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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern are psyched for their first trip to Nebraska.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern are psyched for their first trip to Nebraska.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 31, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Opening Statement...
    "Happy Halloween, welcome, I don't have any treats for you, so too bad. It was great to get a win that felt a little more comfortable Saturday night. The food tasted a little bit better and then I had to watch Nebraska and it all started tasting terrible again. And so, we'll be playing a great football team in a hostile environment. It's going to be a huge challenge. And hopefully our guys will prepare properly to give us an opportunity to compete."

    On initial reaction to Nebraska joining the Big Ten...
    "Well they wanted to add a traditional power, somewhat of the way we did with Penn State when I was a student-athlete. It was exciting as a Big Ten fan first. It's one of the most storied programs, historically, one of the most successful programs and when you can add that kind of brand recognition, it just makes the conference stronger. As the head football coach at Northwestern, I was really hoping they were going to add Carl Sandburg High School. They've been a great program for a number of years, and they have great coaches now, great players now, and some of the best fans in the country. So it's going to be a great challenge"

    On Nebraska's former head coach Tom Osbourne...
    "I just met Coach last May. Very gracious, very humble for the amount of success that he's had, not only on the field but off. He's very similar to Coach (Joe) Paterno from a standpoint of one of the pillars of what makes our game so great, and where the game is at today is because of men like Coach Osbourne. Obviously what he built at Nebraska speaks for itself. But I think more so on the national stage, what he means to the game is just special."

    On the effect of the IU game on settling down the Wildcats...
    "We take it one game at a time. Streaks are talked about by media, not by teams, so we don't listen to you guys, I'm sorry to say that but we just don't. With that being said, for a number of weeks we've played well enough at times to win and we've played poor enough to lose. And we do those things and you give up big plays or when you kill yourself in the red zone, you end up on the short end. I think more of the team has learned. I think they had fun on Saturday, they played loose. I think we've played loose all year though, I don't think it was any different. Our offensive performance was one of the better ones that I've seen. I'm not trying to minimize that, I just think that we got up big and I thought the guys played pretty loose and pretty free all day, on all three phases."

     

     

    On playing in Nebraska's hostile environment...
    "I haven't been out there. I've done my research and obviously I think it's very similar to the environments we play, like at Iowa, Wisconsin, State College, up in East Lansing, in (Ohio State's Horse) Shoe. We've played in a bunch of hostile environments and I think our plan on the road has been pretty good. When I think back to our performances, maybe this year but more so over time, I think our plan has been pretty solid. It's going to take our best week of preparation, it always comes down to that. We've got to learn a new offense and a new defense and a new kicking game this week in our opponent, but more importantly we need to have the best week of preparation. All-Big-Ten level players need to play All-Big-Ten on Saturday. We can't go out there and not play well and not coach our guys well and expect to win. It's going to take great effort."

    On defensive players who have played at an All-Big-Ten level this season...
    "Like I said earlier I think Jordan (Mabin) has played pretty well all season long. I think Jack (DiNardo) has been pretty consistent when he's been healthy. Brian (Peters), at times, has been very, very efficient and very consistent. He's got to clean up his tackling; if he does that he's going to have big games. Just fundamental things keeping your feet apart, moving your feet. Shuffling over instead of lunging a tackle. (Tyler Scott), the problem is he's missed multiple games. So unless you're Dan Persa you typically don't get named All-Big Ten if you miss a couple games."

    On Northwestern's run defense...
    "On Saturday we didn't fit well on a couple plays, obviously missed tackles. Both the Penn State and Indiana game hurt us a little bit. I think Silas Redd is a pretty darn good player too and some guys are going to make some runs. Just like Marcus Coker (of Iowa) had a couple of good runs. We fit well on two plays and he gets a couple of explosion runs. We're going to see the same thing this week with Taylor (Martinez), who's a very gifted quarterback. Rex (Burkhead) embodies everything that their program's about. He's physically tough. You saw him get dinged around a little bit on Saturday and he came right back. He does the dirty work. He's a fun guy to watch as a fan. He's one of those guys where, when we're not playing him, I like watching him run the football. It's going to be a great challenge and they're playing a number of young running backs too. They're very physical up front, they do a really nice job schematically of playing with tempo and doing some things option-wise that are going to give us a lot of challenges. So we've got to play better and we've got to coach the guys better."

    What is most concerning heading into Nebraska...
    "I don't think we have enough time to share all the variables. Lavonte David, if he's not the best linebacker in this conference or in the country I'm not sure who is. He's got great ability to diagnose the play, he's fast, he's physical, he's good in pass coverage, he's the full package. I'm really impressed not only watching him so far this year, but in our summer study. Just defensively, Bo and Carl (Pelini) do a nice job. They are who they are. They haven't changed a whole lot from a standpoint of going back to when we've studied them in the past, even from afar. And they've got great talent up front. They roll them all on first and second down and they'll get into a nickel package. To get some things going, on offense up front they're very physical. I talked about Taylor and Rex already. I like Kenny Bell on the perimeter, he's got high energy. Brandon (Kinnie), the senior receiver, big kid, 6'3'' 225. They're getting (Tim) Marlowe in in different ways. Their kick return game, I think they're second in the country in kickoff returns or at least in the top 5. They do a nice job. (Ameer) Abdullah's the return guy, he's really gifted, he's really talented, he's really quick. I think just top to bottom they've got a rock solid program. Bo does a great job, he always has. They're well coached."

    On how Taylor Martinez compares to Denard Robinson...
    "He's bigger. I think different maybe isn't the key, I think they're similar, very similar. Very dynamic. This year in particular, Nebraska's running more option than Michigan in a number of different option looks, not just lead option but speed option and belly-G option and some different things where they're getting some different schemes where they're running outside plays and pulling a guy for the quarterback to run up the middle, which he does a nice job of. So he's making really good decisions, especially in the passing game. And they're building good compliments off of their base run plays."

    On Adonis Smith's status...
    "He may have played against Penn State a little bit. Last week he got a little dinged up and wasn't available in practice for a couple days. So he was cleared to play but without practicing, you know my philosophy, very rarely am I going to play a guy who doesn't practice a lot and get a lot of work in the game plans. So hopefully he'll be healthy this week. But Jacob (Schmidt) ran for 115 yards (at Indiana)."

    On seeing how the offense does against Nebraska...
    "Oh it's a huge challenge. It's about us and how we prepare this week. We've got to coach our guys better to play better. It's a big month for our program if we want to send our seniors out the right way. You try to make your whole season go to November and have some significance riding in November. Obviously we'd like to be in a different place than we are right now, from a wins-loss standpoint. But we're at where we're at. Everybody kind of goes into November 0-0 and everything kind of plays itself out throughout the month of November. This is a pretty stiff test, against a team that's in the lead or tied for the lead in our division, and we've got to go do it on the road. I think the challenge is obvious to everybody in our program. Our focus is always on us so hopefully we'll have a great week and get prepared and go out and compete."

    On the idea of slowing tempo on offense to control clock...
    "You mean like four yards and a cloud of dust? That's not who we are. We're going to be who we are. Last week we were up three scores and we go into a little bit of a different tempo than we were in earlier in the game. Contrary to popular belief, yes, we do that and clock manage. Sometimes it doesn't go the way we want because we go three-and-out and slow down a bit. At the end of the day it comes down to being consistent and efficient, finding a way to win. I can psycho-analyze everything if you'd like me to this morning but I think more importantly we just have to find a way to get better this week. It's a critical month for our program. Our guys understand where our strengths are, we understand where our limitations are and we've got to play to our strengths and find a way to win. We're not real sexy, I get it, I know it hurts some people, but we have to worry about finding a way to win."

    On Mick McCall's use of personnel on offense...
    "It's been pretty cool to watch. It's been a lot of fun, I think the kids are having fun. You put up 600 yards of offense (even though) I think Jeremy Ebert had one catch. That goes to show not only about our current players but why so many recruits are interested in us, we're going to spread the ball around a lot, get involved, get a lot of people touches in a lot of different ways to showcase some guys' skill sets. We walked off the field and I looked at the stats and said, `Jeremy only touched the ball once.' It wasn't by design, it's just the way it happened. They did some things to try to take him away, there were some other guys just a little bit more available than he was. It's been interesting and fun to watch, kids have done a nice job preparing. I think having Dan (Persa) has really helped Kain (Colter) mature. From that maturity standpoint I think the guys have a lot of belief in confidence in those two guys. It's one thing to have one quarterback who can play efficiently and clean but to have two guys gives you a great opportunity to be successful. It keeps the defense off balance a little bit. We were pretty efficient on Saturday."

    On the benefits of playing multiple (young) quarterbacks...
    "I can't say I've followed as closely as you have, from a two-quarterback system standpoint. I know why we're doing it, that's for me to know and nobody else. At the end of the day it's giving us a chance to win football games. That's what every coach is trying to do, find combinations of 11 guys to get on the field to be successful. In that framework of that week -- each defense presents different challenges and opportunities so you have to put your program together from a sense of building. You have your base, your foundation, then your system around that is what your players do well. That's what you're seeing us do right now, from the players, formations plays standpoint. Mick (McCall) and his staff are doing a great job, our guys are having fun and cutting it loose. The times we haven't moved the ball we just haven't executed. That's football. You're not going to be perfect. But I think the guys have played pretty well all year and given us a chance to win on offense."

    On Dan Persa's status during the practice week...
    "We limited him on Tuesday and then Wednesday/Thursday he was good to go. Reminded me of when I played with Darnell (Autry). I don't think he ever practiced on Tuesday. Danny's a tough guy. We need everybody in our program to have that attitude. I call him Mr. Deeds, the guys were laughing, he's got more issues going on below his knees than anybody in the world. He keeps battling through it. He ran for about 40 yards on Saturday, I know he's not 4.25 right now but I still like what he's doing right now, unbelievable from a toughness standpoint."