Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald met with the media following the Wildcats' 17-12 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes Saturday night. Here are the highlights from his comments.
"First of all, I want to thank our seniors -- the seniors on our team, our athletic trainers, our equipment staff, our videographers, our cheerleaders, our band, our students that were in Ryan Field for the last time time tonight. I just want to say 'thank you' to all of them. Your senior year goes fast, your experience in college goes fast, and it's kind of surreal. I know it's a little early, so I'll probably talk a bit more about this when we get down to Champaign, [Illinois,] at the end of the regular season, but it's about those young people and their experiences and I'm just really thankful for them. We had a reception for our senior parents before the game and it was pretty emotional for me; it takes me back to living rooms and unofficial and official visits and getting to know families. It's just spectacular the group of people we get to work with every day, and I'm really thankful for them.
"Looking at the game, I want to congratulate Coach [Kirk] Ferentz and his staff; they had a great plan. There's a reason why they were ranked No. 2 in the country a couple of weeks ago: they're physical, they're well-coordinated in all three phases. I thought we put together a really good plan and had ample opportunities to win the game.
"I have to be more disciplined. I have to be more poised. I can't step on the field and get us a penalty in the scoring zone. That's completely and totally unacceptable, and completely my fault. I apologized to the team after the game. That can't happen. I am a passionate person but I'm also a disciplined person, so I can't lose my cool, I can't step on the field. It was the right call and obviously I can't do that, so I'm disappointed in myself first, but I look forward to coaching the heck out of these guys this week."
On Iowa changing its QBs:
"We did not prepare for multiple quarterbacks because they had not shown multiple quarterbacks. There were internet reports that we might see a second quarterback; I don't trust those people, but we do read it, because it's information, but it's information, not fact. So we had an idea that they might do some things if things sputtered a little bit and maybe make a change, but they pretty much stayed with the same game plan."
On going for a field goal early in the game:
"I'm not lacking of aggression in my mindset, I just felt like we really psychologically needed points, and that was kind of on the edge of what I was comfortable with going for. I think it was fourth and four and a whisker; fourth and two I would have gone for it, fourth and one I would have gone for it, but fourth and four and a whisker I decided to take points. And I'm glad we got it. We needed it."
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On QB Andrew Marty's performance:
"It was his first time really being the starter, right? Being out there full time. I know he did a couple of years ago... But I think there were some really gutty and gutsy and tough plays that he made. As always, when you play the quarterback position, you look back and want some plays back, but I thought he responded really well to adversity. I think he's a tough-minded young man. I think he's a very physically tough guy, and he'll be better through this experience. We just have to be able to take care of the ball. That's really important across the board, and we have to take it away, and we didn't do that today except for the blocked punt."
On the game's on-field protest:
"My first focus is the health, safety, and wellbeing of our student athletes. There's an arena for the athletes and the officials and the coaches and those that are supposed to be in it, and any time that that gets compromised, it gives you pause, and you have great care and concern. I don't know if anybody saw, but that's all I was focused on, just trying to keep our guys away. You never know what may happen and how things may happen, so that's my focus and my priority.
"And then changing gears a little bit, I think about men like Bryan Heinz that we honored tonight. Brian has served and still serves our country: eight different tours in Afghanistan, someone that defends our freedom and gives us the opportunity to play this game and be a part of the game. It's something that I think is sacred and special to our great country and our great university. So my thoughts are about men like Brian, his family, his sacrifice, his dedication, and we're so incredibly proud of him. It was a really emotional weekend for me with him; guy that walked on here, earned a captaincy, and to go on and become a Green Beret and represent our program, that's something that's really special."
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