Oct. 6, 2012
NORTHWESTERN HEAD COACH PAT FITZGERALD POSTGAME QUOTES
Penn State vs. Northwestern
October 6, 2012
First of all thanks for being here. I want to give a lot of credit to Penn State. Obviously, they had a great plan from a standpoint of number one, controlling time of possession and really stymieing our offense. We couldn't get anything going early, which led to our defense being on the field way too long. When your time of possession is basically 40:20 (minutes), 99 plays to 62, it's a complete role reversal of our blueprint for success. Obviously this one is on us as coaches. We did not do the things that champions and winners do and when we don't execute and we don't tackle. It's our fault, and my fault in particular as head coach. It's disappointing, but I believe in the team wholeheartedly and I believe in our staff but we've got to be much better this week. Number one fundamentally, number two we've got to execute better. We were 4-of-13 on third down, and that's unacceptable. We can't do that and expect to win, and we can't go 5-of-6 on fourth down and expect to win and those kind of things. I tip my hat to Coach O'Brien and his staff, and his young men; they played outstanding. We'll regroup, we've got a lot of pride, a lot of things we value in the locker room and all of our goals ahead of us. We'll respond, I believe that.
Q: Were you guys lacking anything emotionally today?
A: I didn't sense that. No I didn't sense that. I think we were on the field for a long time. It's the same song we had at Syracuse when you get worn out on defense, you're going to give up plays. They obviously had a plan; we had to change. In the first half, I thought our defense kept us in the game. For the first three quarters, but the time of possession, as the game wore on, obviously wore us down, but I thought our emotion and our passion was in a good place. I didn't sense any letdown whatsoever.
Q: Penn State seemed to do a good job with film study for this game? Offensively you guys seemed to diagnose things a little quicker. What did you think?
A: Yeah, I've got to look at the tape. Again, we thought we had some things, we've come off and we say this was there, that was there, some of it's on us as coaches. If the guys didn't see it clean enough, that's our responsibility, so we've got to get that fixed.
Q: Was it tougher to get Kain (Colter) involved?
A: Yeah, it just looked like we were out of sync for a while and then we finally settled in and we moved the ball really well. Again, they've got a great defense and tremendous football players on that side of the ball. This was the best defense we've seen by far this year. And don't forget the 12th person, the crowd. It was wild and we didn't handle it very well. I think I said this before the game, I said on Monday I'm going to know where we're at after this game. Some of our youth showed today. We've got to do a great job this week coaching. We've missed tackles, we've got to check and we don't get it, and things like that, little things that we've just got to be better at and handle on the road better next week.
Q: Did you expect Penn State to go for it on fourth down as much as they did?
A: They've gone for it a lot prior to this. I'm not surprised where he went for it. It was fourth-and-short and it was in our zone, our area. And I think their kicker had made two field goals on the year, so, but no we were not surprised. We expected them to go for it on fourth down, we just didn't give our guys enough weapons and a good enough plan to stop it.
Q: Do you like to have (Kain) Colter carry the ball more, or would you like more of a balanced attack?
A: I'd like to move the ball and execute. We didn't do that so we could nitpick everything, but we've got to move the ball. We've got to pick up on third down. You can't be 4-of-14 on the road and expect to win. You just can't. And if you flip it over, they're 15 out of 28 when you include fourth down and that's a recipe for disaster. We were on the field for way too long, and that's the same drives, and our blueprint is exactly what they did for success, and you know we got beat at our own game, so credit goes to Penn State.
Q: Can you talk a little about Venric (Mark) who became the first person since (1949) to have two punt returns for a touchdown? How did that give some energy to the team?
A: You know he's dynamic, and I think the punter outkicked his coverage a little bit. And did anybody touch him? I couldn't see, it was on the far sideline. Nobody touched him. So obviously the credit goes to the other 10 guys on the field. He did a great job catching it, good job. He may have made the first guy miss. I think he did make Michael (Mauti) miss, and then I think we had some good things set up. So great job by Dennis Springer, and terrific job by all 11 guys out there on the field, really proud of that group.
Q: When you get into a game like this where you're losing the time of possession battle, do you rotate in more defensive players? Is there anything you can do?
A: Yeah, I thought we did. I thought we were bringing guys in and out as much as we possibly could. Again, we didn't give our guys enough weapons to win. Obviously we knew some things were going to happen, and when our guys are missing tackles and we're not getting as much population to the football and we don't really cause any turnovers. We got guys in position for a couple of sacks. We only got two. I thought we could have had about 12. On the road, guys, it's pretty tough when you beat yourself, so it's our responsibility as coaches, we can't do that.
Q: Where do you think the team is at after this game?
A: 5-1 man! I mean we played pretty darn good football. This team's as hot as anybody in the Big Ten. When things didn't go right, we had a chance to win the football game and we didn't win it. You learn from it, you coach the business out of the guys next week and you move on and get ready for another road challenge. It's awesome being in this kind of environment. Their fans were great. It was rocking and rolling. I thought we handled it pretty well. It's a pretty darn good football team. We didn't play our best, but we've got a darn good football team in our locker room. (Minnesota head coach Jerry) Kill is going to have his guys ready next week. And we've got to get better in that week off. And here we go again, another team with a week off before we go to play them. So we have to walk out with our heads held high, leave the loss here and move on. I think we've got a damn good football team. I think we've got a damn good football team. We didn't get their B-game today, we got their A-game, and we were toe-to-toe and jaw-to-jaw with them, all the way to the end, until we really lost it and we got them what third down on the goal line and we've got to make a play there.
Q: How are the guys right now?
A: They're not very happy right now, and I'm really glad they're not. We've got to play better to win and when you come on the road and put yourself in position in the fourth quarter to win a football game and you don't, you've got to stick together and you've got to move on, you've got to look at it critically. The one thing I thought we took a step forward in today was our kicking game. I thought our kicking game was really good today. I thought it gave us a chance to win the football game on the road, and we've got to get the other two phases going. It's probably the most disappointing thing is that we didn't play very good team football today. We had one phase step up in the kicking game. We had two other phases not play well again and that's on us as coaches. We've got to be better.
Q: Do you think the offensive line took a step back?
A: Yeah, I don't know about that. What, did we give up one sack? Was it at the end? I don't remember when it happened. You know we ran the ball for 112 (yards). We can't throw the ball for 135 yards in a Big Ten game and win. We've got to throw the ball better. It looked like to me that we had a lot of drops. We'll take a look at it and I promise you this - that band of brothers in the locker room will stick together. It will be great. Our leadership will step up. Every once in a while, once you get your tail whipped, you realize just how hard it is to win a Big Ten football game. Maybe now we'll all listen a little bit better, and maybe now we'll all fight a little bit harder and I prefer to do it with a win, don't get me wrong, but they'll be good to go.