Football: Fitzgerald discusses offensive struggles in weekly news conference

Joseph Diebold, Assistant Gameday Editor


Diagnosing the offensive line’s woes

Despite an improved performance from senior quarterback Trevor Siemian, Northwestern’s offense was held to just 9 points Saturday against Michigan, largely thanks to a sloppy performance from the offensive line. The line failed to create any space for freshman Justin Jackson — who ran for 38 yards on 17 carries — and broke down repeatedly in pass protection, most notably on the two-point conversion attempt to win the game with three seconds remaining.

After saying following the game that the offense’s two long fourth-quarter drives were aided by the line giving Siemian “more than a nanosecond” to throw, coach Pat Fitzgerald went into more depth Monday about the team’s blocking struggles this season.

“We didn’t block very well at the point of attack on Saturday,” he said. “You can credit Michigan, but we didn’t execute very well. That was probably the most disappointing aspect of the game on Saturday, the way our offensive line played. It’s got to get better. It’s got to improve.”

Fitzgerald said he doesn’t doubt that the coaching staff has recruited the right players along the line but expects them to continue to grow together.

“We’ve got good young talent,” he said. “I just think that they’re young and they’ve got individual areas that they all need to improve. Some guys it’s between their ears with self-confidence, some guys it’s strength, some guys it’s carrying over what we do in practice, some guys it’s maturity and actually getting in the fight in practice and competing to win a job so we can have some true competition, which is probably the biggest issue that we have right now.”

In other news from the Michigan game, senior receiver Kyle Prater and sophomore cornerback Matthew Harris were named NU’s offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively.

No nostalgia for Notre Dame

NU and Notre Dame have not played since 1995, when the Wildcats upset the Fighting Irish 17-15 on the road. If Fitzgerald, who was on the field that day, has any fond memories from South Bend, Indiana, he is not focusing on them.

“I don’t really have a whole lot of time for nostalgia right now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix. We need to coach our guys’ butts off this week.”

Fitzgerald was also asked if he grew up cheering for the Fighting Irish.

“Yeah, I’m Catholic from the South Side,” he quipped. “We didn’t have a choice.”

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