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GATOR BOWL: MISSISSIPPI STATE v NORTHWESTERN


January 1, 2013


Pat Fitzgerald

David Nwabuisi

Trevor Siemian


JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA

Northwestern テや 34
Mississippi State テや 20


THE MODERATOR:テつ Coach, tell me you're not going to get the trophy back to get it cleaned up and ship it off to you.テつ You can take it back to Illinois and we'll go from there.
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Thank you very much.テつ Thanks.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Head coach of Northwestern, Coach Fitz.
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Thanks, appreciate it.テつ Well, on behalf of our entire football program, I'd like to say thank you to Rick, his entire staff, the entire Gator Bowl organization, committee, volunteers.テつ We had an unbelievable week here in Jacksonville this week.テつ Thank you to Mayor Brown and everyone in the city of Jacksonville for opening their arms to Wildcat Nation and allowing us to have an incredibly, special, special week.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here.テつ Very thankful for the opportunity to participate in an unbelievable, unbelievable bowl game in a great setting with a rich tradition.テつ We'll be forever indebted and very thankful for that.
I've never been here before, so I'm not sure how to act.テつ But this is what's left of the monkey after the guys tore it apart, obviously, in the locker room.テつ But there are so many lessons this team has learned, especially for our seniors throughout their journey, and it's been a special journey.
Obviously, to have the entire class graduate, multiple guys in graduate school, to graduate as the all‑time‑winningest senior class, and to be the first senior class since 1949 to win a bowl game, I think speaks volumes for the legacy, and the incredible success and the foundation that they've laid for the future.テつ And that will be our challenge as we move forward.
Obviously, it says on our goal board, and Teddy, and all of those that come up every day at every press conference, it's no secret that our goal is to be champions, and this is the first step in accomplishing that mission.テつ So we're very thankful to our seniors and everything they've done for the program.テつ And it is with a heavy heart that I say that, because this is the last time I get to embrace them in the locker room.テつ But they'll always be part of our family, and it was really special, selfishly for me after the game to get a chance to see Sam Valenzisi, and this one goes to all the Wildcats that have been here before us.テつ They've paved the way for us.テつ We've got the best athletic director in in the country in Jim Phillips and st president, Morton Schapiro.
The sky is the limit for where our program can go.テつ We've gotten off to an unbelievable start with our fundraising campaign, and we'll be way ahead of schedule in improving our facilities to where they are currently to the best in the country, in a setting that is unmatched and unparalleled in college football.
To have that kind of support is just unbelievable and where the future may go for us.テつ So that's exciting.
Tonight we'll celebrate a terrific victory and have a lot of fun, and do it the Wildcat way as well.テつ And have a lot of fun.
But it's great to be a champion, and I'm very thankful for our young men.テつ Very thankful for our staff, and incredibly thankful for our fans.テつ All of those that have stuck with us throughout the years.
Chicago's Big Ten team is going to come back as Chicago's Big Ten champions.テつ And season tickets went on sale today.テつ So we're already in 2013, so let's get to work.
Obviously, again, everyone here at the Gator Bowl, thank you so much.テつ I'll take some questions, please.

Q.テつ So it's with a quick start that you got off to.テつ Was it hard to kind of get them to calm down a little bit and see that there is a lot of football left or are they pretty good about that anyway?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ I think we've been pretty good with that all season long.テつ You know, there are a lot of things that we need to continue to work on and correct as a program.テつ One of those is when we get a big lead to put teams away.
I've got to give a ton of credit to Dan Mullen's staff and his young men.テつ They battled back and made a bunch of plays in the second quarter.テつ We'll talk about it.テつ We didn't necessarily execute very well in the second quarter.
I think it was a combination not only of ourselves, but also the way Mississippi State adjusted and the way they were playing in the game.テつ We'll give them credit first, and then look at the areas we can get better at.
Defensively, we gave up some uncharacteristic big plays.テつ Like we adjusted wrong on one play.テつ Something we've seen a couple of other times.テつ When we came back to the boundary, this will be the hallmark of this senior class.テつ David comes off the field in one wrong run.テつ He said I adjusted that play wrong, it's my fault.テつ I'll get it fixed.
When your senior captain linebacker is pointing at himself and taking responsibility for his actions, I think it's like okay.テつ Let's go fix it.テつ It wasn't anything other than we've got a job to do, and let's go do it.テつ Obviously, the credit goes to our young men and our staff, and great job by everybody.テつ But I thought we handled it really well.

Q.テつ You talked several weeks about how well they take care of the football.テつ Did you ever envision a scenario where you'd get four interceptions in this game?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Bowl games are unbelievable sometimes how things happen.テつ And we did some uncharacteristic things too, offensively.テつ So we had a couple of nice punts on offense.テつ We've got a lot of work to do, a lot of little things.テつ But I'll worry about that stuff in spring practice which starts in about two and a half months.

Q.テつ David, you were confident going into this game.テつ What made you believe, and how do you feel now that you guys got it done?
DAVID NWABUISI:テつ Just being around my teammates this whole year.テつ We've been working towards this goal all year long.テつ I saw it in my guys' eyes all week, at bowl practice, the whole month leading up to bowl practices, watching the film, getting into game play.テつ We were really confident with what the coaches gave to us.テつ We were just really confident in the kind of talent and game playing that we had.テつ We knew we were going to come out here and get it done.
It's just a great feeling.テつ It's unreal.テつ It's like we keep saying, we haven't been here before.テつ I'm kind of sad there is no confetti afterwards, but I'll deal with it.テつ It was just good to be out there on the field as long as we wanted to.
Coach Fitz had to yell at us to get into the locker room.テつ I wanted to be on the field forever with those guys.テつ Love my teammates.テつ It was just a great feeling.

Q.テつ (Indiscernible)?
DAVID NWABUISI:テつ They did.テつ They were taking pictures with it.テつ And I kept waiting, waiting for it to get back in my hands in the locker room.テつ But I guess it's gone now.テつ They'll fly it up to us in a nice little case, so we'll see it in a week or so.

Q.テつ Pat, you alternated Trevor and Kain for much of the season, but today it seemed like you were almost on different plays instead of different series.テつ Can you talk about your thinking and what went into who was in there and who wasn't?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Trevor can talk about this too, but we started out back in Chicago.テつ That was our plan all along.テつ Again, with players formations and plays on offense and as a program.テつ We really felt like both guys were playing at a high level at the end of the season.テつ We wanted to be able to be multiple in what we were trying to do and what we were trying to accomplish.テつ We were tipping our hand a little bit at the end of the year.テつ Trevor went in, and we felt we were seeing some things then Kain was in.
So we wanted to get both guys on the field.テつ Getting them out there a little bit in space and doing some things.テつ That was just pulling the ball, you know.テつ So that was number one.テつ So the credit obviously goes to Mick McCall and our offensive staff.テつ They put together a great plan.
We had to adjust at halftime.テつ Chris Wilson and their defense did a really nice job of taking some things away that they thought we had, so they adjusted well in the second quarter, and we adjusted pretty well in the second half, so we're able to sustain some drives and make some big plays.

Q.テつ Obviously, you guys get the bowl in, and you're now the all time winningest coach in Northwestern history.テつ What's it mean to you not only to get this win, but to have this first bowl win be the win that gets you to become the winningest coach?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Well, selfishly, it's very humbling, but if it was just me, then how selfish would I be?テつ It's about our young men, all the great young men that I've had the privilege to be their head coach and very privileged to helping them to grow and be the best they can.
For those of you that come out to practice every day, I guess you get a chance to watch the best coaching staff in history and the best and brightest in college football.テつ I say that humbly, but we're a little biased that way, and the credit goes to the staff.
And to our wives.テつ They sacrifice a lot for us to be able to do what we do.テつ There is none that's greater than my wife Stacey, and just thankful that she loves me to do this, and help other young men grow and take the next step in their lives.
But Jerry Brown got win No. 119 today.テつ So put that 50th win in perspective.テつ Today was Jerry Brown's 119th win.テつ So that's the all‑time winningest coach.

Q. テつWhat did you think of the play of Quentin Williams and Tyler Scott today?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Well, it was pretty much the way they've played all season long.テつ So we did something neat today with the highlight tape.テつ We showed a highlight from our last game, and then we took a highlight from all of our seniors.テつ One play from them in high school, and then we moved that in.テつ So we went from Hunter Bates all the way down to the last Q. Williams.テつ And Q. Williams' play, he hits the quarterback, knocks him down.テつ The quarterback at the last second, then Quentin chases the guy for like a minus‑one‑yard play, and that's the way he's been his entire career.
Tyler has just been a warrior.テつ He's worked hard.テつ He's gotten so much stronger and more explosive.テつ And Mike Hankwitz and our defensive staff give those guys a great plan.

Q.テつ At 2:00 left in the fourth quarter, can you talk about that moment and what was going through your head and what you were feeling?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ Just ecstatic for our young men, especially our seniors.テつ I'm ecstatic for everyone that's ever supported Northwestern football, and those that have been here before.テつ It's been a long road to get the win.テつ But like I said for you guys up in Chicago, we've played well in all these games.テつ We just haven't finished the job.
Obviously, that great series in the fourth quarter with our defense getting the fourth down stop, you know, was huge.テつ Then we responded.テつ That was going to be the hallmark of this team.テつ We responded to some tough losses this year.テつ We responded today when we had some turnovers and our defense goes and holds Mississippi State to three or gets a turnover in return.
Then what I was probably most excited about, quite frankly, was the play and the character of our ballclub and that was our special teams unit.テつ I have not seen the stats of the game, but I thought we controlled the field position today, and we thought that was going to be critical.テつ So I think the Big Ten can run a little bit, and I think we proved that today that we can run.テつ So enough said on that.

Q.テつ Pat, how do you keep the weight of generations of teams who have not won bowls kind of off your minds long enough for them to get the job done today?テつ Or are they good about being in the moment and not letting and the constant reminder of the streak get to them?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ We concentrate on what we can control.テつ We've been around each other for a week now.テつ There's been a lot of negativity around our program for a long, long time.テつ You have no idea how much we make fun of you guys internally.テつ I'll put it to you that way.テつ As much as you make fun of us, we make fun of you more.
I let the monkey out of the bag a little bit.テつ But we have fun with it.テつ Obviously, we embrace it.テつ How can you run from what we have, and accomplish, you can't?テつ As David said in the leadership conference.テつ We were talking about it on Monday or Tuesday.テつ I don't know the day of the week.テつ I asked the guys who do you want to have speak?テつ You said it and Gordon Williams said, we don't want to talk about what's happened in the past, we're here to win a football game.テつ That's been our focus.
The captains that have been here before.テつ The captains have worked diligently, but the chemistry of this group will be the hallmark, and I think that the legacy that this group left.
We were in the locker room last year in Houston, and we let one get away.テつ And the guys took it upon themselves from the minute we landed in Chicago until today when it said zero, zero, zero, zero on the clock to be champions.テつ We might not be putting the Big Ten Championship trophy in our case, but we took a big step forward in accomplishing that mission today.テつ But again, the credit goes to the seniors and leaders on our team.

Q.テつ Trevor, and Fitz you too.テつ It was punt, punt, punt there during the stretch, and an interception and then you came in the third down throw off the back foot with like three consecutive completions and then the touchdown?テつ How big was that momentum‑wise to get things going again?
TREVOR SIEMIAN:テつ I think it was big.テつ It also helped our defense get a bunch of stops and getting the ball back.テつ It's tough to get away playing like that, the way we played in that stretch.テつ But, yeah.テつ But guys on the outside stepped up and made plays.テつ (Indiscernible) Like I said, the defense covered our butts today for a about part of the game.

Q.テつ Trevor, kind of going off that.テつ Obviously, Mississippi State did a great job of illuminating what Kain and (Indiscernible) were able to do.テつ Can you talk about Demetrius who had a quiet positive season, and Dan Vitale stepping up?テつ Can you talk about some of those starters that stepped up today for you guys?
TREVOR SIEMIAN:テつ Yeah, those guys have been capable all year.テつ They've done a really great job capitalizing on their opportunities when they're getting them.テつ And they've been blocking well on the outside too.テつ So how tough it is for them playing their tails off and making missed opportunities, so good for them.

Q.テつ Trevor, was that an option where you faked and ran around right, and it seemed like you caught them totally off guard?
TREVOR SIEMIAN:テつ Right.テつ Yeah, that is probably the first pull I've had on a play all year.

Q.テつ Of your career?
TREVOR SIEMIAN:テつ Yeah, of my career.テつ I surprised myself a little bit, actually.テつ Yeah, I just think they never thought I was going to pull it, and either did I.テつ So that's good.

Q.テつ Fitz, I thought the monkey stayed home because Jim didn't want him here.テつ Did you have to sneak him with you?テつ What is the story there?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ I gave it to Curtis before, Curtis Shaner, long time equipment manager before we left.テつ And I said put it in the case and put it away.テつ After we win, we're going to tear it up and never go back there.テつ I think they said on the podium, we've never been here before, but now we're here and here to stay with a new streak you can talk about in a positive fashion.

Q.テつ Bowls give you a special match‑up.テつ Tell us how you prepared your team?テつ The SEC is looked at as one of the most talented leagues in the country.テつ How did you prepare them to say, hey, you can compete, you can win this game, and tell me what it was like talking to them after the game today?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ We've got the utmost respect for the SEC.テつ We played them multiple times now.テつ Down in Tampa, about a yard away, and against a team that won a National Championship the next year.テつ This year we went 2‑0 against them.テつ I'll say this, we can run, we're athletic, we're fast, we're physical, we're tough, and we know how to respond.テつ I believe we play in the best football conference in the world.テつ I'm biased, but I don't care.

Q.テつ Coach, looking at your career as a player and a coach, do you think this is the best win you've ever had while at Northwestern?
COACH FITZGERALD:テつ This is one of the that I'm most thankful for, especially for our young men.テつ This is not about me or about us.テつ This is about all of us.テつ It's about our program.テつ It's been a really special moment today before the game and in our pregame talk before we showed the highlight tape.テつ Chief Stella and his family, Chief Stella from the Navy Seals who trained our guys this summer‑‑ flew his family out from California to be a part of the game.テつ He gave us a shadowbox flag, and the medallions of the Navy Seals that were flown in Iraq and Afghanistan in some of his missions that were there.
And he gave us his personal flag that he took with him on every mission as a Seal, and actually had a bullet hole through the top of it that the Taliban had shot through it.テつ He said that that flag is the spirit that had kept him alive through all the missions, and he had been through some highs and really tough days with that flag, but it was the flag of warriors.テつ And he presented it to us before the game.
Cody Cejda had it with him on the sidelines, and that was awesome.テつ That was one of the things that I'll never, ever forget from a standpoint of putting things in perspective.
We talked about at the start of the fourth quarter that we got some Wildcats looking down on like Brock Meyer and those that have been with us before us.テつ This is a legacy that our seniors will live forever and leave with us forever.テつ And we're incredibly thankful, but this is just another step in the journey of this program.

Q.テつ Coach and David, it seems like in so many of these bowl games at the end you're talking about being a play away.テつ On defense, I don't know if it was your most dominating effort of the season, but so many big plays on the line, and whether it was with the three or four picks, if you could talk about the big plays today on the defensive end?
DAVID NWABUISI:テつ It was just a great way to finish the season.テつ I don't know who didn't make a play on defense today.テつ It was incredible.テつ Plays were coming from everywhere.テつ And the defense we compete to see who can make the most plays and truthfully, we had no idea.テつ The ends were playing their butts off.テつ Our DBs were playing hard.テつ We had Proby in the middle sticking people.テつ Chichi got himself an interception.テつ Our D tackles played a hell of a game too.テつ It was a great game, and that's just the way we finish.
Our teams are going to keep building off that effort.テつ We knew we could come in here and play a great game and dominate the line of scrimmage, and that's what we do.テつ We make them go through the air.テつ When they start throwing the ball in the air, we started to make plays on it.テつ So it was a great job, and I'm just proud of my guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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