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Northwestern’s Fitzgerald riled by players’ penchant for penalties

Finally, Pat Fitzgerald showed some emotion after Northwestern’s fourth consecutive loss Saturday at Iowa.

While animated on the sideline, the calculating Fitzgerald always has remained stoic in his public postgame comments. He passed on a chance to hose his team after it failed to score a touchdown at Wisconsin and when the Wildcats flatlined at home against an emotionally charged Minnesota team.

In those instances, he simply said his team would bounce back.

But when Fitzgerald expressed his displeasure Saturday with the way his team has been playing, he sent his players a message they have needed to hear for weeks.

“Do your job, and don’t get penalties,” Fitzgerald said. “Unbelievable amount of penalties today.”

That seems obvious, but it was the fact that Fitzgerald even said it that was so shocking. Understandably, he cringes at any questions that point blame toward a player.

But after glaring mistakes Saturday, he made reference to specific penalties, most notably a low block called on superback Dan Vitale that prevented a chance for a game-winning field goal.

That’s not to say Northwestern has lost four consecutive games because Fitzgerald has failed to show emotion publicly. Privately, he could be reaming his players.

But a team takes on the personality of its leader. And not surprisingly, when it was the players’ turn to speak Saturday, they appeared equally agitated.

“No one goes into a season expecting to be losing,” linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo said. “We just got to get better next week and just move forward.

“Right now, we’ve just got to make a decision: Are we going to get better, or are we just going to let this linger on? So we just got to keep moving forward.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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