Dec. 28, 2009
AUBURN COACH Gene Chizik
"I'd like to start out by saying everything has been first class. We've had a great time. Obviously we're trying to balance having a good time and this being a reward with preparing to win a football game. It's been a good two days work. We just finished up our second practice here in Tampa this morning. It's just been a great ride. We feel very blessed, as I said earlier, to be in this bowl game. Everything, as I said before, has gone very smoothly. The players have had a great mixture of a lot of things to do. The weather has been great today. It's been a great experience for our guys so far. Obviously we've got a lot of work to do. As Pat will tell you, everybody is here to win the game, and we have a lot of work to do in that regard. It's been a great two and a half days. Our guys have thoroughly enjoyed it and I want to say thank you to all the Outback people because they've made it very special and our kids are very appreciative of that and our coaches, so it's been a great two and a half days."
On wide receiver Derek Winter:
"First of all, Derek's a great young man. This kid works. He's the epitome of hard work. When you look at the Auburn creed, in there it talks about work, hard work. He is what the creed says and he is what Auburn believes in. He comes to work everyday and he does everything we ask him to do. He knows what his role is right now and he's got to be very good at that role. Right now his role is mainly a special teams contributor and he does a great job of that with us. He's a great young man. He's going to graduate next year and he's going to have a very, very bright future. We're very proud of Derek and everything he's done for Auburn."
On the maturity of defensive back Walt McFadden:
"There are times in your life that you grow up. I understand Walt McFadden because when I was the defensive coordinator here before I was recruiting Walt. He's a very talented young man and was probably immature when he got here. He's like so many guys that grow up. That's the cool thing about coaching. The cool thing about coaching is you get them when they're 18, they leave when they're 22, and you see a period of growth in there where you've changed guys' lives. Walt's one of those guys. Walt's a team leader for us. Five years ago I don't know what he was. I can only vouch for what he's done as a senior here. He's just grown up. He's mature beyond his years in my opinion. He's been absolutely phenomenal for our football team. All the guys look up to him. He's graduated. He's done everything we've asking him to do and he's got a chance to go on and play after this. I'm really proud of guys like Walt and I think everyone can take a lesson from his story because there are a bunch of them out there."
On similarities in tempo between Auburn and Northwestern:
"I think there are some similarities in the tempos. Obviously our tempos change a little bit. It's not always fast paced. Just from a philosophical standpoint, we try to do it at the right times because every time is not the right time for us individually. But I think there are some similarities in pace, yes.
On Auburn's offensive philosophy:
"In this league, as you well know, you have to be able to run the football. It was kind of an up tempo with philosophically starting how are we going to run the ball. So you're looking at not necessarily five wides or empty sets or things of that nature. It was more of up tempo lets run the football, what are we going to do off the running game. It's misdirection, it's your power running game, it's your gap schemes and your doubles. It's not just your inside zone stuff. What was attractive to me was the fact that it was still going to allow us to run the football, yet still be a tempo type offense. Our offense is probably different than most. It doesn't mean we can't go empty and it doesn't mean we can't do some of the things the spread offenses hang their hat on. We start everything from trying to run the football. When I've been on really good football teams that's what we've been able to do is run the ball. That's kind of where my roots are, so this was kind of the best of both worlds."
On what quarterback Chris Todd has meant to the team:
"I'm just really proud of Chris. If you go back a year, he's just overcome a lot of adversity, from all the things that happened a year before to the shoulder surgery, to trying to play with a bad shoulder. He' a guy that, literally from his teammates' perspective, has been off the charts as a leader and has gained the respect of everybody in the locker room. There's a lot of pressure on the quarterback at Auburn. I think he's handled it like a champ and he's meant a lot to our football team."
On the connection between Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka and receiver Zeke Markshausen:
"When you throw for almost 270 yards a game, you're very efficient starting with the quarterback. His percentage of completions are like 65-66 percent. There's always rhythm, there's always connections there with those two. It's a bond there that you can see has developed over time. He's (Markshausen) very crisp in his routes. He's very efficient at what he does. Like Pat (Fitzgerald) said, the thing that's very impressive about the offense is that they're going to do what they can do and they're going to do what the defense gives them. They've very good at it, and they're very efficient. They know where they need to be, the timing of the routes versus the timing of the quarterback. When it's on and it clicking, it is on and you can see it."
NORTHWESTERN COACH PAT FITZGERALD
"To everyone at the Outback; thanks for the opportunity to be here. It's been a couple of days, about 50 degrees warmer than it's been in Chicago, so it's been a lot of fun for our young men, especially to see the sun today. It's the first time we've seen that baby in about two weeks based on the weather we've had up in Chicago. It's been a fun couple of days for us to work; we needed the work. We've had to practice indoors almost exclusively up in Chicagoland. To get outside and catch kicks and do different things that we needed to accomplish here early in the week has gone well. I want to echo the same statements as Gene has made; it's just been an incredible couple of days for our program. Our families have had a great time, our coaches have had a great time, and our players have had a blast. Now they get an opportunity to go to Busch Gardens and then we'll wrap things up with more excitement as our entire football nation comes on down here from all over the country. They will be down here tomorrow and obviously then it will be about focus. The great thing about being at the Outback Bowl in Tampa is there is so much to do. We try to balance having a great time by making sure that we focus on what's important in this specific scenario. What was important this morning was that we got great meetings and a great practice in. We accomplished that. Now we'll go have some fun and enjoy the rest of the day. We're just very fortunate to be here."
On the status of defensive line coach Marty Long:
"We got some great news today, he's feeling better and improving every day He had a little bit of double vision, that's now gone away. As I said yesterday to Teddy up in Chicago, we're going to dedicate this game to him. It breaks our heart that he cannot be here with us, but we're thinking about him and praying for his speeding recovery. We fully anticipate and expect a full recovery."
On what it takes to be a successful program at Northwestern:
"Number one it's from a leadership standpoint. We've got a great president and great support from our administration. Our alumni and donors have been more supportive than maybe in any other time in our program's history. We've been able to attract and recruit high-quality and world-class student athletes to our university. To our coaching staff's credit they have embraced and believe in what we are and what we stand for. We try to develop world-class student athletes and give a world-class student athlete experience. With that comes the expectation that we're going to do well in the classroom. Add 54 players above a 3.0 and a team gpa of a 2.98 and win eight football games and go 5-3 in our league shows that you can have that balance. You can have the best of both worlds, but it starts and ends with recruiting. We've got to attract the right kind of young man that fits our football program. Our coaching staff has done a tremendous job. Once you have that it's kind of a vacuum that pulls everybody up. The culture within our locker room is to do the right thing, not just on the field, not just socially, not just in the classroom, but all areas combined, and I'm very proud of that. It starts and ends with the way our young men are raised in their home and the way they go about their business in high school, and hopefully we can just put the finishing touches on developing them when they come to our university."
On the similarities in tempo between Northwestern and Auburn:
"I don't want to speak for Gene, but there are two defensive guys sitting up here. I think we know what gives defenses problems. The way we look at our program, we want to find a way to put our players in the best formations and execute the plays they can do in all three phases, and tempo is a big part of it. As Gene stated, there's a right time and a wrong time. To be a no huddle team, and to be a fast tempo team, you can also do a lot of damage to your defense and your kicking game. So you've got to be smart, you've got to pick your poison, and you've got to use it to your advantage."
On the keys to wide receiver Zeke Markshausen's success:
"It starts with his work ethic. He is just a tremendous worker. He's been diligent in the way he's gone about learning the offense, improving himself from a strength and speed standpoint, and then the way he competes every day in practice. I don't believe the young man has had a bad practice in his entire career. He catches everything that's thrown to him. He's very devout in his faith, he's grown in his faith, and he uses that as his strength. He's just really unflappable. He's always positive, always upbeat, and does just a tremendous job leading that wide receiver room. You talk about one of the best stories in America. A young man that went to a small school in Wisconsin and says, `I think I can play big time football.' He calls the coach and says, `Can I transfer, can I walk on?' And now, 80 receptions later, one of the best years ever as a wide receiver in Northwestern football history while being an electrical engineering major. He's just the full package, and I look forward to him donating a lot of money back to Northwestern because he's going to be very successful."
On buying into the current offensive philosophy:
"I bought into it right away. I thought it made the defense defend the entire field horizontally and vertically. It made the defense defend a tempo. It made the defense defend for verticals and the speed option all in the same formation. It's one thing to be one-dimensional and just be a running team, but I really thought if you had a good quarterback you could spread the ball out and use a lot of different weapons. Philosophically, trying to defend it, I thought it was the right offense for us to run."
On the value of quarterback Mike Kafka:
"When you talk about most valuable players you typically talk about the player that means the most to his team. If you were to remove Mike from the season we had, it was just a magical season for him. To throw for almost 70 percent, the efficiency really led our offense. More importantly, off the field the leadership qualities that Michael has; he's a member of our leadership council and voted captain by his teammates. He's just done a tremendous job. Mike's been in every role. As a redshirt freshman he started for us, then was injured. He had to overcome the injury to get back on the field to compete. As he gets healthy, C.J. Bachér had two magical years for us. This year now he's back as a starter. He's kind of seen every role the quarterback may have. I think that's really taught him and he appreciates the opportunity that he has. Mike means a lot to our football program. While he's done all that he's mentored Danny Persa and Evan Watkins and helped the next generation in our program get ready. That's why I think he's the MVP, not just for what he's done on the field."
On taking over the Northwestern program after the death of Randy Walker:
"To go back in time and think about the circumstances, I didn't think a whole lot about myself. I thought a whole lot more about Tammy and the Walker family and about coach and how I could help our players and coaching staff through that time period. When Mark Murphy came over to my house and said, `We believe that you're the right person to help get our program through this.' The first thing I said was give me a day to think about it, I want to sleep on it. Not that I didn't want to have the opportunity to help our program through that and everything I just mentioned, but I wanted to make sure it was right. I slept on it and thought about some things and I spent some time talking with my wife. The challenges that you have to be a head football coach and our roles pale in comparison to what it means to be a father and to be a husband and to be a friend. That was what was important during that time period. We got through it. It wasn't easy; it's still ongoing. We think and pray about coach every day. He's with us every day at practice, what we do and how we do things are molded in a lot of the values that coach taught all of us. That's why this game is so special to our football family. We've got 21 great seniors. The fifth-year players are the last group to be recruited, coached and mentored by Randy Walker. To have them be in this opportunity on New Year's Day I think speaks volumes for what they've been able to overcome and the adversity they've got to fight through, the real life adversity they've been able to fight through. I couldn't be more proud of them. It's not been easy, but it will be lessons that they'll take with them the rest of their lives as they move forward and become husbands and fathers."