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Week 12 Press Conference Notes: Pat Fitzgerald talks Wisconsin, Clayton Thorson and more

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Video courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

On Monday, Pat Fitzgerald, superback Dan Vitale, linebacker Drew Smith and defensive end Dean Lowry met with the media to discuss the Wildcats' Senior Day victory over Purdue and the upcoming trip to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers. Here's what they had to say:

Pat Fitzgerald:

- Players of the week were Matt Frazier on offense, Drew Smith on defense and Hunter Niswander on special teams.

- Fitzgerald says "Paul [Chryst] has done a terrific job. I know how he feels being at his alma mater, being here the amount of time that I have. He's done just a terrific job."

- Fitzgerald says that there are playmakers all over the field on Wisconsin's defense and mentioned that "everyone's on the same page."

- Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave has impressed Fitzgerald, who commended the signal caller for his consistency with guys around him getting injured.

- The best way to avoid getting into a hole early, Fitzgerald said, is: "Don't turn it over. I mean, that's the bottom line."

- "To turn it over three times and not give up any points was critically important," Fitzgerald said of last week's defensive effort against Purdue. He noted that the defense forced four three-and-outs to finish the game.

- Fitzgerald on what he wants from Clayton Thorson: "Just consistency. Just take what the defense gives him, and just be consistent in the passing game. Obviously what he's doing with his legs is outstanding and giving us a chance to win football games, but just be consistent across the board."

- Fitzgerald says the difference between this team and some teams of the past is that this team is more comfortable and confident in clutch situations down the stretch.

- Fitzgerald said taking Thorson out for a couple of series is just like taking any other position player out: "You just get him to refocus and that's what we saw him do."

- When it comes to offensive line play, Fitzgerald said, "Schematically is overrated. We've got to get fundamentally better up there. Footwork, hand placement, eyes, communication on who we're targeting, playing cohesive as a group of five no matter who's in the game."

- It's going to be a cold game this weekend in Madison, meaning the fundamentals are going to be key, according to Fitzgerald.

- Fitzgerald praised Stephen Buckley for adapting his game and contributing on special teams, taking the role change in stride.

- Fitzgerald said Camp Randall is "this week the hardest place in the nation to play." He added: "It comes down to focus no matter where you're at."

- Fitzgerald said Drew Smith made the "stat plays" this week. "To have a rookie guy out there making his first start in Nate [Hall], to see the way Drew and Anthony [Walker] stepped up from a leadership standpoint, I thought, was really important."

Players:

- Dean Lowry called Camp Randall "a great college environment" and called it a place you look forward to playing at.

- Lowry explained that he played inside on third down often to get Xavier Washington and Ifeadi Odenigbo, two of the team's better pass rushers, on the field.

- "I see a lot in Nate [Hall]. He has the ability to make a lot of plays, but I think one of the things me and Anthony have been helping him with is knowledge of the game and where he should fit," said Drew Smith.

- "It's been really great to see our team; our guys step up in the fourth quarter," said Lowry. Northwestern has won three straight one-possession games.

- Smith said he didn't think of the impact of Senior Day before or during the game, but after, he realized it was the last time he would walk off the turf of Ryan Field, and that it was a special feeling.

- Vitale on the fourth quarter: "We've been preaching it the last couple weeks now, just having the will to win...These games in November, this is when everybody's feeling hurt, everyone's sore and beat up, and it's just your will to win that's gonna take you to the next level."