Monday With The Wildcats

Northwestern is preparing to send out the program's winningest senior class on Saturday, as it faces the Michigan State. Pat Fitzgerald and Wildcat players addressed the media on Monday afternoon. brings you notes and quotes from Evanston.

Northwestern head coach Fitzgerald began the press conference by listing off some of the highlights for this year's senior class: 36 wins, five years of bowl eligibility, 19 Big Ten wins and five wins over ranked opponents.

• Fitzgerald also mentioned some of the past senior days, including last year's thrilling upset of Iowa, and the previous year's upset win over Wisconsin. "The guys are going to use the emotion of this Senior Day in a positive way, not to let it be a distraction. They're really going to relish their last opportunity to play Big Ten football and their last opportunity to play at Ryan Field."

• Sitting at 6-5, NU is at a crucial point to position itself for the bowl season. A win guarantees a bowl game; a loss puts it more in doubt. Fitzgerald, however, said the team is focused, as always, on the game at hand. "What we control is how we prepare and how we play this week," he said. "You've got a chance to build your own resume and to play a top 10 team. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

• The players that live within 100 miles will be allowed home for Thanksgiving, but Fitzgerald says he believes it is unfortunate that the tradition of no games on Thanksgiving was removed. "We were already done playing and you could go home and enjoy Thanksgiving with your family. I was one of the coaches that did not vote for playing this weekend."

• Fitzgerald spoke about the depth of Michigan State's offense, including Kirk Cousins, B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Le'Veon Bell. "Their entire offense and weaponry is incredibly, incredibly talented. One of the deepest skill sets that we've seen from any offense yet this season."

• Northwestern went for it on fourth down several times against Minnesota, including a 4th down touchdown pass. Fitzgerald said the decision rests on Jeff Budzien's comfort level, whether or not it is a reasonable distance to punt, and the situation of the game.

Ibraheim Campbell may have struggled earlier this season, but the redshirt freshman has made incredible strides in his game as the year progressed. "He has an incredibly bright future. The good news is for him, he's stayed the course and just kept working," Fitzgerald said.

• The offensive line was highly touted for its experience coming into the season. Al Netter and Brian Mulroe are the anchors of that experience, and Fitzgerald said both have been playing extremely well. "That left side has been really consistent all year. I think to say one is playing better than the other would be a discredit to the other guy. I've got to give them both a lot of credit." •

• Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees and Northwestern alumnus, will be this week's honorary captain. "It's great to have one of the greatest Wildcats in our athletic program's history come back to be part of this weekend. It's very fitting. Senior Day, Thanksgiving, playing the top team in our conference and having Joe here, it'll be a special opportunity for our guys," Fitzgerald said.

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