Northwestern (5-0, 1-0) opened its Big Ten slate with a dominating 27-0 win over Minnesota (3-2, 0-1). After the game, head coach Pat Fitzgerald seemed to be the happiest he's been following a game all season. Here are some notes and quotes from his press conference:
- Fitzgerald, on his team's play overall: "It was a darn good complete performance in all three phases... Last week was our offense's best week of practice. No doubt."
Northwestern is good
Northwestern is good
- Since the start of the season, Fitzgerald has emphasized his team having fun. And following the head coach's lead, Northwestern has danced its way to an undefeated start. But over the last couple weeks, he said, "they weren't having as much fun. I really thought that they came back with a passionate performance today." He added, "The guys are having a lot of fun and are in a good place mentally."
- Fitzgerald called Northwestern's run game "fun to watch" and "entertaining football." The Wildcats came into the game leading the Big Ten with over 265 rushing yards per game. Northwestern added 184 yards against Minnesota, led by Justin Jackson's 121. "If we can get five or six a pop running the football, we'll take it."
- Fitzgerald said quarterback Clayton Thorson played well. Why? "Zero turnovers, baby! All that matters...and that he found a way to win again... I think it starts with who he is... he's very mild-mannered and low-key... he's got a good supporting cast."
- Fitzgerald on the offensive line, which came into the game banged up: "I think the group is tired of hearing people talk negative about them... they wanted to do something about it." Matt Frazier made his season debut getting the start and rotating with Brad North at left guard after recovering from a staph infection. About Frazier, Fitzgerald said, "It was emotional. To see him get the opportunity to play the game again... I don't know if I've seen a bigger smile on a player's face."
- Minnesota was just 4 for 16 on third down in the game and, Fitzgerald said, "If you include the fourth downs, they were 4 of 20. That's pretty dominant." Fitzgerald, though, said he was "not ready to even up this group in the same category [as his 1995 team]. Note: Northwestern released a video that appeared to tease throwback jerseys to honor the 1995 Rose Bowl team for the homecoming game against Iowa on Oct. 17.
Godwin Igwebuike, Christian Jones, Clayton Thorson, Dean Lowry, Justin Jackson
- As he walked onto the stage wearing a blue blazer, dark-patterned shirt and black bow tie, safety Godwin Igwebuike dropped a $50 bill out of his pocket. "It's been a great day... I put these pants on and I think they were left in the washer with 50 bucks in them."
- Wide receiver Christian Jones, who caught three passes for 38 yards, said, "Today was the first time I played without a brace on. It was awesome." Jones missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL.
- Igwebuike said Northwestern's passion on defense comes from playing for one another. "One of the things we do focus on is when somebody makes a good play, to get on their hat... let them now...give them some love... go back to our roots [of having fun while playing football]."
- Igwebuike on the shut out: "As crazy as it might seem, we expect to limit [the opponent] much as we can. If it's a shut out, then hoo-rah... We're not satisfied until the clock hits zero and we come up with that dub."
- Igwebuike on how much he knows about the 1995 team: "It was during Fitz's era... all that great stuff. It lays the footprints for us. We're not getting ahead of ourselves, but knowing what we've done it before and that we can get that far again."
- Justin Jackson on only carrying the ball 20 times today: "It was nice." He had averaged just under 30 carries per game so far this season.
- Dean Lowry on what this win does for the team's perception: "We made a statement, I think, to the whole Big Ten."