Heading into his team’s trip to No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald joined the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday to provide an update on the Wildcats.
What did Fitzgerald have to say about his team’s battle with the Buckeyes? Check it out:
- Fitzgerald said sophomore QB Clayton Thorson is playing “at a much more confident rate” with the experience he’s gained this season. “It’s exciting to see.”
- Asked about the OSU offensive line’s recent issues, Fitzgerald said: “I think they’ve handled it fine. I see a bunch of 4- or 5-star recruits who are phenomenal.” Fitzgerald said the Buckeyes’ struggles on the offensive line have just been a result of good teams they’ve played in Wisconsin and Penn State.
- About safety and Pickerington, Ohio, native Godwin Igwebuike, who is fifth in the Big Ten with 8.7 tackles per game, Fitzgerald said he believes Igwebuike is “an NFL player for a long, long time.” He added that the junior has continued to improve, both on the field and from a leadership standpoint.
- “It’s one of those roles that he’s learning to take on,” Fitzgerald said of Igwebuike’s leadership. The coach noted that Igwebuike’s had to play behind some NFL-caliber safeties, but he’s becoming the leader he knows he’s capable of being.
- “We weren’t performing consistently and we were playing a lot of first-time starters,” Fitzgerald said of the Wildcats’ 1-3 start. “You can keep pounding your head thinking things are going to change or you can adjust.” Said from there, Northwestern took a winter workout and spring football approach to practice. “Every team is different,” said Fitzgerald, whose team has since won three straight.
- “Now the heavy lifting starts,” Fitzgerald said of the Wildcats’ upcoming stretch (at Ohio State, vs. Wisconsin, at Purdue over the next three weekends). “Nobody has a stiffer challenge than us. We have to take on the Buckeyes.”
- Fitzgerald called star running back Justin Jackson “a complete back.” Noted that he has a high very high competition level.
- Fitzgerald concluded his portion of the call with a “Go Cubs and Go Cats!”