NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald met with the media on Monday to discuss the team’s upcoming game against Iowa. Defensive lineman Alex Miller, linebacker Chris Bergin and wide receiver Kyric McGowan also answered questions at the podium. Here’s what they had to say:
Doesn't look like there are any changes for this week's two-deep https://t.co/TXP2xUxJFL— Inside NU (@insidenu) October 21, 2019
On Saturday: the 2009 Outback Bowl team is returning for homecoming, and Brendan Smith is the honorary captain
On Trae Williams: Just trying to get him back on the field. We expect to get him back and he’s close to being back full
On Iowa: Coach Ferentz is the dean of the coaching staff in the Big Ten. The level of execution, consistency and success, Coach Ferentz and his staff are the benchmark of that.
On struggles midway through the season: Our guys are focused on being a team that can go out there and win. I talked to the guys this morning halfway through the season, about where we’re at and why we’re at where we’re at. One big area collectively as a team is the turnover ratio. It’s been one of the hallmarks of why we have success and we’re on the wrong end of that It’s critically important that gets flipped around in the back half of the season.
On how to fix struggles: When things aren’t going great and it’s a technology world that we live in, there are three magic buttons that fixes things: control-alt-delete. It takes all three things at once to work. It might be the best t-shirt I’ve ever come up with.
On facing Iowa a week after Ohio State: It doesn’t make it any easier. Another top-20 team with another great defense. They’ve got a senior quarterback who’s won a ton of games there with veteran offensive linemen. They’re an outstanding football team.
On game planning for the Hawkeyes: I wish I could look more at our opponent, but we don’t have that luxury right now. We have to focus on getting our team ready to execute.
On offensive improvement: Three weeks ago against Nebraska I saw some improvement. I thought we were throwing it on time and made some good catches. Outside of one play [against Ohio State], I thought our protection plan was pretty good. In the passing game, we’ve got a lot of room for improvement there. Two games ago I thought we were hitting a pretty positive stride.
On the offense’s performances as a whole: We’ve played some pretty frickin good defenses now. It’s not an excuse but a reality. We’re not playing or coaching at an All-Big Ten level. Rashawn Slater is the only guy playing at an All-Big Ten level. Jared Thomas has played well too.
On Bowser’s return from injury: It’s great to have Isaiah back. It’s huge for our team, our offense. Our receivers have to make plays and our superbacks have to show up.
On the 2009 upset over No. 4 Iowa: “My youngest son is named after Brendan Smith.”
On why guys aren’t trusting their play: Inexperience or confidence — which comes first? If I knew I’d fix it right now. I think our o-line is playing really well and is giving us a chance to win. Our QBR speaks for itself, having it in the 30s doesn’t let you win games, even in Madden.
On offensive players squeezing the bat too hard: They’re panicking because they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m not going to be negative, but I’m gonna keep coaching them until the sand runs out of the hourglass on this group. Offensively we’ve had some injuries and personnel issues because at this time not everybody’s ready to go out and play in the arena.
On the season at the midway point: We’re going to get this thing turned around, baby. Three buttons, three buttons.
On using McGowan more in the gameplan: We’re just trying to get him as many touches as he can. He’s an explosive guy. We got to get him the ball as much as we can. He played well on offense and the kicking game, he made a great tackle on a punt that backed them up. He’s a guy who can handle it mentally. Kyric and Riley have been playing really well all year, especially last game.
On the players drafted to the XFL: I’ve got 99 problems and the XFL isn’t one. For our five guys, I’m ecstatic. It’s terrific.
On the mental struggles of the team: Some teams you can push their DNA harder, and some guys from a confidence standpoint are fragile. We’re working on the A, B, Cs and the 1, 2, 3s. I haven’t questioned the effort level of this group, they’ve prepared relentlessly. They’ve got to focus on the mindset and the process.
On Barstool Video: I was asked to do it, I said yes. I haven’t seen the finished product. What did you think of it?
On splitting time between positions: I’m still majority in the receivers room, but I split time about 70/30 between wide receiver and running back.
On playing running back: We’ve been working on it. Coaches are just trying to get the ball in my hands. I played a little bit in high school so it’s not foreign to me. The speed of the game is different... things are coming a lot quicker.
On keeping morale up: You have to find the wins within the losses. Trust yourself, trust your teammates, trust the process...there’s always something you can take from it.
On playing against high-level DBs: You can always prepare more, prepare better. I think [previous games] have prepared us well for Iowa.
On offensive struggles: Have to take the little wins and run with them.
On Ohio State game: Thought offensive line did well opening up holes for RBs. Felt that short passing game went well.
On receiver frustration: I don’t feel that it’s frustration. It’s irritation because we aren’t winning. We could care less about the targets that we get, we just want to get the W at the end of the day.
On playing with brother Joe: I like it a lot, we’ve really matured together. Being able to enjoy our late teens and early 20s here together is really special. [Him being here] really influenced me to come here. We’re each other’s biggest supporters.
On team effort: Our effort has been relentless through and through, and that’s what’s going to carry us through the season.
On team morale: Our attitude in the locker room is actually pretty high right now. This is our second half of the season, and like anything, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. We’re ready to go.
On recouping after loss: It’s pretty simple. We watched what we needed to fix on film today. We’ve got to move on; you can’t dwell on a loss like that and let it define you.
On team morale: Last Friday was a tough loss for sure. With any game, win or lose, you have to watch the film, see what you did wrong, what you did right, and go from there.
On playing with brother Samdup: We make each other better. We workout together, watch film together. It’s been great, having him here is truly a blessing.
On Trevor Kent’s injury and defensive struggles vs OSU: Every guy is important. Trevor is really important, but we have other guys that can step up and play as well.
On mistakes against Ohio State: We just have to trust ourselves. We had some guys that were sometimes trying to do too much and that’s what hurt us, but that’s an easy fix.