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Northwestern doing what it can to prevent foes from stealing signals

Northwestern head coach PFitzgerald right celebrates with Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5) after his 75-yard kickoff return for touchdown

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, right, celebrates with Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5) after his 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. Penn State won 39-28. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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Updated: October 9, 2012 11:49PM

Coach Pat Fitzgerald confirmed Monday the purple ‘‘Northwestern’’ banner held by staffers the last two games to conceal signals being relayed from coaches to the offense is to prevent opposing teams from stealing signs.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘We’re smarter than we look. We know what’s going on. We’re getting into Big Ten play now. We know that they know that we know. You’ve got to have answers. We have answers.

‘‘When you’re playing in the nonconference, it’s not as big of a concern. But when you’re playing in league play, like I said, we know that they know that we know.’’

When asked whether opposing coaches would have a difficult time decoding signals from behind, Fitzgerald said, ‘‘You’d be surprised.’’

No challenge

Fitzgerald said he didn’t challenge what appeared to be a bad spot on third-and-one in the second quarter Saturday because an official was injured on the play, giving Big Ten officials several minutes to review the spot on their own.

‘‘If they had any question, they would have buzzed it down,’’ he said. ‘‘When they’ve got that amount of time, they typically get it right. I’ve got to trust in the replay official.

‘‘In my mind, I have to think they didn’t get a clean look and there’s not indisputable video evidence to overturn it. I can look at the coaches’ copy and have my own opinion, but if it doesn’t show up on the TV copy, the officials see you can’t question that.’’

Hash marks

Running back/kick returner Venric Mark ranks seventh in the country in all-purpose yards and is one of three players in the nation to have returned two or more punts for touchdowns this season.

† Fitzgerald, on Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin: ‘‘I’m really excited to see him graduate.’’

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