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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 17, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening Statement...
    "Obviously we're excited for homecoming, it'll be nice to get back home for the second time in front of our students. They were tremendous a couple weeks ago against Michigan and we look forward to seeing them again out early and having some fun like they did in Ryan Field. It's going to be nice to see all of our alums back in Evanston for the reunions and having some fun.

    Looking at Penn State, obviously it starts with Coach (Joe) Paterno. He embodies all that's good in college football. His leadership, his player development, the success they've had in the classroom producing great men. His success on the field is unmatched and unparalleled. He's just a tremendous role model for all of us as coaches. He's a great person and someone who has been very gracious to me. It's an honor to share the gridiron with him and hopefully we'll show up and play our best game and give them a game.

    It's a top defense that we face, top to bottom. Up front those guys are playing at a very high level. They've got a wave of about eight guys that they're playing. Their linebackers are very athletic and understand the defense inside and out. They've got four seniors playing in the secondary; they're rotating a few of their younger guys in, but the four seniors are their mainstays. They've been there playing forever and playing very well. On offense, it's similar to the way we are playing on defense at times. They've been hit and miss. When they've been on, they've been really, really good. Silas Redd is as good of a running back as there is in this conference. Then they bring (Curtis) Dukes in and they've got a really solid 1-2 punch. (Wide receiver Derek) Moye going down with last week with that foot, he's a dynamic playmaker but you saw them get the ball to (Justin) Brown. (WR Devon) Smith is a 4.25 guy in the 40. You saw (WR Shawn) Kersey get the ball a little, so they've got playmakers across the board, physical up front. They're playing with two quarterbacks, (Rob) Bolden and (Matt) McGloin. Their tight end's a real physical player, plays hard, gets after you; is going to play through the echo of the whistle. I like the way that he plays. In the kicking game they play their butts off. It's going to be a great challenge for us, but we're looking forward to it. We're getting back to work this morning, and we'll get back to work the right way gain tomorrow."

     

     

    On NU's defense taking responsibility for communication breakdowns...
    "I think they've taken responsibility, I do. They definitely have internally, they're working hard to get it fixed but the definition of insanity is repeating the same performance and expecting a different outcome. We'll look real hard personnel-wise at some things, make sure we've got the best 11 out there. We'll look at things schematically, are we asking them to do too much? Are they thinking out there, when they should just be playing fast? At the end of the day are they making mental mistakes in the arena? If that's the case we've got to make some changes."

    On making mistakes this far into the season...
    "(Penn State's) got four seniors in their secondary, they can probably finish the call before the call is made. We're not in that position, we're not in that luxury now. We've got some guys that are out there and we're doing a lot of coaching on game day. It'll be nice to get Jared (Carpenter) and David (Arnold) back into the depth from that standpoint; they've been hurt. One broke his wrist and one broke his hand. They've been out for a while; they've finally got back and going in practice. You saw them out in the lineup a little bit a week ago. Those are two guys that have played a lot of football for us. It'll be nice to have those guys back in the mix when they've been out of the mix due to injury. That's been tough and we've had some guys out there with a little bit less experience and now you get out there in the arena and things move fast. It goes real fast and so when you're not executing and it goes even faster."

    On Kain Colter receiving reps as quarterback...
    "First of all, he's a dynamic playmaker when you watch him at all three aspects of where he's playing. As quarterback, where we do some different things getting the ball in his hands, running the football and then his ability to run routes and get open and then make big plays like he did on Saturday, laying out and making a spectacular play. You've got to get that kind of athlete on the field. Through what we do schematically, offensively: players, formations, plays. It's all over what we do as a program. As a staff we're doing a great job of getting him involved. On top of that, we're also trying to get Dan (Persa) back involved. He's played three games after overcoming a major injury. For me. it probably took until Big Ten play, when I came back from my injury, which was about three or four weeks, until all the doubt of your injury is gone and you're back out there playing fast again. Danny's been getting better each week. With that being said, we told Kain we're going to get you involved in a lot of different ways. Keep hydrating and get yourself ready to play, and he's done a good job with that."

    On the most impressive aspect of Dan Persa's play this season...
    "Well, when you have an injury, it's tough to overcome. Through this whole process, he's really handled it and managed it well. When you get out there, your body responds a little differently than the last time you played. So now, you're internalizing some things a little bit different. He's handled that well and he's had some really spectacular plays and been outstanding and then he's had the unfortunate ebb and flow of some valleys in his play. He responded really well Saturday night to a very uncharacteristic decision that he made. He came back and I thought he played really well as the game went along. He's just going to continue to keep getting better and we've got him for six more guaranteed. Looking forward to watching him play on Saturday night."

    On shuffling quarterbacks...
    "We're trying to get our best eleven players on the field. Our guys are managing it pretty well from that standpoint. We're trying to package it where there's no confusion. I don't think we've gotten a delay of game penalty or formation issue with that amount of groups going in. Credit goes to our players and offensive staff for being on the same page there. It gets a little complicated when we've done eight to 10 plays and we're changing personnel groupings and we have subs in. They managed it really well on Saturday night. Their rhythm is fine, 500 yards up, I don't think we're out of rhythm. Obviously two big turnovers took points off the board, led to seven points for them and then gave them three points. That's a 10-point swing and we lost by ten. That's one area where we can definitely get better."

    On settling for a field goal on fourth-and-1...
    "I've got a lot of confidence in Jeff (Budzien). We had the wind with us. He's pretty much spot-on at camp. I know he's hitting at 50 percent, but he's got six kicks in his career so you've got to look at more then six tries. Let's not write him off yet. We needed points. We needed points at that time. He's got to tell me whether or not he feels good about the kick and he did. He felt like he was striking well all day on Saturday. I thought he put a good stroke into it and he had a good shot. That was a little bit of a tougher deal, from the standpoint that if we don't fumble that pitch, it's a different kick."

    On the defense getting back to what is was a year ago...
    "Maybe this will be a good stat for everybody to look up, but if you take away the explosion plays, where would we be? So cut those in half, just be half better. We're playing much better up front fundamentally than a year ago. For a majority of the plays we're seeing in the passing game, we're playing pretty well. It's the home runs over our head that have killed us. As I told the kids today with our leadership council, it's not like your putting a pin into a balloon and it's a slow leak, when you do that it's like taking a machete and taking all the air out of every balloon you have. We have to eliminate that. We have to eliminate those self-inflicted wounds, if it's mental mistakes, communication mistakes, if it's execution mistakes. If it's the position we're putting the guys in schematically, if it's personnel mistakes. We've got to eliminate those because we're too good of a football team to have those happening. We can't take back what's happened, but we've got to learn from it and press on."

    On particular areas of the game that have caused the losses...
    "You look at each game with the biggest issues that we've had: No. 1 would be offensive turnovers. The biggest issue we've had defensively would be giving up explosion plays. If we can mitigate those, we're going to be the team that we aspire to be. We've been pretty solid throughout the year in the kicking game. There have been some ups and downs, but overall, we've been pretty solid there. We've been better running the football. This is maybe the best we've run the ball. Same thing with stopping the run, outside of the Army game and a couple of runs on Saturday where we didn't fit right, I thought we were pretty good. We shut Illinois down pretty well and outside of a couple of Denard (Robinson) plays against Michigan we've been pretty good. There are a lot of positives to draw from. The guys have great belief inside the locker room; we've just got to find a way to win. The good news is we've got half the season left and four of those games are at home. We know a lot more about our team now than we did six games ago. We've just got to do a better job at putting our guys in positions to be successful."

    On fewer rotations in the defensive line...
    "Maybe Saturday we didn't rotate as much, we only played 50 plays. We did a lot of watching; we pretty much controlled the ball. We had a huge time of possession advantage; we stopped them on seven third downs. Maybe if the first down gets picked up we'd rotate some guys through. In previous games we had good solid rotation."

    On how to respond to a loss after winning the game statistically...
    "You work your butt off. That's the nature of life man. You figure out what went wrong and do something about it. We turned the ball over, we're going in to score and we turn the ball over and all of a sudden in front of 80,000 people on the road they've got momentum. It's not a good deal. We jump offside when they stem their front and we end up having to punt the ball, so there's 10 points. We pitch the ball and we fumble it and we've got to kick a 47-yard field goal into a wind that's crossing a little bit and barely miss it. There's 16 points. It's not real complicated, we turn the ball over, we self-inflicted some wounds. Then you put the two balls over our head and if we hold them to three points in those situations, instead of seven you give up six. I'm not real smart, but there's eight points off the board. Now you're talking about 23 (total) points and it's a different ball game. We've got to find ways to win, we can't keep beating ourselves."

    On the root of communication breakdowns....
    "Its both the safeties, based on the formation. We don't do anything exotic and we don't ask them to do anything exotic. But if there is something different formationally and they need to get us into an A, B or C and one guy is doing A and other says C, then we've got a problem. We've had too much of that this year."

    On Penn State's defense...
    "Tom Bradley has been there for 33 years. Obviously, their staff has been together. The continuity that they have, they have an identity. Eight of their 11 starters are seniors; those guys have played a lot of football for them. They play well up front. They are fundamentally sound. Defensive line coach (Larry) Johnson gets those guys that attack the line of scrimmage. They're up the field; they're very dynamic. It's not just four guys it's a whole wave of guys who come in. (Ron) Vanderlinden does a nice job of coaching them up, from a standpoint of understanding what you do. They just play good team defense, keep the ball in front and tackle well. They're solid at what they do."

    On Persa's reaction to throwing the pick...
    "He led us back into the ball game, we tied it up. We went into the fourth quarter tied up, so I think he responded really well. He was right around 70 percent (completion percentage) again. He took responsibility for it, came off the sidelines and said he was going to get it fixed and that's all you can ask him to do."

    On opposing defenses attacking the pocket more frequently...
    "No, not necessarily. You look at what Iowa did, the times that they had pressure it was more one man. The one sack we knew where they were coming from we slid our protection that way, but our right guard didn't get his eyes on the B gap and here comes a guy free. Next sack a guy gets beat one on one, and one of the sacks Danny held the ball. Michigan we knew was going to pressure us. That's Coach Mattison's identity and through that we were able to slice and dice them a bit in the passing game. Same thing with Illinois, we were able to throw pretty effectively against them when they tried to pressure us. The neutralizer to Dan not being a 4.4 guy, to now maybe being a 4.6, 4.5 guy so we can run option and if you're trying to overload we can take advantage of it."

    On two straight years of milestone games against Coach Paterno...
    "Yeah, I'd prefer them to get it next week, I'm not sure who they play. I'd be lying to tell you I'm not a college football fan before a coach. Just to have the privilege to share time with Coach, in our private meetings as a conference, hopefully before the game on Saturday, those are special memories I'll live with for my entire career and life. It's pretty special to say the least. The thing that you can set your watch on with Coach is that he's just consistent. The consistent success, the consistent development, it's unmatched and unparalleled."

    On Penn State offense...
    "I wouldn't say they don't have a great offense, at times it just hasn't happened for them. If it's turnovers, or one-man breakdowns, they've also played some pretty good defense themselves. I think they've got playmakers all over the board; it's not that, it's just that it hasn't clicked. Hopefully we can postpone their clicking for one week, that'd be good."