Following an inauspicious start to the season, Pat Fitzgerald took the podium for his week two press conference. Here’s what he had to say about Illinois State, the team’s overall mood and more.
- Justin Jackson was announced as offensive player of the game and Tommy Doles was the offensive big play player for Saturday. There were no defensive awards and the special teams player of the week was Hunter Niswander.
- Practice players of the week: Jesse Meyler on offense, Tommy Odell and Cole Johnson on defense.
- Honorary captain for the game against Illinois State will be Jeff Budzien and the team will also have a Special Olympian talk to them on Friday.
- Fitzgerald on Illinois State: “Very impressed by ISU from their opening game, they played very well against Valpo, I think they played everybody that was eligible. Really got off to a hot start, really dominated the second quarter.”
- He called ISU a “program that knows how to win” and praised head coach Brock Spack for back to back Missouri Valley Conference championships and playoff success.
- Fitzgerald announced that backup running back Warren Long would be out with a broken hand for the “foreseeable future” and that they would “reevaluate after four weeks”
- Fitzgerald on the three sacks: “Two [sacks] were on [Thorson], and one was on [the playcalling. Clayton has to get the ball out of his hands, none of those are on the offensive line.” He then invoked his classic “stats are for losers” phrase.
- Fitzgerald on the defense: “First of all we were on the field too long, and that was partly our fault and partly good job by them. They went for it four times on fourth down and got all four. You can’t have that happen. The reason they were able to do that is that all of those were fourth and shorts.”
- Fitzgerald emphasized that the team didn’t do a good enough job forcing turnovers on Saturday. They missed two possible interceptions and didn’t do a good job of trying to force fumbles.
- On the pass rush: “Early we decided to play coverage and our pass rush lanes were voided which allowed them to scramble. We had some areas that we had to improve our teaching and coaching. If those guys understand what we’re asking them to do in some areas I think they’ll be fine.”
- On the defensive line: “Some guys that played too many snaps, and I made a decision that we could play two high safeties and stop the run and I think we made an adjustment maybe a drive too late.”
- Fitzgerald praised the improvement on offense, citing that the team would have scored on four of eight possessions if Thorson hadn’t fumbled and that the receivers did a good job of catching the ball.
- On the team’s outlook moving forward: “I don’t think you look in the rearview mirror, I think you learn from it and move on.
- On the upcoming week’s practice: “We’re going to work the ‘you know what’ out of the things we can correct fundamentally. Obviously our mental habits weren’t good enough defensively and our physical habits didn’t follow being on the field that long. I guess next year we’ll have the defense on the field for 40 minutes of 15 practices to prepare for it.”
- Fitzgerald thinks that the team’s mood is good and that “the guys flushed it” and “they’ve moved forward.”
- Fitzgerald on the difference between playing in practices over the summer and the season opener for young players: "Everything"
- Fitzgerald reminded the team about what Stanford did last season after losing to Northwestern week one, and that “one game doesn’t make a season unless you repeat the negativity and that becomes your identity.”
- On scheduling: “Half the country played inferior teams. After one week, you’re going to sit there and say ‘wow these guys are great,’ and then they go out there week two and ‘oh they’re terrible.’ Don’t get on the rollercoaster here early.”
- The quote of the day was when Fitzgerald was asked about playing easier teams week one: “People may think I’m whack, but I believe we’re going to win a national championship here.”
- Fitzgerald then said that always wants to play competitive non-conference games and that he’s even for expanding the conference slate to 10 games.
- On Anthony Walker: “I think he tried to do too much. There were just a couple plays where he was trying to do everything. He’s just trying to lead so hard and do so much to help our guys win. I have zero concern about him responding.”
- Fitzgerald also mentioned that there were about 18-20 plays were the defense didn’t execute exactly what was asked of them. This included the Western Michigan first down with two minutes left that iced the game. Montre Hartage was supposed to play press coverage, but didn’t and the Broncos got the first down.
- Tommy Doles was praised as both a passionate guy and someone who gave the best rookie start that Fitzgerald has seen in a long time.
- Jordan Thompson has a lower body injury and is day-to-day.
- The replay on the field was not functional on Saturday, so the on-field refs were not able to see any replays and were at the mercy of the replay official. Despite this Fitzgerald was adamant that they shouldn’t have to rely on refereeing to win a game.
- On the absurdity of the game: “We had two or three plays that we may never see again happen”
- Finally, Fitzgerald reiterated that he knows that the fans are frustrated, but not as frustrated as the team is.
Video courtesy of Northwestern Athletics