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NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 15, 2014
NORTHWESTERN Â– 43
NOTRE DAME - 40
PAT FITZGERALD:Â To the game, obviously a great team win with our young men and by our staff.
You know, we had a lot of big plays today and we had a lot of things that were self-inflicted that put us in a hole for most of the game.
The way the guys perservered and fought I thought was really the hallmark that we have tried to do all season long.Â We were able to find a way to make one more big play.Â You know from a kicking game standpoint pretty consistent today.Â Probably our most consistent kicking performance of the year and I think that was obviously the difference going down the stretch.
Great job by Jack, especially responding from the one that was blocked to come back and nail some big clutch kicks was critically important.Â Great team win.
I want to thank our fans for coming out and supporting us and I would cordially like to invite them to West Lafayette next week as our backs are against the wall.Â We got to find a way to win another game.
We'll enjoy this one tonight and have good clean American fun when we get back to the best city in the world, Chicago, and get ready to go next week for the Boilermakers.
Q.Â Was it more enjoyable to do this in '95 as a player or today?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â Well, I think it's much more enjoyable today.Â Number one, I don't think I had a clue what was going on back then.Â Most of you don't think I have a clue anyway.Â It's nothing new.
You know, to see the way that our young men have stuck together.Â I mean everybody jumped off the boat.Â I mean every fair weather fan that you can have jumped off the boat and they stayed on it and they perservered, and to our loyal fans we really appreciate you and.Â We talk a lot -- we've been through a lot since January -- about shutting out noise and distractions and, you know, we were part of a media circus in the off-season and things we had to go through and the guys stuck together and talked about being united and we went into camp and then we went through a bunch of injuries and we didn't start the way we wanted to but the guys have perservered, and talked to them on Tuesday about a playoff mentality going back to high school.
You get to November, the weather gets nasty and that's when champions are crowned.Â We're not going to win a Big Ten Championship, we understand that.
We can still achieve our goals but we have to have our back against the wall playoff-type mentality and win and advance.Â We've advanced to another week to keep this team alive for post-season play.
Q.Â Did you talk to the guys about '95 at all?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â No, not really.Â I didn't have to.Â You guys did a wonderful job writing just these meticulous stores with Gary and Rice and all that should be told.
It's a special part of our tradition and history.Â But you know, days like today make me think of Ara Parseghian and all those that have been a part of our program.Â Coach sent me a really nice e-mail this week, may the best team win.Â I thought that was pretty appropriate.Â I love him.
You know, at the end of the day it's about our young men and staff and that's what we talked about this week.Â They did --
Q.Â What did you say after the game to your team and if it is better than '95, what does it represent in terms of where it ranks as coaching victories for you?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â We went 1-0 this week.Â We needed to.Â Like I said, our backs are against the wall.Â This is a playoff win.Â Our program is in a totally different place than it was in 1995 before we won that football game.Â We've been in it five of the last six years post-season and a couple wins here and then competing for a championship.
Obviously the program is in a completely different place.Â It started in '95 and from a standpoint of renaissance of this program and it's never been stronger.Â The support of the leadership that we have from Morty, our Trustees, the best athletic director in the country, Jim Phillips.Â We've got all the support.Â Embark on a new facility.
This is another one of those wins that a ton of recruits had to chance to watch us on national TV.Â We can play and beat anybody on TV if we do a good enough job of getting our guys the play consistent.
Q.Â Coach, you guys lost on that failed 2 point conversion last week and come in here and win on a field goal in overtime.
What's does that say about the resiliency of your group to pull this one out after a tough lost last week?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â A the tougher loss when we went to Iowa and didn't show up.Â We have some bad things happen early.Â The way we responded a week ago told me about the heart and character of this football game.Â That's a big part why I went for the win at the end last week.
This week, I thought the guys had really good focus.Â I thought they prepared well.Â We haven't had a preparation problem.Â We've had a performance problem on Saturdays.
We talked to the guys especially offensively.Â Notre Dame presented a lot of problems schematically especially the second down blitz package and third down blitz package.
If we would have given our offense everything that Notre Dame did we would have had paralysis by analysis again.Â Adam Cushing and Mick McCall and the entire offensive staff did a good job.Â I think our offensive line probably played as well as they did all year today.
Q.Â You guys obviously beat Wisconsin earlier in the year, come in here and shock Notre Dame.Â Is there something just about playing the bigger teams that gets your guys up a little bit more?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â Well, I don't know if today was a shock.Â Maybe to you.Â Wasn't to me.
But at the end of the day, yeah, we've got to be more consistent against teams that are like us.Â Something that again, you know, in our league obviously being in the Big Ten anybody can win on any given Saturday and we try to be really consistent in the way we prepare.
That's our number one objective each week is consistently preparing for victory.Â With this, you know, whatever generation, iPhone, I'm sure their phones are blowing up and Instagram and doing all the cheeky stuff, when they get to be my age they'll regret they did it.Â I just hope to have clean American fun tonight.
Q.Â Coach, obviously during the game there were a couple times where maybe things looked bleak.Â What was going through your mind on the intentional grounding, they didn't call it.
Were you angry about them or what?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â Good question.Â I'll leave it at that.
Q.Â Also it looked like after Tony Jones, one of his drops he came to the sideline.Â You kind pulled him aside, gave him a hug?Â What did you say to him?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â He's a great player.Â More importantly he's a great young man.Â I told him just to relax and trust himself and I loved him and just keep playing.Â It's going to be a long game.
You guys been covering football enough.Â You kind of get a feeling in some of these games this is going to go the distance and the way the first quarter went you just kind of went well, you better strap them up a little tighter, more eye black on.Â We'll be here awhile.Â I was hoping to win in regulation.Â Had a feelings it was going to be of those types of gauges.
Q.Â What's does it say with Trevor Siemian and his leadership just to have faith in his teammates and go down there and send the game into overtime?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â I think he's probably been the number one punching bag of our football team this year.Â He's been attacked externally and we meet at least twice a week, sometimes three times a week, him and I.
Mick McCall has done a really good job continuing to give a great plan to Trevor and really trying to help him especially fighting through injuries.Â I talk to him a lot about using the frustration as motivation.
Each week he comes every day to prepare to win and, you know, last two weeks he's played pretty well.Â This is probably the healthiest he's been since he got hurt before the Northern game.Â Really proud of him.Â That's what you expect from seniors.Â He's a terrific young man.
Q.Â Did you say anything to Jack when he went out for the last one?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â We've been really blessed to have some really special kickers since I've been in this leadership role here at NU.Â We all kind of agreed that we don't need to talk during that time.Â We just need to go out and do.Â It's about action, and you can see like when he got iced we didn't come over and have a chitchat and coffee and talk about world peace, you know.Â Go do your job.Â Let's do -- we ice our kickers every week, ice them during the two minute drill.
We went exactly through our plan and, you know, I thought he had a great game today.Â I'm really, really proud of the young man in his first year kicking for us, the way he had stepped up today on a cold day, was awesome.
Q.Â Coach, is that probably the most road fans you ever had at a game?Â Have you ever had an environment like this with so many traveling fans from so close?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â Cal was pretty good last year.Â Our fans have been ridiculous.Â Our fans have been awesome.Â Our attendance records are up each year.
All those benchmarks are all going in the right direction for our program.Â We're all very thankful for that.Â I mean I'm not going to lie now.Â In the boardrooms across Fortune 500 America there's going to be a lot of purple worn on Monday, you know and I hope they enjoy it.
I hope all those CEOs and corporate executives, Northwestern graduates enjoy you.Â I guarantee you they'll getting a lot of ripping going into this game from the Notre Dame colleagues but I wish this game could be played more, you know, but obviously now with Notre Dame going and playing five ACC games and us going to 9 conference games and all that, it's going to be really tough down the road.
We have a little bit of time before the Irish come to Evanston.Â This is one of those that doesn't make sense that we don't play more often.
Q.Â Coach, what was it like to see the offense kind of start off moving the ball well after you guys have had some struggles in games before?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â We've had a lot of struggles.Â Most of it has been on us.Â We had one man breakdowns, mental errors, drops, we've held the ball, we've mistargeted things.
You know, now we've been pretty consistent with some health and I think Trevor has been able to establish some trust with the wide receivers that he has out.Â They've stepped up here the last few weeks.Â I could not be more happy for a young man.Â I'm so happy.Â He's perservered through so much and to see the game he had today was awesome.
Q.Â Then with Jack also you guys have had some frustrating moments in the kicking game too.Â For him to kind of come up so often in the second half and overtime, what was that like for you guys?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â Jack was 8 of 10 going into the game?Â I think something like that.Â Jack hasn't been the issue on our kicking game especially as a first time kicker.
Our issue has been the lack of depth because of our injuries and that's -- you look at our kicking game over the last year the way we chart it, look at the rankings in Big Ten play.Â We don't care about non-conference game.Â We care when you get head to head in Big Ten games.
The way the statistical things go out, top 5 in three of the last four years and last year we took a step back.Â You can see the dip as soon as we lost those guys we had out there covering kicks earlier in the year that we had worked out in spring camp with and we're getting a few guys back and like, for example Goodwin on kickoffs.Â We lost him when Campbell went down and others.
Lot of those guys because of injury we haven't had to see those guys go out there to see the way Chris punted it today and the way Fitzpatrick snapped the ball.Â He snapped it the way he did every game of the year except last week.
Q.Â You got as a player, you got to share that win with your teammates in '95.Â What was it like sharing this victory with your players now as the head coach?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â It's really special, Chris, from a standpoint of it starts in recruiting.Â When you build all those relationships with young men and especially for our seniors, the last two years have been very, very challenging especially after coming off the Gator Bowl win and they stuck together and I just really hope they enjoy it, they deserve it.Â They earned the win today and the credit all goes to our young men.
Q.Â Coach, bunch of great things happening for the run game tonight.Â What was the most important element of that for you and can you speak about Treyvon Green getting more carries and big yards?
PAT FITZGERALD:Â The contribution by all the guys in the backfield, a big effort.Â The play of our offensive line, our skill guys blocking on the perimeter.
A week ago you got to credit Michigan.Â They really stuffed us with some things.Â I thought Cush and McCall had a great run plan talking about what we had to do when they out numbered us in the box.Â Notre Dame adjusted in the second half.
We had to readjust and change some of our targeting.Â They don't jump to the bear front or double eagle.Â Credit goes to the young men for going and executing.Â Y'all travel safe back home to Chicago.Â Go Cats.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports