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Northwestern-Illinois State press conference notes: Pat Fitzgerald, players speak following loss

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It was understandably mum.

Northwestern Athletics

Here’s what Pat Fitzgerald and three of his captains (Austin Carr, Anthony Walker and Connor Mahoney) had to say following a 9-7 loss to FCS foe Illinois State.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • Like all of last year’s losses, Pat Fitzgerald noted that the biggest issue were individual breakdowns. “We had a lot of one-man and individual breakdowns offensively. We couldn’t get anything going consistently...I thought we’d be able to move the ball better on the ground.” He noted that every time Northwestern seemed to get something going, an ISU tackle for loss or a holding penalty would stop the momentum.
  • Clayton Thorson threw 41 passes and the team as a whole only ran 31 times. “Our inability to run the football is why we had to throw the ball so much,” Fitzgerald said. “Our o-line got out-played. Flat out. We beat ourselves, and they beat us up.”
  • On the injury front, Matt Harris exited after what Fitzgerald called an “upper body injury.” He was alert and talking to Fitzgerald post-game. Justin Jackson, who got just 11 carries, missed most of the latter portion of the game with what Fitzgerald described as a “lower body injury.”
  • Northwestern lost the time of possession battle yet again. Fitzgerald pointed out Northwestern going 5 for 18 on third down as a big issue.
  • When asked if Northwestern can still live up to preseason expectations: “We’ve just gotta find a way to win. I’m not worried about the season right now. We’ve gotta find a way to make plays by coaching our guys to win a football game.” He said that the veterans will have to point thumbs at themselves and rally themselves, their position groups and then their entire unit (offense/defense/special teams) and eventually the team.
  • “I don’t see the same type of enthusiasm, I don’t see the same type of passion. I see a bunch of guys trying not to make mistakes instead of trying to make plays.”
  • Fitzgerald said the team was great in terms of preparedness and attitude coming into this week, but just didn’t show up on gameday. He noted the passion and excitement simply wasn’t there. “You play the way you prepare, and obviously we’re not preparing them well enough.
  • Fitzgerald said he’s going to be the key in getting the team turned around. “In the locker room after the game, I said ‘I believe in you. I believe in who you guys and I believe in what we are. it doesn’t matter what I believe. It matters what you believe.”
  • He said players have to “point thumbs [at themselves] and not fingers [at others].” He’ll lean on his captains and his leadership committee to do that.

Players

  • Carr pointed to Northwestern’s inability to convert on third down and self-inflicted wounds as the biggest issues.
  • Connor Mahoney said that he and his offensive linemen “got (their) butts kicked.” “It wasn’t good enough today.”
  • “Right now we’re figuring out how hard it is to win,” Walker said. “We have to be able to do the little things right in order for us to win—put ourselves in position to win.”
  • Mahoney took responsibility for his unit’s performance, which included for holding calls (“self-inflicted wounds”). “That’s just unacceptable and we’re gonna be better in that regard,” he said. “Illinois State, give them credit, they came out, punched us in the mouth, and we’ve gotta be better. And that starts with me.”
  • Carr said this start reminds him of the start two years ago. “I’ll never forget when Trevor (Siemian) said, ‘This is either gonna break us or make us stronger.’ We’ve got no option but to do just that: come together, regroup, circle the wagons and get better together.” He said that team certainly didn’t overlook Illinois State.
  • He continued: “As captains, we need to communicate that we haven’t lost the season. We’ve still got hope, and we have to come together stronger.”