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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald talked about his meeting with Joe Paterno in his weekly Monday press conference.

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald talked about his meeting with Joe Paterno in his weekly Monday press conference.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 24, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening Statement...
    "Looking ahead, going back on the road again here, another two-week stretch on the road before we finish with three here at home. A lot of familiar faces on the IU sideline, I've worked with three of their coaches in the past, three great guys, and a staff full of guys that I know quite well. You can see Kevin Wilson's attitude all over this program. They're playing a lot of young of young guys but they're playing hard, you can see a lot of juice and passion on the sideline. Kevin's an attitude-first man and you can see it in the toughness and the passion of their team. They've been improving each week, been through some similar challenges to us. They're playing a lot of young guys, but a lot of first-time starters also and then mixing it in with some of their veterans. It's going to be tough for us on the road. We've got to obviously put together four quarters and 60 minutes of playing our style of ball to find a way to compete to hopefully win, so that will be our challenge."

    On the status of Dan Persa...
    "Right now we've got him in a boot, so right now he'll be questionable for the game. I'll probably be able to let you know more on Thursday."

    Explaining Persa's turf toe injury...
    "It's one of those deals when you kind of sprain the joint in your toe. We'll see how it responds as he goes through treatment. He feels a lot better today than he did yesterday. So we'll see how that progresses."

    On the defense, especially in the second half...
    "Obviously we would prefer not to have what we had in the first half, but I thought the attitude that our defense came out with in the second half was what we need to have as we continue forward. The credit goes to the players. They took it upon themselves. They were just tired of playing the way they were and it's all attitude. Instead of waiting for something to happen, they went out there and made some plays and made things happen. That's the way we were playing early and we got that in a better place in the second half, so we need to continue to build upon that in practice and bring it with us down to Bloomington."

     

     

    On Dan's attitude dealing with another frustrating setback...
    "I can't say I've asked him that specifically. I asked him how he felt as we were leaving the team meeting today, he said he felt much better and said he's going to play. Same old Dan."

    On Indiana's quarterback Tre Roberson...
    "First of all he's very talented from the standpoint of being able to run. You see him throw the ball, the two play-action passes down the field, he just barely missed the one post off the play-action pass and then hit the one deep throw. With what both of our teams do schematically, for younger quarterbacks: you can help him when you go with your different tempos and you can look over and help him to get into the right plays. Kevin and his staff are doing a nice job with that. He's got playmakers around him. The guy that they're really showcasing quite a bit is Kofi Hughes. They're putting him back there in the backfield as kind of a Wildcat quarterback and also some different things sweep-wise. He did a nice job of managing he moved the ball very well on Saturday against Iowa. I'm very impressed with the young man."

    On differences in recruiting linebackers with a different defensive system...
    "I think it's not unique to what we're looking for. We're all looking for the modern day Ray Lewis. You want guys that are mentally tough, physically tough, play with passion, have great football instincts, understand and can diagnose and have that innate within them, guys that can run that are athletic. I'm not as sold on guys being finished products as seniors in high school, I like guys that have growth potential. Maybe a guy that is 200 pounds, or 205, or 210 is fine for me, as long as they look like they can have some growth potential, where they can get to the 220+ range. Those guys are learning, they're getting some seasoning underneath them, starting to grow a little bit."

    On Northwestern's uniforms against Penn State...
    "I don't care, that's for the players. So they loved it. I got about 20 text messages and Facebook messages from recruits loving it. So it's about the players, I could care less. But I thought they looked alright."

    On if he feels like there is a small margin of error for victory...
    "I think that's pretty common in Big Ten football. I've watched a lot of games and very few of them are blowouts. There's very slim margin for error when you self-inflict wounds, like we have. You can look into all three phases on Saturday to where there were plays and opportunities to be made and we just didn't make them and we have to coach the guys better to do it. We've got to catch the ball better, we've got to get the ball out of our hands, we've got to tackle better, we've got to catch the ball better in the kicking game, when there's plays to be made there. I don't think it's real difficult at this point, we've just got to do a better job of staying the course, staying positive, coaching the guys in that vein, continuing to play with passion. We've got, obviously, a heightened sense of urgency because of the situation we've put ourselves in, to prolong the life of this team. But what's important now is that we find a way to get better this week. That's why I challenge the guys, if everybody gets one percent better we've got a chance to improve and make up those plays that we're not making."

    How team deals with long losing streak...
    "It's frustrating from the standpoint that you're not getting the success from a wins-loss standpoint. But what you're trying to do is show the positives and try to take those self-inflicted wounds and the negative plays away and show the guys how they can do that, not just point it out, but how we're going to go about doing this, being as specific and as demonstrative and as demanding as you can be through a positive end to show them exactly what they need to do and how they need to do it. So that's been our focus, it really hasn't changed, but not only really showing that but also showing the plays we're making and why we're making them and how we need to continue and be consistent with it. We hope to put the guys in those kinds of situations at practice so they can become the habits that we need to have for consistent performance for sixty minutes in the game."

    On Colter's performance and the possible outlook of his start next week...
    "You look at the way that Kain's been playing in multiple roles: throwing the ball, catching the ball, running the ball. He's really embraced what Mick (McCall) and the staff are trying to do for him and to that I can't say enough positive things. I'm not surprised his attitude has just been tremendous in the way he has got to go about his business, working, getting prepared for these multiple roles, he's really doing a tremendous job. We'll operate and expect Dan to play and we'll adjust accordingly as the week goes along. I like the role we've been able to put Kain into. I think it's keeping defenses off balance, and then obviously having a guy like Dan back there who's put almost career numbers up the last few weeks, especially against Penn State, who I think was one of the top-rated defenses in the country going into the game. He's been playing at a pretty high level. So I'm pretty excited for both guys I guess is what my answer would be."

    On facing first-year coaches midway through the season...
    "(Facing them now) is a lot better than what Ball State had to go through maybe in the opener. We've been there quite a bit in the last few years, if it's not only a new head coach but new coordinators in different roles. So really the advantage goes to him. We don't have all the answers but over time, you kind of get a good sense of the personality of the signal caller so I think it's a big advantage for them."

    On the plays where Colter took deep sacks...
    "We just can't take those sacks. It's that simple. You're in a scoring zone and no matter whether there was something there or not there's opportunities to get rid of the ball, get the ball out of your hands. I think at that point we could've helped him a little bit, that's what we talked about as a staff. Maybe go back and have some calls over again and help him out a little bit. It is easy to do that. That's what makes it so much fun, when things don't go well, to second-guess. But life isn't easy."

    On putting Trevor Siemian in at quarterback at the end...
    "We had a plan. We plugged Trevor into Dan's role a little bit, that's how he was prepared for the week. We had a plan going down the road in that series if we would've completed the first play, to kind of go down the road in some different ways. If that makes sense, without telling [Indiana Coach] Wilson everything."

    On being on staff with Kevin Wilson in 2001...
    "I loved him. Just a great guy, a tremendous football mind, a tremendous football coach somebody that I call a friend, somebody who was very gracious to me as a new member of the staff. Obviously, he'd been with Coach (Randy) Walker for a number of years, and so as being the new guy (he'd tell me), `I'd do this, I'd definitely shy away from doing that. You don't want to get that Walk finger you know, 'Get over here.'' So he was great, great family. Obviously, the success he had here, and then moving on to (Oklahoma). Nothing less than spectacular."

    On LB Damien Proby's move to the top of the depth chart...
    "We wanted to try to jumpstart some things. Fundamentally, David (Nwabuisi) needed to play better and I thought he did. He got nominated for being Defensive Player of the Game, so that was encouraging to us, he was a bit more fundamentally sound, he tackled better and he fit better, so that's encouraging."

    On the play of veterans on defense...
    "I'm frustrated for those young men, they're trying. I don't think it's been a lack of effort, I think it's been more of a lack of consistency, fundamentally, and production. This is a production business and if you're not going to be consistent fundamentally you might press a little bit mentally, try to do too much, and now you make a decision that could be damaging to our defense and we give up some big plays. We're also trying to find some combinations. Stats are for losers but when you're not winning and you're not getting production, we have to try to find different combinations, that's our job. You can write whatever you want, I'm not trying to make an earth-shattering statement here, I'm trying to put guys in a position to make some plays. If we diminish their role on first or second down, maybe we're trying to get some production out of them on third down because that's a decision we've made. Hopefully those will pay some dividends."

    On recording one sack in three games...
    "Both games we had guys in the backfield that didn't get home. We have to finish the job when we're back there. I think we had three guys unblocked on Saturday and we went 0-for-3 on those opportunities. We had one with Niko (Mafuli) but we had three other ones, so now if we're talking about four, we're ahead of our average. We have to finish those plays. Same thing against Iowa. We had guys in the backfield and we were either a step away or James (Vandenberg) got it out of his hand on time. When that happens, it's tough. We have to get more production there."

    On if he sees himself reaching Joe Paterno's win totals...
    "I don't even know what I'm at right now, I'd just like to get one more, I could care less about 400 to be quite honest with you. It's amazing, after talking to Joe before the game, it's amazing what he's able to do. It's incredibly motivating, being on the opposite end of the spectrum. He was tremendous, gracious as always before the game, I said something about how hopefully my kids won't bother him in the press box. So Joe sent to see my three kids at halftime. That's just who he is. That's unbelievable. My three little knuckleheads won't remember that, but I'll remind them of it, maybe at their wedding, when they're older. That just shows you how Coach is. He's what college football is all about. Again, I wish he'd be getting the record this week and not last week but, incredible to say the least."

    On Venric Mark dropping kickoffs vs. Penn State...
    "He dropped the ball. I asked him if he was missing them in the lights, he said no. They were a little bit of a screwball from a pitching context but he's got to catch those balls. And he's been really good all year, chalk it up as an anomaly game. It's the third night game so I'm not going to build in that excuse that it's a night game."

    On Indiana native Tyris Jones...
    "He's a great young man. He's fun. I'm close with most of the guys on the team but because of Tyris' ability to have a great attitude all the time and become so involved in campus, we do a lot of things football-related but I also was there with him for the homecoming pep rally. He was part of the homecoming court. We crowned him on Thursday, we gave him one of those crowns after practice. He didn't win king (for Northwestern) but he's our king."