CAMPUS CHECK-IN: Fitzgerald not interested in outside advice for Northwestern’s offense


PALO ALTO, CA – AUGUST 31: Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald during the college football game between the Northwestern Wildcats and the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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EVANSTON – It’s no secret that it’s been a rough start offensively for Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern team.

They only scored seven points in their opener against Standford. After a better effort against UNLV at home in their second game, the unit had another bad effort against Michigan State. They gained only 265 total yards – including 126 through the air – while turning the ball over three times in a 31-10 loss to the Spartans at Ryan Field.

Hunter Johnson was ineffective at quarterback and was replaced by Aidan Smith, who threw a pair of picks in his half of play.

It’s an inopportune time to be having a major quarterback question considering No. 8 Wisconsin awaits them this week in Madison. The prospect of another 1-3 start looms for the Wildcats, yet Fitzgerald’s not going to let others outside the program tell him what to do.

When asked if he believed that the game plan on offense was the right one, Fitzgerald had a classic statement in which he said the improvement for the unit was on him and the coaching staff.

“We’ll we just take 90 hours and play Wii and golf all week. I mean, yeah, I mean, what do you think? Yeah, I go into every game plan expecting it to work to be quite honest with you. I understand there’s 40,000 experts on Twitter that can call plays for me. So my email address is hashtag ‘I don’t care,’ OK? So shoot that out.

“We’ve got to be better and we’re going to work to be better. So anyone whose negative, I respect it, and I don’t care. We have to improve and you do that by working and we’re got some youngins that we’ve got to just continue to coach. We’ve got to help them with our calls. There were some calls that we definitely feel as we look back in all three phases in each game that we look back and go ‘Why did we think that was going to work and it didn’t work.’ We hold ourselves accountable first.

“But anything beyond that is fanaticism, and I don’t have time for that.”

NOTRE DAME: No Time For Lament

SOUTH BEND – Because it was such a high-profile game and a critical one for their hopes for the College Football Playoff, many overlooked Notre Dame’s final game of September.

After a close loss to No. 3 Georgia on the road last Saturday, the Irish now turn around and face No. 18 Virginia in South Bend this week. It’s another big test for the team, who may have kept a small hope for the playoff alive with the strong effort on the road against the Bulldogs.

It leaves no time for lament for the Irish after the tight defeat at Sanford Stadium and the biggest test of the team’s resilience so far in the 2019 season. Brian Kelly himself is eager to see how his team shakes off the defeat to the Bulldogs when they host the Cavaliers on Saturday.

“I think our team will define who they are, you know, this week because they’re coming off of a game where they were disappointed in their performance. So they have a chance to do something about it,” said Kelly.  “So this is an opportunity to kind of define, you know, who you are, and that was much more closer to what I was trying to articulate if I didn’t do a good job with that.”

NORTHERN ILLINOIS: One More Non-Conference Test

DEKALB – Thomas Hammock has had quite a test to begin his career at Northern Illinois, but a difficult non-conference schedule is about to come to an end.

For the third-straight game, the Huskies face a Power 5 conference team as they travel to SEC opponent Vanderbilt at 11 AM on Saturday.  It comes after a bye week, which was preceded by losses to then No. 13 Utah 35-17 and Nebraska 44-8, with the Huskies playing all Mid-American Conference games for the rest of the season.

For the Commodores, it’s been a rough start as they’ve opened with a difficult schedule. They faced No. 3 Georgia in the opener, losing 30-6 at home before traveling to Purdue where they lost 42-24. Last week they gave up 66 points in a 28-point loss at home to LSU.



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