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Northwestern-Tennessee Outback Bowl Postgame Press Conference Notes

The coach was surprisingly positive after the blowout

- Fitzgerald started the press conference by calling the entire bowl experience "first class and spectacular" and thanked, among others, Outback Steakhouse, the city of Tampa and all the bowl organizers.

- "We felt we had a pretty good plan coming in," said Fitzgerald, who felt the team executed decently in the first half aside from Clayton Thorson's interception and Jack Mitchell's missed field goal.

- Fitzgerald got choked up talking about his seniors and had to take a few moments to collect himself. "Most importantly I want to say thank you our seniors. An amazing group of young men from absolutely amazing families. You know, it was really hard for me the other day; it's hard for me now... The program's been through a lot in the last two years and our seniors, wow. They've been the reason we got ourselves here. You know we haven't been to 10 wins a lot."

- "We're trying to become a team that puts ourselves consistently, competitively at the top of our league and competes the same way nationally, and obviously with today's outcome we're far from where we need to be." He added that the "next step" is competing for and winning the Big Ten West and winning bowl games.

- Fitzgerald said neither this loss nor the 2010 loss to Auburn in the Outback Bowl is easy to recover from, but acknowledged that, "this was one game at the end of a spectacular season." He emphasized that he'll try to move forward and use today as a lesson, as he hopes his fellow coaches and his players will as well.

- Fitzgerald says he'll need to step back and look at film to see where specifically the team struggled this year offensively. "I think right now the overall theme is just consistency. We've (as coaches) gotta be more consistent and we've gotta do a better job getting our guys to do that."

- One reason Fitz cited the defense was so good this year compared to last year was competition. There were reserves pushing the starters for playing time. "I really feel strongly and positive about our young talent on offense. We've just gotta have a more competitive offseason."

- Fitzgerald said Thorson played just like his teammates: "Not well enough to win."

- Fitzgerald thought the team was prepared. "There wasn't a whole we saw today that we didn't expect to see."

- Fitzgerald joked that Solomon Vault's move to wide receiver looked like it was drawn up on the team bus based on the way the team performed today, but confirmed he practiced there for all of bowl preparation. He declined to say whether the speedy playmaker would move to wide receiver for next season.

- Fitzgerald said he's going to head home and "cheer [his] tail off" for Chris Collins and the men's basketball team, which faces No. 4 Maryland Saturday night.

- "I'm keeping it in perspective because it should be kept in perspective," Fitzgerald said of his positive attitude. "You win 10 games, it's a darn good football season."

- "There's three games where we didn't win the line of scrimmage," Fitzgerald said. "It was today, Iowa and Michigan. I think there's a theme there."

- "We're killing it in recruiting," Fitzgerald said with a smile. He noted that Tommy Carnifax will report on Monday as an early enrollee. "Kids want to play for winners. They want to play and get a great education from a great school and be prepared for life. We've got those in place."

Here is video, courtesy of Northwestern Athletics, of Clayton Thorson and Keith Watkins speaking to the media: