WNUR’s John Beers was at Northwestern football’s weekly press conference Monday. Here are some highlights from head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company as the Wildcats prepare to face the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday.
In Pat Fitzgerald’s weekly address to the media the coach and his players spoke about some of the challenges that will face them as they prepare to deal with their first road test of the season as well as their first game as a ranked team. Of the many things that Fitzgerald stressed, chief among them where:
- After playing all eligible players last week against EIU, Fitzgerald hinted that all 70 eligible players that will travel to Duke could see the field. Fitz stressed the need to combat the heat and humidity his players will face by utilizing their depth.
- One player that was mentioned by both Fitz and running back Justin Jackson was Duke safety Jeremy Cash. A senior who earned 2nd team All-American and 2nd Team All-ACC, Cash is a player whose presence is felt all-over the field as he wracked up over 100 tackles each of the last two seasons
- Fitz said that Duke will be the fastest opponent that Northwestern has faced all season, and combating that team speed in an environment that the ‘Cats are not used to.
- Much talk during the press conference centered on Duke starting quarterback Thomas Sirk and his abilities as a dual-threat quarterback. Linebacker Anthony Walker said that Sirk will keep the defense on their toes and that they can’t overreact to any one part of his game and risk exposing themselves to big plays.
- Another thing Fitz emphasized was the way Duke’s team speed factors in the kicking game. Kick returner DeVon Edwards has already scored on one kickoff this season (the fourth return touchdown of his career) and is averaging 55 yards per return. Duke also boasts three-time All-ACC selections in kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday
- Both Warren Long and Justin Jackson noted that the camaraderie amongst Wildcat teammates and the feeling in the locker room is stronger than in years past and feel like that is showing with the performance on the field.
- Walker praised the coaching staff for putting the defense in a good position when it comes to defending third down. Through two games, the Wildcats have only allowed three third-down conversions on 26 attempts.
- Second-team All Big Ten selection Nick Van Hoose seems to have garnered the respect of the Wildcats early opponents, said he’s felt lonely at times on the outside this season as no one has really thrown at him. He also said he expects that to change against Duke
The now #23 Wildcats take on the Blue Devils this Saturday in Durham at 11:30 a.m. Despite Northwestern being ranked and the Blue Devils only receiving votes, Duke is favored by 3 points.