Big Ten Notebook: Fitzgerald confused by criticism, and Kill enjoying newfound success in health

BY BEN ROSS | NOVEMBER 13, 2013 5:00 AM

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A couple weeks ago, Northwestern unveiled some unique jerseys the football team will wear against Michigan this weekend.

The jerseys, which feature the Stars and Stripes, as well as some “red spatter” that many believe resembles blood, will be sold following the game, with proceeds benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.

As one can imagine, the jerseys have drawn some criticism, and those question the need to include fake blood spatter on the uniforms that don’t contain a stitch of purple, Northwestern’s primary color.

Still, head Wildcat coach Pat Fitzgerald stands by the decision to don the jerseys, and questions where the criticism comes from.

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to wear them; it’s a special uniform designed by Under Armour and supports the Wounded Warrior Project that features both the Stars and Stripes,” Fitzgerald said during his teleconference on Tuesday. “It’s something special; we look forward to raising a lot of awareness and funds in order to support the Wounded Warrior Project.

“I looked at a couple other designs that other teams wore; I didn’t see anything wrong with them at that time. I’m not sure why there’s such negativity about it, especially when there was none last year.”

Jerry Kill spreading success

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill participated in the teleconference for the first time in four weeks; he had taken time off as head coach to get in better health following a string of seizures sustained while coaching.

Since then, Minnesota has won four-straight games in the conference for the first time since 1960, and the Gophers could very well be ranked when Wisconsin goes to Minneapolis on Nov. 23.

He said there isn’t one thing that he can point to in regards to his team’s sustained success in the wake of his health issues. Rather, Kill said, it’s been a group effort and continued consistency as to why his team is the most successful Gopher squad since the Glen Mason era.

“I’ve been at practice every day since Northwestern,” Kill said during the teleconference. “Things haven’t changed a lot except for some roles — if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. We’ve tried to stay in a good routine. Beating Northwestern on the road was a good start for us. When you play hard, things tend to fall your way a little bit.

“It’s hard to describe, it’s been a great group effort, certainly … Everyone has been good listeners to the coaches, there’s a trust factor, it’s truly been a group effort, I think everyone has put their ego aside. At the end of the day, we all want to win.”

Ferentz sees no need to change offense

This may not surprise anyone, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he doesn’t see the need to change or adapt his offense to a high-flying attack one may see in Oregon or Baylor.

During the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference Tuesday, the dean of Big Ten coaches said that if one looks at teams like Wisconsin — which has played in the last three Rose Bowls — there shouldn’t be any sense of urgency to run every play out of the shotgun with a dynamic quarterback and get off 80 snaps a game.

“My first response is look at the first Big Ten championship game” [between Wisconsin and Nebraska], Ferentz said. “There’s perceptions about a lot of things out there, especially about styles of offenses and styles of play. But the bottom line is about doing the best thing for what it is your players can do. If it means being more old school, then that’s one thing, and Baylor is well-suited to do what it does. Everyone does what they’re best suited to do.

“There’s no one way to win in football; you have to have good players, and they have to be well-coached.”

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