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    Pat Fitzgerald Weekly News Conference Transcript

    Pat Fitzgerald

    Pat Fitzgerald

    Nov. 14, 2011

    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Weekly News Conference Transcript

    On running a simpler defense...
    "Well as we were looking at what we do defensively we put the first responsibility on ourselves as coaches. Every team is different, every defense is a little bit different. Some of the things that we were able to be successful with in the past, we weren't able to be successful with this year. So as we were looking inward and taking responsibility for that, we try to do things that our players do well. We take responsibility first and foremost for our poor play in the month of October, but at the end of the day, they've got to go out there and make plays too. Did we simplify it? I don't know, maybe it's a Jedi mind trick...I'll go back to what I just said: earlier in the year we were trying to go back to what we had done in the past and we weren't able to accomplish that. So either it's poor teaching, poor learning, or a combination of both. So sure we've simplified, we've gone above and beyond simplification."

    On proposing a Big Ten honor for a utility or multi-role player...
    "As I think about our discussions, typically that would come from our media, from the SID level in their conversation. I can tell you right now, most coaches don't really care about awards. I don't think it would come from me. Kain's had a great year doing a lot of different things, I'm assuming that's who you're talking about. Yea Kain, right? Venric's doing okay but you know, Kain's been spectacular. I don't know, I don't think we're going to lose a lot of sleep over it as coaches, but I think it's a great idea. We can give out participation trophies too. That's kind of where I'm at right now, we've gotten to work for everything. At the end of the day I think it comes back to being able to make plays and helping your team win. That's more important than any awards you win, being a team player. I think we've got one of the best in the country in Kain right now. He'll do whatever we ask him to do, he's incredibly unselfish. And to that I guess we'l give him an internal award."



    On Marqueis Gray...
    "I'll start with his size, he's 6-4, 240. We'll go back a couple years ago when they were using him as more of a wildcat quarterback. And we had a real hard time getting him to the ground. And now you watch the way that [Minnesota's offensive coordinator] is using him, they're really playing to Marqueis's strengths in a lot of different ways, not just running the ball, but with their play-action pass game. It'll be a great challenge for us, they've been doing a great job with it. I think he's healthier than he'd been a little earlier in the year."

    "Really our focus, as it is each week, is on ourselves. We felt like we played well enough to win on Saturday but not great. It was not our best game in the last three weeks in a couple of areas. We thought we needed to be a little bit more consistent early running the ball. We had an opportunity for a few more turnovers that we didn't take advantage of, but we're going to need to as we move forward. We need to get better in the kicking game, especially in our two return units. And then obviously our two turnovers, I like our aggressiveness but our receivers have got to help Danny out a little bit and go up there and fight for the ball, which we didn't do. As great as Jeremy played, we had a couple of other guys that I'd like to see fight a little more for the football. I think there are a lot of positives from last week but there is a lot of room for improvement as well. And the same thing with what we were doing schematically. We didn't quite know how they would defend us once we honed in. I'd like us to hone in a little quicker and get to the point. I think we did well against Indiana and Nebraska, but I think it took us a little too long against Rice. I think the credit goes to Rice. I think they had a good plan and to put nine guys in the box, no matter what you do schematically it's going to be hard to run the ball. If that's what Minnesota decides to do, then we have to go out there again and throw the ball the way we did...I've been here watching some other receivers go up and get that ball against us. So I like Danny being aggressive, but our receivers need to get up and make a play on the ball. That was probably my biggest disappointment on Saturday, as well as we played at receiver against Nebraska, I think we left our big-boy pads in Lincoln. Hopefully we'll show up on Saturday with them and step back into Big Ten play...[and that's] on us as a staff. I mean we had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. They defended us a little more like how they defended Baylor, than how they had the previous couple weeks."

    On Minnesota playing with Jerry Kill's style...
    "You go back to, number one, the defense they had when he was at Northern. I think they were one of the top statistically year in and year out. They've got a definite identity on what they're trying to do there. You can definitely see that they're improving each week. I'll reiterate the toughness and the physicality that they're playing with. I read back earlier in the year that Jerry was talking about how he was starting back over, putting a camera on the sideline wanting to see passion, wanting to see emotion. That kind of attention to detail is Coach Kill. Offensively you flip it over and they were really dynamic with Chandler over time at Northern, and now you can see them doing the same things with Marqueis. They put a lot of pressure on what you're doing schematically, and it starts with that quarterback play. You pop on the kicking game, with the big returns against Wisconsin a week ago, who I've said I've got a ton of respect for. Each phase, they're ranked very high in the Big Ten and in the country and it's because they've got great athletes, they're doing a great job schematically. It's going to present a great challenge for us. I think this is the best overall special teams unit we've seen this year, so I think that third phase is going to be huge for both teams in this game.

    On differences in the defense's confidence level...
    "You make a few plays and it's the chicken and the egg, right? Success or confidence, confidence or success? I was one of those guys where, even though I was a terrible player my first two years, I still thought I was pretty good, and my last two years I thought I was the best player in the world. I think you have to have a little bit of swagger, you have to trust and believe in yourself. You move toward and become what you think about the most. If you think you're pretty good, you are. If you think you stink, you do. That's why I always talk to our guys about being real careful who they listen to and about the approach they take. It should be very business-like. You have to believe in yourself, look yourself in the mirror and believe in what you're doing, how you're preparing and hopefully that will follow into being a successful player."

    On Kain Colter's performances this season at multiple positions...
    "The credit goes to Kain first. He has to work harder than anyone else in our program to learn all three aspects of what he's doing. I think Mick (McCall) is playing to his strengths, we're not asking him to do too much. Between him and Dennis Springer, we're probably over-coaching him. He's one of those young men, if you're playing kickball you take him with one of your top picks. Whatever sport it is, you're taking Kain. We've got a couple guys like that, Danny, Drake, Jeremy. On defense, I think Brian and Ibraheim are some guys who just have that `it' factor, that great awareness in the game of football. Same thing with Jordan Mabin. But it starts with Kain. Not bad for a guy who's a pre-med major. Pretty special."

    On Jeremy Ebert's biggest development...
    "Probably been his most consistent year blocking, which I'm most proud of. We talked in the offseason about for him to take the next step here for his career, and also to showcase himself for the NFL, there was no question he could catch the ball, he's a great route-runner, but we thought he needed to get more physical at the point of attack. I think Jeremy took that to heart the way he worked this offseason in the weight room. He's in the best shape of his life, he's practicing at a high level. When I talk to the scouts as they come by, in a position of high maintenance football players called wide receivers, he's about as low maintenance a guy as they come. In an era where guys just want the ball and they belly-ache when they don't have it, you get a throw-back guy like Jeremy who's willing to do the dirty work, go over the middle, willing to block, whatever it takes to help us win. The way he goes about his business during the week with his film study, his prep and practice habits are, these guys at the next level are really excited about him."

    On how many of Dan Persa's interceptions were his fault this season...
    "I can't say that I've analyzed them like that, but, he threw them, right? They're his fault. How many touchdowns does he have? They're his fault too. He's got a lot more great decisions than he has poor. Honestly there's one decision I'd like him to have back, that's the one at Iowa. The rest of the year he's made really great decisions. Outside of Saturday, I think the other ones have all been tipped, haven't they? Tipped at the line or by the receiver. But I don't focus on the negative, I trust Dan to make every throw in our offense. I really liked his aggressiveness Saturday. We talked about that during the week, if they played us the way they played Baylor we were going to throw the ball all over the yard and really try to get the ball vertically down the field. We thought we had good matchups on the perimeter. I'm not upset with Danny's decisions to throw those balls outside. I'd like to see our receivers go up and get those balls. When they do, good things will happen. Without going up and fighting for it, bad things happen and that was the result on Saturday."