Football: Wildcats focusing on rebounding from tough loss
October 22, 2012
If Pat Fitzgerald stresses one message to his players, it's to forget about every game — win or loss — by the time they show up to practice the following Monday morning. That philosophy certainly doesn't change after a heartbreaking loss like the one Northwestern suffered last Saturday.
"They say, 'Don't let Nebraska beat you twice,' which is (to say) we lost to them this past week, but don't let this game affect the way you prepare or think going on to playing Iowa," junior tailback Mike Trumpy said.
The Wildcats have already come back strong from adversity this season. After giving up 22 points in the fourth quarter and losing at Penn State on Oct. 6, NU responded with a scrappy victory over Minnesota the following week to get back on track. This weekend, the test is a little bit tougher as Iowa visits Evanston for NU's Homecoming game.
The Hawkeyes may be banged up, but they still present a formidable challenge especially for the Cats' offense, which has sputtered the past three weeks. After putting up a school-record 704 yards against Indiana on Sept. 29, NU has racked up a total of 823 yards the last three weeks combined.
"We all know we're a great offense, and we can be a great offense, we just need to execute more and make plays," Trumpy said. "We talked a lot about how in this past game one play makes the difference, and we just need to execute and make all the plays we can make."
One of the big issues for the Cats is on third downs, where they have converted only 10 of their 42 attempts the past three games. Fitzgerald spoke about the troubles on third downs each of the past three weeks and is focusing on it during practice.
"The emphasis is third down conversions; that's where we're struggling right now," sophomore receiver Tony Jones said. "We're working on a balanced attack, so establishing the run game and definitely being able to pass the ball so we can keep the chains moving."
The notion of flushing a game out of the system fits nicely with the Cats' mindset of taking one game at a time. By forgetting about the previous week's contest, NU is able to focus solely on its next opponent. Fitzgerald talked about the difference between fans and athletes in how they handle wins and losses. Fans only get to see the games each Saturday and continue to talk about the previous week's game until the next matchup arrives. The student-athletes, on the other hand, get to go right back to work Monday for the next week, making it easier to forget about the previous games.
Fitzgerald recalled a saying from former coach Randy Walker, who said wins are more difficult to deal with as a coach than losses because the team rallies after a loss to try to win the next game. Fitzgerald said the Cats came together as a team after the loss to Penn State and sensed a similar attitude when NU arrived Monday to start preparing for Iowa. He added the veterans are responsible for making sure the Cats are focused only on the game ahead and not the previous battle.
"It falls on the leadership, no doubt about it," Fitzgerald said. "We've had solid success out of (this philosophy), and we'll stick to the plan and continue to tweak it as we move forward."
Fitzgerald announced that redshirt freshman cornerback Nick VanHoose and senior corner Quinn Evans are unlikely to play against Iowa after getting hurt against Nebraska last weekend. He said junior running back Venric Mark should be able to play after he was forcibly removed by the referee during the loss to the Cornhuskers after taking a big hit on a running play.