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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 10, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening Statement...
    "We're doing well, doing great, looking forward now to the challenge that's in progress. It's a very physical, very well-coached team, Kinnick Stadium is obviously a difficult place to play and now compound that with having to play at night. It is obviously a tremendous challenge but we have to compete and get better, improve fundamentally and execute better. When we've done that this year we've been pretty good. When we haven't, we've stunk. We've lost a couple games here in a row so we need to stop stinking. When we do, we'll be all right."

    On Venric Mark's role as a defensive spy vs. Michigan...
    "Maybe five or six (plays) give or take a little bit. I thought he was fine. We had a couple times where he had some rush, we got some production out of it but not the kind of production we hoped. (The idea was) once (Denard Robinson) started to move in the pocket, to go get him, allow our guys to have some one on ones. We just didn't have the kind of production that we need to have."

    On improving the play of the secondary ...
    "You stay the course. As we looked at the tape we thought we had an opportunity to intercept the ball eight times and we got three. If we just get one more it's a different situation. If we get two more, where we're there in a 50-50, it's a big change. From some alignment things, if we were aligned properly we would have been in position to pick off some balls. We just have to continue working with those guys who are in their first years of experience, that's why we get paid. We have to work our butts off to help them get better. Their attitude's in a great spot and that's all we can ask. We have to put guys in position to make plays."

    On not selecting a defensive player of the game...
    "As we talked, we didn't have anyone play consistently for four quarters. Tyler Scott played really well for three and a half quarters, really well, as well as maybe anybody's played this year on defense. But for half a quarter he didn't and that's kind of indicative of the way we're playing right now on defense. We've got to put together a full 60 minutes. We're playing well up front in controlling the line of scrimmage for the most part. We've faced two of the more dynamic quarterbacks in the league and we've handled the run pretty well. We have to eliminate the explosion plays. We're there for two 50-50 plays, we have to win those balls. No way to sugarcoat it, you have to win. You do that by going up first, by having confidence and poise in that situation. Guys just keep getting better."

     

     

    On NU's success against Iowa recently...
    "I don't know if we've had a lot of success, all these games have come down to winning the turnover ratio and making plays in the second half. Both teams are physical, there are players on both sides that are dynamic, every game I've been a part of in this series have been close at halftime, they've gone to the fourth quarter and I think most of them have been decided by one score or less. For us it's going to be critical that we start fast. It's going to be a raucous environment, we can't go out there and get knocked out in the first round. The crowd's going to give them an excellent added boost, there's no question about that. It's an exceptional environment."

    On finishing games in which NU has held leads...
    "It's execution. It's on us to get our guys to execute better and stay poised but when you watch the tape, they ran the same field pressure, they ran the same quarter-quarter-half coverage, they ran the same quarterback power plays, the same quarterback outside zones. The one thing that they did a little less -- which we thought might happen -- is they probably pressured a little less in the second half than they did in the first. We stopped ourselves. The first play of the second half, we're out of the gate, we pitch the ball, we turn it over twice in that series, we get stopped on downs. I wouldn't say it's disappointing, it's just an area we've got to improve on, we've got to execute better. "

    On if team fitness has been an issue...
    "Are you kidding me? That's a joke. I would take our conditioning level against anybody in the country. Not against a marathon runner from yesterday, but I'd take it against anybody in the country. Pop on the Boston College game, pop on a lot of our games. We are in great shape. We've got to be mentally tougher, there's no question about that. We'll work through that at practice."

    On Dan Persa's performance...
    "Dan's doing great, he's two games back. He'd be the first to tell you that he'd really like some plays back in the third quarter. But it is what it is, you move on. He's given us a chance to win. I really like what we're trying to do and what we're trying to get accomplished, we've just got to get our guys to execute better. It's really not a whole lot more complicated than that. We've got to keep grinding and keep working fundamentally. The margin for error in this league is very slim. You guys watch a lot more games than I get a chance to watch, I watch the coaches copies, but most of these games you go on to the second half and everybody's got a chance to win them. You've just got to execute, you've got to stay disciplined in your fundamentals, and you've got to make plays as they present themselves. We just haven't done that for two weeks. We have, but we just haven't done it for long enough. We haven't done it for 60 minutes."

    On changes in momentum of the game...
    "I think it's the game of football. Again, we needed to get a big stop on defense and we blocked a field goal. We lost some momentum in Champaign and the defense goes out and creates a fumble. We've just got to play better as a team. I think momentum is a critical force in life, and the same thing on the football field."

    On getting off the field on third down defense...
    "Saturday, the good news is we got them to seventeen third downs, the bad news is we didn't win. We need to continue to do that. We're going to always look at what we're doing schematically first. They were in way too many third-and-manageables. Denard (Robinson) is going to give them that chance. We've just got to win in those situations. We pointed to about seven of those, seven out of 17, that we felt like we, from a lack of execution, gave them the third down pickup. We can correct all those things. There's seven that we thought, good job for them, we tip our hats and move on. But seven out of 17 is a different deal than 14 out of 17. Same thing like I said with the alignment, be in position to make some of those plays. But we didn't, so we've just got to keep coaching them, showing them that. Showing the guys like (Collin) Ellis, first time starter, like (Niko) Mafuli, those guys that are just going to keep getting better. I've liked the way that those two guys in particular have been playing. Tyler (Scott), the way those three guys are playing, they are just working to get better and better each week, each rep. It's encouraging to see."

    On the fourth-and-one option call...
    "Well it was there, but (Michigan) misaligned. They had a defensive end line up in the wrong side and he was the extra head over there. We looked back at that play and say gosh, that's one of those where you wish you held the call, because if we would have gone the other way, I think we wouldn't have walked in the end zone. We're all sleeping on the other side of the bed; karma just isn't in a good spot right now. It's a fun challenge."

    On Kain Colter and Dan Persa playing together...
    "We get two dynamic playmakers. Both those guys can make things happen. I'm just really proud of Kain, his attitude, the way that he's approached the change in role; going from being the starting quarterback to now being a critical member of what we're trying to accomplish, but not the quarterback. I think a young man with less maturity and not as much of a team guy would be throwing a pity party and complaining, but he's the other way around. He's having a blast and he's playing his tail off. I'm really, really proud of him."

    On wide receiver Christian Jones...
    "We've got good depth out at wideout, it's a production business, and he produced on Saturday. He had three opportunities to make plays and he did. He blocked his fanny off. He made the plays, we're going to reward that, especially when we're looking for guys to make a difference and help us win. I think it's more what he's doing and how he's earned that right. All those guys are going to play in a rotation. At practice, it's one of those situations, those guys all play. "

    On pressuring Iowa QB James Vandenberg...
    "We had times on Saturday where we had good pressure. Denard lobs a grenade down the field, and we watch the ball go over our head. James (Vandenberg) is playing really, really well. We saw him a couple years ago, when he came in, when Ricky (Stanzi) got injured. You could tell he had a big-time arm; it was a really tough situation for him to come in, and now to watch him. I haven't gotten through every game. I've gotten through most of them, and some of the cutups with the defensive staff through this morning. The way that he brought that team back, especially in the Pitt game, and then the momentum that carried on into the ULM game was really, really impressive. And then on Saturday, playing in State College is a really tough environment, and I thought Penn State played really well in the secondary. They really did, they were really disruptive, and did some things. It's going to be a great challenge for us. Marvin (McNutt) is an All-Big Ten receiver, a lot of similarities to (A.J.) Jenkins in Champaign, but different, bigger. 6'4, 215, can really run. Keenan Davis, another big receiver, 6'3, 215 on the other side. They're getting their tight ends involved, Kevonte Martin-Manley's also doing a nice job. Marcus (Coker) can catch the ball in the backfield. He's spreading it out to all their guys, Coach (Ken) O'Keefe does a nice job, they execute and they do what they do really well. You look at the second half against Pitt and then ULM, they're executing at a real high level, and then sometimes on Saturday, kind of like us, didn't execute a little bit. Penn State was able to have some success, from watching it from my perspective."

    On using previous success against Iowa as motivation...
    "We've got a lot of things we've got to fix. What's done is done, I think we've been fortunate, we've won the turnover issue and made some plays in the second half, found a way to win. You look at our conference right now, again, I didn't watch every game on Saturday, obviously, but I had a chance to watch a bunch. Very, very competitive football; the teams aren't separated by very much. It just comes back to us as coaches, putting our guys in situations to make plays, getting them fundamentally sound and technically sound, executing at a consistent level. The guys have got to go out and make the plays when they present themselves. Motivation for this game is that both teams are coming off a loss, both teams are frustrated with the way that they've played most recently and both teams probably feel like they could have won most recently, if they correct some things. Extremely well-coached, very good players on both sides. It's going to be a great challenge for us because you're playing at night at Kinnick (Stadium), can't minimize that."

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