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Northwestern-Nebraska postgame press conference notes

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Fitz and co. expressed their (perhaps somewhat misplaced) frustrations after a third straight loss.

Following Northwestern’s heartbreaking 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Cornhuskers, Fitz, Joe Gaziano, Paddy Fisher and Aidan Smith spoke to the media. Here’s what they had to say:

Pat Fitzgerald

Opening statement: “Disappointing loss, we had every opportunity to finish the game. That’s kinda where we are right now.”

On the Smith interception/no-call: “It looked from my vantage point like it wasn’t very good. It was a bang-bang play, bang-bang miss.”

On the big pass play that set up the game-winning field goal: “Wasn’t a coverage bust. It was a three deep. The cornerback there [Rod Campbell] missed it...we practice it every week.”

On Aidan Smith’s first start: “I thought he played really well. He prepared really well and was ready to go from the get-go. Last week Hunter got hurt and we wanted to be smart, give guys ample time to heal up for the rest of the year.”

Hunter Johnson’s response when he was told he wouldn’t start: “Okay, coach, thanks.”

On why Hunter didn’t play: “It was because of his knee. We felt confident he might be able to play in a limited role.”

On the defense’s play: “It was pretty sound and solid. they threw a couple new things at us that I thought we handled well. We need to create turnovers. In their losses, Nebraska turned the ball over, and they didn’t today.”

On the defense’s adjusting to Nebraska’s offense: “They showed plenty of new wrinkles, credit them. We found some solutions, and we had some busts down the stretch. We’ve got to come up with some other answers too.”

On the defensive game plan on the final drive: “Their kicking situation has been quite frankly not great, so I felt our defense could get a stop and we almost blocked the field goal. It was a pretty low trajectory.”

On the improvement in tackling: “I don’t think going from Week 1 to now it has been a team problem, it has been more a problem for certain individuals. I’m proud of the way they’ve improved.”

On Wan’Dale Robinson: “He’s a really talented guy, he’s got loose hips and can make you miss in space. From a kickoff return standpoint we bottled him up pretty good today. I thought our special teams outside of that one missed kick played really solid today.”

On why HJ wasn’t listed on the injury report: “Next question.”

On what the team needs to do to right the ship: “They’ve got to stick together. That’s the number one thing. We’re fighting out butts off, we’ve lost four games. We’ve got to get off the field, and that turnover late hurts. It starts with me, and we’ve got to be better.”

On not pulling out a close game: “I’m never going to blame our guys. We’ve got to coach our guys better. I’ve been doing this for fourteen years, and we’ve won a lot of games. Usually we win games like these, but we have to stop beating ourselves.”

On Wiederkehr’s performance at RT: “I thought Ethan played his heart out. The young man handled it incredibly well. There were some targeting issues, some missed blocks at the point of attack, and some schematic things we need to look at.”

Joe Gaziano

On the defensive performance: “We had two great games in a row. We had the best energy these past two games.”

On his feeling after seeing the game-ending field goal: “A little disappointment in myself. I could’ve played better, gotten a turnover.”

On the team’s spirit over the last few games:“In the past two games we can’t get away from that...we have to use that as an advantage to ours and build off of it as momentum. We need to keep fighting and eventually these games will bounce our way.”

On what the defense needed to do better: “As a defense, we didn’t play as well as we could today. We didn’t create any turnovers and turnovers help create points... We’re not in the business of pointing fingers.”

On what the defense could’ve done to create turnovers: “Consistently ripping on the ball... QB pressures, create errant throws, create picks, sacks, can be a fumble as well. It’s just execution all around the board.”

Whether the lack of turnovers were a result of poor luck or a lack of execution:“A little bit of both. Some bounces go your way, some don’t.

On the team’s recent close losses:“You wish it was the other way, but there’s not much you can do after the fact. We need to practice harder, we need to execute (better) off of the field... we have to have the mentality that the next game is of the utmost importance.”

Why Northwestern is struggling to finish close games this season given Fitz’s success prior to this season: “Can’t put my finger on it. We usually do.”

Paddy Fisher

On not generating turnovers: “I think that was the difference in the game... I had an opportunity for a big play in the first series. That’s on me and the entire defense as a whole for not getting the ball back.”

On Wan’Dale Robinson’s explosive ability: “Going into the game we had little knowledge on him, but a very talented, explosive player that has a bright future ahead of him.”

On how to move forward and regroup: “We gotta stick together, it’s times like these: tough times don’t last but tough people do... we just gotta trust the process.”

On how to generate turnovers: “Mentality...first man has to secure the tackle, second, third and fourth man in has to get the ball...on the first series the ball was in my hands and I let a big play slip away.”

On an impressive tackling performance: “In the open field, we gotta stay true to our fundamentals and technique. In the open field, we gotta make sure we make the tackle first. If we come in and get the ball and takeaway that’s great.”

On whether he is pleased with the defense’s performance “We lost... thirteen points is thirteen points, y’know?”

Aidan Smith

On the success with the read option game: “It was more of a we’re gonna run the ball and run the ball. There were a few plays were I had a chance to pull it.”

On the second half opening drive: “Early in the game there were one-man breakdowns, could’ve been a missed block on the outside or a misread. On that first second half drive we were clicking, everything quickly, everything going fast, we were perfect.”

On making his first career start in Lincoln: “I love the energy. My whole entire extended family is from Nebraska, so I used to come here...91,000 fans, you go out here for the first time and you’re overwhelmed, but you get into the flow into the game and it goes away.”

On his emotions after learning he’d start: “Little nervous, but I mean, with your preparation... if you’re underprepared you’re really nervous, but if you’re prepared like the starter, you shouldn’t be that nervous.”

On when he learned he’d start: “Yesterday morning.”

On the late-game interception/no-call: “It can go both ways. It was a poor decision on my part.... Would I have liked the pass interference call? Yes...But, I need to make the better decision.”

On his chemistry with Riley Lees: “He’s my golf partner, so I’m really comfortable with him. He runs very good routes and he gets open.”

On the loss as a whole: “I felt a lot of that blame comes on me for that one decision I made. As Coach Fitz harped on, there were little tiny mistakes in the game that led up to that happening.”