Northwestern has a chance to start the season with three wins against BCS teams. Just don't tell coach Pat Fitzgerald that the Wildcats are carrying the flag for the Big Ten.
Never mind the beating the rest of the conference took last week, his only concern was what he has seen so far from his own team. And he's far from satisfied.
Fitzgerald saw plenty of room for improvement heading into today's home game against Boston College, despite a 2-0 start.
"I think if you talk to any coach in the country, at this point right now we're not very satisfied with the way their teams are playing," he said. "We made some improvement (last week), but we didn't make the improvement we need if want to achieve our goals."
The Wildcats got 123 yards rushing from Venric Mark along with a late touchdown and a key forced fumble by Tyler Scott on their way to a 23-13 victory over Vanderbilt last week, after failing to reach the end zone in the first three quarters. A week earlier, they squeezed out a 42-41 win on a late scoring pass by Trevor Siemian after blowing a 22-point lead at Syracuse.
So Fitzgerald wasn't exactly throwing any big celebrations this week.
And he wasn't proclaiming the Wildcats the class of the Big Ten, no matter how ugly things were with the league going 6-6 overall and 1-6 against BCS teams last week. The exception there was Northwestern, which was small consolation for Fitzgerald.
"I'm worried about us, and we've got so much to do right now," he said.
He said the Wildcats weren't physical, particularly on the perimeter. Now, they're about to go against a team whose starting offensive linemen all weigh at least 300 pounds, with a 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end in C.J. Parsons and two big starting defensive tackles in the 6-3, 288-pound Kaleb Ramsey and Jaryd Rudolph (6-4, 295).
Not that Boston College (1-1) is without issues.
The Eagles did lose two early fumbles last week but came away with 385 yards in a 34-3 romp over Maine, after dropping the season opener to Miami. Chase Rettig threw for three touchdowns, and Spiffy Evans caught a scoring pass and ran a punt back 82 yards to the end zone in a lopsided win.
Yet, Boston College has been inconsistent on offense, getting off to a fast start against Miami and a slow one against Maine before scoring 17 points in the final seven-plus minutes of the first half. The early fumbles by Tahj Kimble and Rolandan Finch last week didn't help, and that's something coach Frank Spaziani wasted little time addressing.
"We had already addressed it (Sunday) and we need to try to get better holding onto the ball," he said. "Fumbling against anybody will make it difficult but I don't think Chase (Rettig) is going to lose confidence. Nobody should lose confidence in anybody, coaching staff included. We are confident that we can get it corrected."
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, zeroed in on the Eagles' physicality and the potential problems that could cause.
"We understand the challenge that our defense has and the same thing on the other side," he said. "They have great, physical guys in their front seven and their back half are guys that will come down and knock your lips off. We better show up better than we did on Saturday not. If not, we're going to get our tails whupped."
He also believes he's getting a better understanding of his team because of the rather tough early schedule. The same goes for Spaziani.
"We were one of the only teams in the country and I know the only team in our conference playing three BCS nonconference opponents," Fitzgerald said. "It's just the way that it fell this year. We had to embrace that challenge, and if we did, we would know more about our team after Week 3 than any of our brothers in the Big Ten. With that being said, I felt as a coaching staff we would have clear-cut direction on where we needed to go getting ready for South Dakota and then moving forward into Big Ten play."
Spaziani said he's learned some things about his team, too.
"I have a better feel for whom we are and we all get a better sense of who the opposition is," he said. "It takes four, five, six games sometimes to see how good a team truly is. We learned we have some potential in a lot of areas; we just need to tap into that potential and be more precise in certain areas."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.