Monday With The Wildcats

Just one win away from bowl eligibility, the Wildcats turn their attention to their next opponent, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. On Monday, Pat Fitzgerald and select players recapped the win over Rice and looked ahead to Saturday's game at Ryan Field. PurpleWildcats.com catches you up on another Monday with the Wildcats.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald opened—as he usually does—by naming the weekly awards.

o Offensive Player of the Week: Jeremy Ebert
o Offensive Big Playmaker: Brian Mulroe
o Defensive Player of the Week: Ibraheim Campbell
o Defensive Big Playmaker: Ben Johnson
o Special Teams Player of the Week: C.J. Bryant
o Offensive Practice Player of the Week: Matt Frazier
o Defensive Practice Player of the Week: Deonte Gibson
o Special Teams Practice Player of the Week: Doug Diedrick

• Also worth noting that NU superback Drake Dunsmore was named a semifinalist for the Mackey Award, giving to the nation's best tight end.

• Fitzgerald also announced that some of his old teammates from Northwestern's 1996 team will return for a ceremony during Saturday's game. Former Wildcat quarterback Steve Schnur will serve as the honorary captain. Also, former Northwestern coach Gary Barnett will be at Ryan Field for the game. Fitzgerald said he speaks with Barnett every couple weeks.

• In his opening statement, Fitzgerald gave his impressions of Jerry Kill's Minnesota Golden Gophers. "Jerry's personality is all over this team, "Fitzgerald said. "They're tough, they're physical, they play with passion and great emotion."

• After the win against Rice, David Nwabuisi spoke of changes on the defense, which has made checks and audibles a bit "simpler" than they previously were. Fitzgerald admitted that the coaches are doing things differently than they have with previous teams. "As we were looking at what we were doing defensively, we put that on us as coaches. Every team is a little bit different. Some things we were successful with in the past, we weren't havening success with this season."

• When addressing Nwabuisi's comments, he jokingly said, "Good for David, that's great for him." He later added, "Five losses, we're terrible. Now, we're the best. Feels great that we're back to being the best."

• Northwestern has their hands full with Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray. Said Fitzgerald, "He's 6-foot-4, 240. Go back a couple years ago when he was a wildcat quarterback, we had a hard time getting him on the ground."

• Later on, Fitzgerald expressed his disappointment in the lack of physical play from the defense against Rice. "I think we left our big boy pads in Lincoln," he said. "I hope those return this Saturday."

• When later asked about the recent success of the defense, he said, "We've simplified. Because we're simple, we're better."

• Fitzgerald emphasized the importance of having confident players. "My first two years, I thought I was a pretty good football player, but I stunk. My last two years, I thought I was the best football player in the world. You got to have a little swagger, you got to trust and believe in yourself … If you think great, you are. If you think you stink, you do."

• Fitzgerald had more high praise for sophomore quarterback/receiver Kain Colter. "He has to work harder than anyone else in our program for all aspects of what he's doing," Fitzgerald said. He added, "You're playing kickball, you take him with your top pick. You take him in any sport you're playing."

• Numerous NFL scouts have asked Fitzgerald about senior receiver Jeremy Ebert. Fitzgerald said of Ebert, "In a position of high maintenance (wide receivers), he's about as low maintenance of a guy as you'll find."

• Fitzgerald was asked about his former teammates from the 1996 team. He joked, "I prefer not to talk about those guys, they're all knuckleheads." He went on to say, "It's what we were sold when we were being recruited, it happened. "These guys are going to be your lifelong friends. This experience will open up lifelong doors…"

• At the end of Fitzgerald's news conference, the coach was joined by Tammy Walker to announce that $10,000 have been raised to the Randy Walker Memorial Fund.

Adonis Smith, Chi Chi Ariguzo, and Ibraheim Campbell joined the media

• Campbell spoke of his improvements in recent weeks. He said, "The largest difference is experience, and learning from the mistakes I made. I'm learning from my opportunity now. I'm learning and growing as a player."

• When Campbell was struggling during the beginning of the season, he received support and advice from fellow safety Brian Peters, along with secondary coach Jerry Brown. "They know how much it means to me and how much I put into it," Campbell said. "They help me deal with the pressure and go throughout the tough times that I was going through."

• When asked of the recent strong play from the defense, Chi Chi Ariguzo said, "We're just keying in on our part of the defense that we need to, while holding each other accountable." He added, "We're pretty basic, we don't alter too much of what we do. We just try to execute what we do."

• Running back Adonis Smith has missed out on a lot of playing time this season due to injuries. He said, "I was dealing with an injury early on. It's been on and off. The trainers have been trying to get me back on the field."

• Smith was asked of the running abilities that NU's quarterbacks have. He said, "Kain (Colter) has the shakes, Dan (Persa) has the straight-ahead. It's hard for defenses to key on that."

• Any chance of a letdown loss against two-win Minnesota? Don't expect the Wildcats to overlook their opponent. Ibraheim Campbell said the team learned from their loss to Army.

• Chi Chi Ariguzo had nice things to say about MarQueis Gray. "Their quarterback is the workhorse of their offense," he said. "He's big but he scrambles a lot. It comes down to our defense coming down field and getting him when he scrambles."

• A reporter asked the three players if they have checked out bowl projections on the internet. Each player denied that. Adonis Smith replied, "What bowl do they have us projected to play in?"

The Wildcats return to the practice field on Tuesday morning as they continue to prepare for the Gophers. Stay with PurpleWildcats.com for notes, stories, analysis video, and more throughout the week.


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