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Monday press conference notes: week 7, Northwestern vs. Wisconsin

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Two days after its 10-point loss to Ohio State, Pat Fitzgerald held his usual Monday press conference. Here are some notes:

- Playing road games at Wisconsin can be brutal if you’re not prepared for the relentless chorus of screaming Badgers fans. Fitzgerald plans to pump artificial crowd noise during practice so the Wildcats aren’t overwhelmed by the high decibel level at Camp Randall.

- A few of Wisconsin’s players have really impressed Fitzgerald this season. He called linebacker Chris Borland “as relentless a football player as I’ve seen this year,” and said he was “the real deal.” Fitzgerald likened wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who had 10 catches for 207 yards against Ohio State last week, to Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. He also mentioned the growth of quarterback Joel Stave, and spoke highly of his performance against the Buckeyes.

- The underclassmen who played their first Big Ten games Saturday – Fitzgerald estimated there were 14 – thoroughly impressed Fitzgerald. He says he thought they “played their tails off.” On a broader level, he stressed how the team played a “physical game.” Fitzgerald also singled out true freshman Warren Long, who he said was among the team’s best special teams performers.

- While Ohio State’s rushing attack, which racked up 248 rushing yards Saturday night, was arguably the deciding factor in the Buckeyes’ win, Northwestern faces a daunting task in trying to stop Wisconsin’s ground game, which ranks first in the Big Ten at 7.44 yards per carry. Fitzgerald talked extensively about the Badgers’ run game, how it differs from Ohio State’s and mentioned their formational diversity.

- One reporter asked Fitzgerald about the punt Ohio State blocked in the first quarter, which involved a horde of Buckeyes swarming around the right edge of the line, overwhelming defensive end Tyler Scott, before crashing into Northwestern’s Brandon Williams. Fitzgerald called it a “miscalculation.” After the game Saturday, Scott said he had not seen that “look” on tape.

- Without going back and watching the game again, it’s hard to accurately characterize the distribution of snaps at cornerback between Dwight White and Matt Harris, but the latter was in the game for large stretches. Which is why Monday’s depth chart reveal – which had White starting over Harris – was at least somewhat surprising. Fitzgerald said he doesn’t believe there is an “open competition” at the position.

- Junior defensive tackle Sean McEvily was wearing a walking boot while riding a scooter around the football facility. He was not listed on this week's depth chart, and his status remains day-to-day.