In his Monday morning press conference, Pat Fitzgerald verbalized what everyone was thinking after Northwestern’s loss to Iowa this weekend.
“Tale of two offenses right now,” he said.
There’s the offense that dropped 30 on Ohio State with a 245 yard passer in Trevor Siemian, then the one that only managed two field goals the next week against Wisconsin. Against Iowa, both offenses made appearances in the same game: NU managed zero points in the first half, then found some rhythm in the second behind running back Stephen Buckley and quarterback Kain Colter, but faltered again in overtime.
Often, the Wildcats’ biggest obstacle is itself. The offensive has given up 28 sacks this year and turned the ball over 18 times, including a critical fumble by running back Mike Trumpy at the end of the game against Iowa, as NU was driving for a potential game-winning score.
“We can’t beat two teams on any given Saturday,” Fitzgerald said.
So what is the solution to a seemingly downhill spiral of inconsistency?
“If guys aren’t doing it in a consistent fashion, you let competition solve the problem. Competition is one of the best problem solvers, with football and in life so that will be the number one way we solve problems moving forward,” Fitzgerald said. “As I challenged the offense today in front of the team, we need guys to play more consistently, we need them to play smarter, we need them to play more disciplined. Either you’re going to chose to do it or the guy behind you has got every opportunity to win your job. You choose.”
Fitzgerald has never been one to make drastic changes, but after starting the season with thoughts of a Big Ten Championship, the Cats are fighting to become bowl eligible right now. Every job is on the line, and the players know that the current level of execution isn’t going to cut it.
“I think we’re starting to get there,” superback Dan Vitale said. “You can tell by the score, the games are getting closer, but it comes down to just mistakes, one guy breakdowns, stuff like that. That’s killing us and it’s in critical situations. We’re right there, we’ve just got to execute and play within our bounds and do our job. I think we’re right there but we’ve got to get it done.”