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Despite loss, coach Pat Fitzgerald high on Wildcats

Updated: November 8, 2012 12:20PM

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said last week he would know where his team stood after its game Saturday at Penn State. After a 39-28 loss to the Nittany Lions, Fitzgerald was asked to assess the Wildcats after six games.

‘‘I think we’ve got a damn good football team,’’ he said. ‘‘We didn’t get their ‘B’ game today. We got their ‘A’ game, and we went toe-to-toe and Joe-to-Joe with them all the way to the end.’’

Fitzgerald said NU’s youth showed up in missed tackles and lack of execution.

‘‘They’re not very happy about it right now, and I’m really glad they’re not,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘We’ve got to play better to win.’’

Special teams deliver

Fitzgerald credited everyone from assistant coach Dennis Springer to every member of the return team for Venric Mark’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

‘‘You could tell they did a lot of film study,’’ Mark said. ‘‘They knew we were going to go right, and I knew they knew we were going to go right. So I went left.’’

Steve Flaherty averaged 57 yards on five kickoffs and Brandon Williams 38.4 yards on eight punts. The Wildcats also turned a muffed punt recovered by Nick VanHoose into a touchdown in the first half.


Trevor Siemian’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Tony Jones late in the second quarter broke a string of 14 consecutive rushing touchdowns for NU. It was the Wildcats’ first touchdown pass since Siemian threw the game-winner against Syracuse in the season opener.

† Mark’s punt return for a touchdown was his second of the season, tying the school record set by Tom Worthington in 1949.

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