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    Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas -- News Conference Transcript

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald talked to the media about NU's bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald talked to the media about NU's bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Dec. 4, 2011

    Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Announcement
    News Conference Transcript

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    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald
    Opening Statement...
    "Obviously we're excited and humbled to have the opportunity to represent the Big Ten in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. Could not be more ecstatic for our seniors. We sat here a few years ago (at 6-6) without a destination and now to have them have one more great opportunity is something that we're very humbled and excited about. To be able to go play in a great venue like Reliant Stadium is going to be a great opportunity for us and our fans and to play an outstanding opponent like Texas A&M. I know maybe it's not reflected in their record but to beat teams like (Texas) Tech and Baylor and Iowa State and have tough losses against Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Texas, it's an impressive football team. It's going to be a road game for us, 90 miles from College Station is Houston, right down the road. We'll prepare like we're playing on the road. If last year playing at Rice is any indication, the way our great alumni base that we have down in Houston supported us and the way our fans traveled it should be a great purple showing.

    "From a standpoint of the young men we have from Houston, I'm really excited for them to go home. Demetrius Dugar is from Aldine High School, Will Hampton from Cy Creek, Christian Jones from Westfield, Venric Mark from St. Pius and David Nwabuisi from Episcopal, it's going to be a great opportunity for those young men to get back down to their hometown. Our guys are excited about it, when I announced it to the team, a big roar went up in the team room. We're excited for the opportunity.

    "We already got four practices in, that's why my voice is the way it is. We got two in last week while I was on the road recruiting then we had full team practices here on Saturday and Sunday that I thought were very productive.

    "Just before I get away from the mike, I want to pass along my condolences to our athletic director Jim Phillips on the passing of his father. We wouldn't be here without his hard work and dedication. We're very thankful to Jim working at a very difficult time and our thoughts and prayers from our entire football family go out to him and his family."

    On if NU's Houston ties and playing at Rice were a factor in its selection...
    "I hope so. The brand of football we play is pretty entertaining. We've been pretty salty in bowl games the last couple years but we've been entertaining to say the least. I like to think they're excited about that but that's probably a better question for the committee."

    On the injury status of CB Jordan Mabin and how he'll replace him...
    "Mabin's out for the year. I'd prefer right now not to talk about his injury. I haven't had a chance to visit with him face to face, he went home. He had surgery that ended his season so next time we get together I'll talk more about that. We'll practice. Compete. We'll have somebody out there covering, I promise you that, we'll play with 11. I thought as the game went along, Daniel Jones really competed well. The one touchdown against [Michigan State] that was given up wasn't his fault. That's part of the deal being a corner. You get one play, it doesn't go well, everyone asks me why I play them. I got a lot of confidence in those guys and it's going to be a competitive month. We'll figure out who's going to get out there and start."

    On how many times in his life he's been to Houston...
    "Over 100, at least. You tell me what two towns I have to go between I can tell you how without a GPS. I started recruiting down there before GPS so I know landmarks and how to get around on the 610, where not to go on the 610 so I don't get caught in traffic. Randy Bates does a great job recruiting down there for us right now. We've had as many as 10 Houstonians on our roster at one time. Outside of Chicagoland -- we always start our recruiting here -- we've got three coaches in Ohio, three in Texas, so we allocate a lot of time down there. This is a great opportunity for us. Three of our last four bowl games have been in the state of Texas, it's great. "

    On what he knows about Texas A&M...
    "I know their record, I know their quarterback is dynamic from what I saw on tape, but I have to do a lot of studying on planes, trains and automobiles this week as I'm out on the road. I fundamentally believe that stats are for losers. Only thing that matters is that both teams are 0-0. We've got a chance one of the fundamental goals of our program and send our seniors out as champions, that's going to be our focus. We don't change just because we're in a bowl game. We're already four practices in and we're not very pleased with the way we played this year. I think I made that crystal clear after the Michigan State game. We're going to get some things fixed, get guys playing more consistently or they're not going to play. I'm tired of coming in here and talking to you guys after games where we don't play the way we're capable of. The only way to get those things fixed is consistent execution, consistent effort and consistent work. Two team practices this week were OK, I believe we improved, but I'm glad we don't play A&M on Saturday. We've got work to do. First thing we have to do is coaches is study them up and give our guys a game plan, a preliminary game plan next week. Big advantage for A&M, they're going to have a new offensive coordinator with coach (Mike Sherman) not being there anymore. We'll have to adjust accordingly as the game goes along but they'll probably use their personnel the same."

    On if he was surprised by NU's selection to Houston...
    "I told the guys after Michigan State, enjoy the week, because everyone's going to be predicting this, predicting that, and this is the one week where I'll allow you to follow it a little bit. We prepared last week the same no matter where we were going; totally focused on ourselves, very spring ball week of practice. We're ecstatic for the opportunity, we really are."

    On if it's important to him to see the Big Ten do well in a bowl game...
    "I take a lot of pride in our conference. I'm one of those guys that when our teams are on I'm rooting for them. Obviously I've got a ton of respect for the coaches in this conference, the administrators and the great players. When those games are on, absolutely, I'm rooting for them. My son Ryan is always rooting for the team that's winning, so we have to overcome that. I'm always rooting for our teams to play and win."

    On how playing in Houston can help recruiting efforts...
    "Time will tell, but in our opinion but we were excited for the opportunity from the standpoint of exposure to those (high school) coaches, have them come out and watch practice. Some of those coaches from Houston have come up to watch us in spring ball but the chance to watch us in their backyard will be fun. Most of the coaches that were in the programs I was recruiting are still in those same roles down there. Great relationships, Randy Bates does a tremendous job for us down there. I think it's a great opportunity, without a doubt."

    On if he's alerted any potential recruits that NU will be in Houston...
    "Me personally? Via Facebook. But not on the phone, not yet."

    QB Dan Persa
    On the chance to finally play in a bowl game...
    "It means a lot. After the circumstances not working out in the Iowa game, I'm really looking forward to enjoying all the festivities. As a starting quarterback, I'm definitely looking forward to it. It's just like a regular game. I was there for the other games, I went through all the stuff last year, so I don't think it's that different or that big a deal."

    On if this is the healthiest he's felt going into a game...
    "Definitely. I still have some lingering stuff but I still got about a month to get those out of my system. Looking forward to working hard and keep progressing the way I have been."

    On if he's seen Texas A&M at all...
    "A little bit, me and Brian watched them on Thanksgiving against Texas, we know it's a great program, they've been successful for a long time, they have a lot of tradition. It should be a great atmosphere and a great team."

    On if Coach Fitzgerald ever talks to the team about his ties to Houston...
    "A little bit. I think it's more with the guys on the team who are from Houston, they like to brag about it and everyone else is pretty much sick of hearing about it. Just kidding. It's a great spot and we're really looking forward to getting down there."

    S Brian Peters
    On if the team is surprised to go to Houston...
    "I don't think surprised is the right word, I think we're excited about it. It was kind of a coin flip where we were going. We had Jim Phillips and the athletic department working for us. I don't know if this is the best bowl possible but it's pretty close. We're excited."

    On if he'll be able to play without a cast on his hand...
    "I've got my fingers crossed, I don't know. I'm about four weeks in out of a six to eight week thing right now. I'm on the same time track I was in the Outback Bowl year. It's looking good but they might try to limit me, we'll see what I have to say about it."

    On being without Jordan Mabin in the bowl game...
    "It's unfortunate for him. After going through four years completely unharmed and to have this happen, he's a tough kid and we all feel for him, he's working through it. It's just rough stuff, especially for a senior captain. It's going to be tough to fill his shoes. We've got the guys to do it but Jordan leaves big shoes to fill. From what I know, A&M has some sizeable receivers, a good quarterback and passing attack, so the secondary's definitely going to have to step up come Dec. 31."

    OL Al Netter
    On what he knows about Texas A&M...
    "We know it's a great team with a lot of great football players. We haven't really started analyzing them on film but just from the Thanksgiving game in Texas, they just have a lot of extremely gifted athletes and play extremely hard. It's going to be a challenge for us up front."

    On the opportunity to snap NU's bowl drought...
    "I think it'd be huge, it'd be a great way for our seniors to put a stamp on what we've done, put a stamp on what we've been able to accomplish here as a program. To be able to finish our careers with a bowl win would just mean everything to us."