the defensive front but on the defense. He's a guy that's been out there a lot for us. He has done it in the past on nickel situations so he's comfortable being out there, then with Jack (DiNardo) out last week it solidified our rotation to have two waves at both positions. Kevin's an incredibly unselfish player, he'll do anything we ask, he's very involved in the kicking game also. Just proud of him. The No. 1 skill is knowledge. He just understands the change in fundamental and technique that happens when you move inside."

    On preparing for a unique team like Army...
    "It's a great challenge for us as a staff. I bought a couple extra bottles of Tums for us. It's been a whole program approach in the offseason, for going and researching it, watching what Army has done, watching what Coach had done back at Cal Poly on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. Then also watching some new people and some nuances on both sides and trying to formulate a plan for what fit our personnel best and how we can go about trying to contain him. You're not going to stop them, that's unrealistic. You can read Coach Ellerson's quotes, they are coming together, they played a lot of young players due to injury last week, they played fast, physical, tough, it was a dog fight. They had every chance to win that football game and we know what we're getting into."

    On if Mike Trumpy will be ready to play...
    "We'll be able to know more as the week goes along but yes we're anticipating him hopefully being ready to go."

    On the lack of big plays on offense...
    "I think stats are for losers, at the end of the day it's about winning. When I look back at what we did on Saturday, we had a plan, I thought Mick (McCall) and the offensive staff really stuck to that plan. There were some things that were there. I'm not going to lose sleep over it. In the opener, we had a guy making his first collegiate start. I'm really proud of Kain (Colter), I think he's played really well, he's learning each week and doing the things young quarterbacks need to do to improve. He did some nice things Saturday, taking what the defense gave him, checking down to Jacob Schmidt and some of our other backs, that showed some maturity. Other guys will force it. I'm proud of him for that."

    On Army quarterback Trent Steelman...
    "He's tough, you look at how he's played this year, he throws it well. That's your biggest concern. You're loading and loading and loading the box, playing the option, playing the option, all he does is pop back a little bit and try to throw vertical down the field to catch you napping with wheel routes. That guy's been coming out, arc to cut you, arc to cut you, then he goes wheel route right up the field. Or they run their nice naked play where they sweep some shallow crossers, bring a wheel route out the back. They've made a living on making big plays from guys being undisciplined. We're going to be ready for both. You're not going to stop the run, you've got to contain the run, create turnovers, get off the field on third down, because they're going to execute and they're going to get their yards, no question about that."