NU's Fitzgerald: 'We will get back to what we do'

Looking for a bounce-back team? Look no further than Northwestern in what should be an intriguing and wide-open Big Ten West race. The Wildcats began 2013 glowing, coming off five bowls in a row with dreams of a division title dancing in their head. But after a 4-0 start, NU slumped to a 5-7 mark. Close losses were killer. There was a three-point defeat to Minnesota; seven to Iowa; three to Nebraska; and a triple-overtime loss to Michigan.

The Wildcats have 18 starters backs and are thinking big—again. Why not? Few coaches emote positivity better than Pat Fitzgerald.

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“We went through a stretch which wasn’t much fun last year,” said Fitzgerald. “(We) owned up to (the mistakes). We will get back to what we do.”

The key issues were two-fold, according to Fitzgerald:

“We didn’t respond well when things were out of our control,” said Fitzgerald. “That is my responsibility as a leader. That was disappointing.

“And the way we played up front wasn’t successful. Protecting the quarterback and knocking people down.”

If on-field issues weren’t enough, NU also had to deal with the tumult of a union movement over the winter.

“We have been through more since January than most,” said Fitzgerald. “I think that has unified us. I hope this is something we can draw on and be a springboard to leadership.”

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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