Dec. 31, 2009
Tampa, Fla. -
The following are quotes from Auburn head coach Gene Chizik and Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald from Thursday morning's press conference.
Opening statement Gene Chizik:
"It's the culmination of a great week. We're coming down to the end here and it's certainly been just an outstanding five days for our football team and our coaches. As I've said before this bowl has been absolutely awesome and I've been to a bunch. It's run first class. Our football team is to the point now that we're ready to play. When you have your last game close to a month ago, there's a lot of stuff in between. But now I really feel like our football team is focused in on the last 24 hours, and we need to be. We had a good practice yesterday. We finished yesterday with pretty much our Thursday game week type practice. Today what we're going to do is walk through and touch some things up, which we need to do. Obviously we'll be ready to play tomorrow morning. Again, this is the culmination of a great week, but it's game time, so we've got to get ready to play and focus back in on the little things that are going to help us win the football game."
On the Outback Bowl's early start:
"We've played a couple of early games this year. For us, it doesn't matter when we play. Both teams are playing at the same time. We played a lot of later games, but we played our share of some earlier ones too. Our players like it and our coaches like it because you don't have to get up all day and think about it, watch everybody else. You get up, you eat, you go to the stadium and you play, and I think that's the way our players and coaches would prefer to do it. We like that; we like getting out there and getting it going."
On the Auburn seniors finishing their careers in the Outback Bowl:
"Our senior class, they've been phenomenal. That's the only word I can tell you because number one, we don't have many of them. Number two, they've been through a lot of stuff now, they've been through a lot of stuff at Auburn. If you date back a year ago now, their whole world was turned upside down. They're at Christmas right now; they've got a new football coach after having the same one for 10 years. They don't know me; they don't know the coaches we're getting ready to hire. If you go back a year ago right now there was a lot of stuff going on out there. The way they've come and the way they've bought into what we want and the way we want to set the groundwork and the foundation for down the road, they have truly laid, in my opinion, they've truly laid a great foundation for our younger guys by the way they have carried themselves, the way they have acted. Most of them have graduated already. To me they've been phenomenal. They've been great for our coaches and they've been great for our younger players. Obviously it's very important for us to go out on a win for them tomorrow for what they've put into the university."
On the perception of Big Ten teams being slower than SEC teams:
"I think that's somewhat of a myth, I really do. Every case is different. You can sit there and try to compare. Look at Miami and Wisconsin. Miami is certainly not short on speed. Wherever that came from and however that came, I think that's blown out of proportion. Everybody's got great athletes. Everybody's got great speed. If you're playing in a January 1 bowl or you're playing in a bowl game, period, no matter what league you're in, Big Ten or SEC, you're going to have a football team full of great athletes. That's just how I believe."
On the challenge of the Northwestern passing game:
"It's going to be a very huge challenge for us. They're throwing for about 260 yards a game, so they're doing something right. They're running for another 120 a game. Their passing game, when it's on and it's clicking, they're protecting, which they do a good job of protecting their quarterback. Probably the best thing he does is he gets rid of the football. When you choose to blitz, you've got to be prudent about when you do that because they do a great job of picking that up. We've had our secondary challenges over the year. So that will be a great challenge for us. We know they're going to throw the football, there's no question about it. They'll try to run it some too. They've got a great scheme and obviously they've got a guy that's really good at what he does. The challenge is certainly set for us, but we feel good about it. We feel great about our plan and we feel great about the challenge."
On the fast tempo of both offenses:
"The tempo from our offense right now, we're going to be as fast as we need to be. Again, that changes with circumstances in the football game. This could be a game that goes really, really quick, I don't know, we'll see. It's going to be really interesting. It's two different types of offenses, but the potential tempo could be very similar."
Opening statement from Pat Fitzgerald:
"It's been an incredible week for our football family and now it's here in the 48-hour business trip of game preparation. I think we had focused and well-executed practices in Evanston and we've brought that down with us here to Tampa and now it's going to be critically important that we eliminate the distractions and focus on what's important now as we prepare to play a great Auburn team. Like I say, it's been a tremendous week."
On the importance of the current bowl system:
"Based on our fans being here, I think this game is pretty important to our football family. We were commenting on that yesterday. To see the amount of people that were down in the Channelside area and everything, I believe these bowl make a huge impact on communities. We get an opportunity to have the Auburn nation and the Wildcat nation come down into an area we probably wouldn't be in if it weren't for our football teams colliding here on January 1st. I'm a believer in the bowl system. Maybe it's just because I'm an old-school young guy that grew up in Big Ten country. To me it's about the right thing, it's about the kids and the experience. We're going to have 64 teams, 32 of which will be champions after their play their bowl games. And yeah, one will be crowned national champion, and good for them, and we hope to be there someday, but we still have an opportunity to be a champion and I believe that's what every team wants to be called."
On breaking Northwestern's bowl victory drought:
"It's kind of like that 800 pound gorilla sitting over there in the corner of the room; I'm really looking forward to getting off our back and then you guys will stop talking about it. Since day one the goal has been to win a bowl game, and that number one goal in our program is right here in front of us. Our young men have earned the opportunity and now they're going to have to earn the win. It's not going to be easy; it's going to be against the best team we've played all year."
On the Auburn Tigers offense:
"Gene (Chizik) and his staff in year one have done a tremendous job, I believe, of molding their philosophy into their players. They play extremely well as a team. They're very talented in all three phases. (Ben) Tate is as good of a running back as we've seen; he reminds me a lot of (John) Clay and you saw the game that he had against Miami the other night. We're going to have our hands full as a defense. Gus (Malzahn) and his staff do a great job of using multiple formations, motions and shifts to try to take advantage and outflank the defense. So we need to be sound, we need to execute."
On the Outback Bowl kicking off at 11 a.m.:
"It's routine for us. On the Big Ten Network we play at 11 o'clock it seems like every week. For those of you that don't cover us on a regular basis, we practice in the morning, so we typically are in meetings at 6:50. So 11 o'clock, shoot, we're getting off the practice field at 11 o'clock. We're used to getting up early in the morning."
On safety Brendan Smith playing in the Outback Bowl:
"It's been great having him out there all month. I've been so happy for him; he's been through so much. He'll be the first player in our program's history to play in three bowl games. It means the world to him to have this opportunity again. He'll play with a cast on his thumb. To have him out there as leadership, his playmaking ability will be a huge lift to our defensive secondary."