Monday Press Conference: Embracing The Suck

On Monday, Pat Fitzgerald addressed the debacle in Iowa, Michigan week and made a Franco Harris reference.


Not Heaven, Just Iowa

Pat Fitzgerald did not hold back in criticizing his team’s Saturday performance. A 48-7 score will do that to a coach.

“I watched the game film. I think I was done by the time we reached the Mississippi River,” Fitzgerald said. “It didn’t take long to see us get our butts whipped. We won maybe three or four of the one-on-one battles.”

Northwestern, like Iowa, had a bye week to prepare for Saturday’s game, but it was the Hawkeyes who exploded for 24 first quarter points. Fitzgerald says if he could go back, he would change a significant part of that first quarter.

“I wouldn’t have given up a 54-yard kick return,” Fitzgerald said. “We kept having third and eight. We can’t do that. Teams that do that don’t convert at a high rate.”

Fitzgerald was quick to say this is a game the team needs to put behind itself. The ‘Cats still have four “great opportunities ahead of them.”

“Stacy was great,” Fitzgerald said when asked about talking to his mentors after the game. “The massage was great. I sat down next to Ryan on Saturday. He was like, ‘Dad, we got spanked.’ He’s eight years old. I woke on Sunday like let’s rock. Roll your clock back an hour. See you on Monday.”

And the best Fitzism of the day: “Sometimes you have to embrace the suck.”

The players showed similar feelings. Last week, Brandon Vitabile was named a finalist for the Campbell Trophy for the Best Scholar-Athlete in the nation. Fitzgerald called the award the “Academic Heisman.” Vitabile recognized his poor on-field performance against Iowa.

“You have to stick together. We didn’t do a great job embracing that,” the center said of the early hole Northwestern put itself in. “That starts with senior leadership. I need to be more positive out there. We have to stop trying to hit 10-run home runs.”

Tony Jones and Deonte Gibson joined Vitabile on the podium. Both validated Fitzgerald’s accusation of being hard on the team.

“He told us our performance on Saturday was quite embarrassing,” Jones said.

Gibson added: “He’s honest with us. We didn’t play that well and he told us. He doesn’t sugarcoat it.”


Staff Loyalty or Weakness?

While Northwestern prides itself on retaining its staff for longer than any other Big Ten program, critics point to Northwestern’s lack of success the last couple of seasons as a result of hanging onto coaches too long. Fitzgerald was asked what he thought of those saying his loyalty to coaches could be weighing down his team.

“I’ve never met those people,” he said. “Sorry to them–those on people who are too loyal.

“I think I really trust people who give everything they have. I ask that of our folks on the training table, I ask that of the grounds crew, I ask that of three guys back at home, I ask that of my wife and I ask that of myself.”

On a more straightforward note, Fitzgerald was asked about how he judges his coaches. Fitzgerald gave an answer similar to what he looks for in a recruit: skill and character.

“I think you look at who he is as a person. You look at how he develops young men. You look at what he brings to the football program, schematically,” Fitzgerald said.


Michigan Man at Wide Receiver

For Tony Jones, a Flint, Mich. native, this Saturday’s game will be the wide receiver’s third of three battles with his hometown rival. Jones is familiar with multiple Wolverines, many of which he played in high school.

“Going home and having to see those guys throughout the course of the year, I’ve got a chip on my shoulder knowing they’ve beaten us the last couple years,” Jones said.

Michigan running back Justice Hayes was a teammate of Jones at Grand Blanc Community in Grand Blanc, Mich. Jones is also close with Detroit native Raymon Taylor, the Wolverines’ starting cornerback.

While much of the Michigan chaos this season has been focused on Brady Hoke, Dave Brandon and the Michigan administration, the players have dealt with the adversity, as well. Jones is saving that conversation for the winter.

“We kind of leave that stuff for the offseason,” Jones said. “I talked with Justin. He was really feeling it when they were struggling this year. I was kind of like I feel your pain, but I’m looking forward to taking it to you this season.”



-Fitzgerald said Traveon Henry was “seven for seven at the point of attack” against Iowa, making him the team’s defensive player of the week.

-Clayton Thorsen, an academic freshman quarterback currently redshirting, was named a practice player of the week.

-On Northwestern’s 97 percent graduation success rate, Fitzgerald joked: “We’re best in the Big Ten by 10 percentage points, so we’re doing something positive.” Penn State is second at 87 percent.

-Fitzgerald compared this year’s team to the Gator Bowl season: “We just don’t have enough guys to go. When I think about that 2012 team, I’ll remember how hard we practiced. We were one of the healthiest teams in the country that year.”

-Fitzgerald said Justin Jackson was trying to make a “Franco Harris” play when he attempted to pick up Kyle Prater’s fumble versus Iowa, rather than jump on the ball.

-Deonte Gibson said the players need to “trust themselves” on the field, quoting the sign Northwestern slaps as it leaves the tunnel each game.

  • Not a military guy

    Embracing the Suck …
    Comes from the military as in, “deal with it”.

  • PBRCat

    “You look at what he brings to the football program, schematically,” Fitzgerald said.”

    • WildcatSteve

      Hey soldier, do you know who’s in charge here?
      Ain’t you?

    • LProf

      What do you expect him to say, and does it really matter? After all, what would Custer have said at HIS press conference after the Little Big Horn, had he been around to give one? In both cases, one sentence applies: “We got the crap beaten out of us.”

      • PBRCat

        You know I thought about referencing the Little Big Horn, but I opted for the “Heart of Darkness.”

  • Polymersci

    In the Trib on Sunday, Fitz was quoted as saying “I thought we prepared well” and ” We had two really good weeks of practice.” The result: 48-7. After the Nebraska second half melt-down Fitz said “I thought we had a solid game plan for the second half.” Nice job sticking to your solid game plan. We all know how that half went down.

    There are two types of people in the world. Those who know what they don’t know, and those who don’t know what they don’t know. It’s sad, but after nine seasons, I think we know which one is Fitz.

  • CatAlum06

    “I think I really trust people who give everything they have.”

    And here is the problem in one sentence. It’s very admirable to be like that, but Fitz, no matter how much I try to be a star in the NBA it isn’t going to happen. I’m 6ft and I don’t have a very good inside move. I give everything I have in the rec league every week, but that doesn’t mean the Bulls deserve to give me a shot. Sometimes even very well-meaning, hard-working people aren’t the right fit for the job. Thats a lesson everyone needs to learn sooner or later!

    • fidel305

      you mean they, not us, have to “embrace their suck”?

  • nucats96

    My takeaway from the post is that the plan for success is simple.
    Our offseason game plan is that we hope to have one of the very lowest injury rates in the country. If we can do that we can be successful like 2012 otherwise we are going to suck and make excuses.
    I could have come up with that plan for a fraction of the salary and the same results.

  • cece

    sometimes you just have to find a way of describing your situation without using a cliche from a discipline other than your own. be more real, Fitz.

  • JimB7368

    Loyalty is a good thing but, blind loyalty is a bad thing. I wish Fitz would be better at identifying which is which.

    • BarefootCat

      As Theo Epstein said when hiring Joe Maddon: there is a difference between loyalty to a person and loyalty to the organization.

      Fitz needs to focus solely on loyalty to NU Football and find the right coordinators / players to take it to the next level.

  • Christoph Wilhelm Schmidt

    “I’ve never met those people…” – An infuriating, yet all too typical non-response from Fitz.