Football: Fitzgerald calls Cal `great challenge’

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said he will have no trouble motivating his 22nd ranked Wildcats for Saturday night’s season opener at Cal.

“I’m thankful that we’ve got a great opponent, thankful that we’ve got a great challenge. All these things make it very easy to movitate our football team,” Fitzgerald said Monday at his weekly news conference.

“It’s a huge challenge for us, probably one of the biggest challenges (this week) of any top-25 team. We’re going to know more about our football team probably than any other team in the Big Ten after the first week.”

Former Cal All-America offensive tackle Ted Albrecht, beginning his 20th season as radio analyst for Northwestern, said there is “no way” the Wildcats look past a Cal team that was 3-9 last season.

“That’s not the way they perceive Cal at all,”  Albrecht told me this morning. “They know they’ve got some speed and that Cal’s trying to find some rhythm early in the season to get some confidence. Once you have success it becomes confidence.”

In preparation for the two-hour time zone difference and 7:30 p.m. PDT kickoff, Northwestern is starting practices this week at 9:30 p.m. CDT.

“The big talk at the news conference today was about the 7:30 kickoff, which on our clocks is 9:30,”  said Albrecht, who explained that experts on campus are working with players to adjust their sleep patterns. “They don’t want the players to go to sleep until at least midnight. Everything is pretty scientific.”

Jeff Faraudo