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Week 13 Press Conference Notes: Pat Fitzgerald talks Wisconsin win, previews Illinois

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Video courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Pat Fitzgerald, Deonte Gibson, Austin Carr and Nate Hall all met with the media Monday afternoon following Northwestern's dramatic win over Wisconsin on Saturday. Here's what they had to say:

Pat Fitzgerald

- Justin Jackson, Deonte Gibson and Matthew Harris were the offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week, respectively.

- Fitzgerald said the difference this year in close games compared to the past couple years has been a combination of things. "I think first of all, focusing on the process and not focusing necessarily on the situation as far as the scoreboard or the weather or the wind. Just what is it that you have to do on that play to execute. We've been pretty consistent there." He also notes guys have stepped up just by doing the normal things and the atmosphere at practice has been much better.

- Fitzgerald said Deonte Gibson has been playing with a high motor all year but in recent weeks has "finished the plays. He's been absolutely lights out."

- Fitzgerald commended Gibson on his leadership this year, too. "He's done all that while being a terrific, terrific leader. I challenged the defensive line and secondary to step up from a leadership standpoint and Deonte was one of those guys that took that to heart, and he's been outstanding all year."

- Fitzgerald couldn't tell if Wisconsin's Jazz Peavy held on to what would have been the game-tying touchdown (after which Wisconsin could have won with an extra point). "One of the replays happened up top and I've got, as every coach does up, has somebody up top who watches every replay, and said 'You might want to take a timeout and challenge it,' and just as I heard that they blew it up."

- Fitzgerald thinks the Wildcats may have gotten lucky with the Tanner McEvoy catch and fumble. He then joked, "but I'm not going to take it back."

- Traveon Henry is day-to-day. As for why he didn't play against Wisconsin? "We thought he was going to be cleared and then Friday and he wasn't cleared." He didn't go into any detail of the injury.

- "I think the guys realized that we had a distracted football team and focus on what winners do," Fitzgerald said about the past two seasons. "The D-line and the DB's were the catalysts of that back in January."

- Fitzgerald heaped praise on Wisconsin's Dare Ogunbowale for spiking the ball to get one last play for the Wisconsin offense as Joel Stave was injured. Fitzgerald asked the refs if he could challenge for an "egregious error," which the referees said he couldn't. Stave appeared to be moving during the snap, which would have resulted in a penalty and 10-second runoff, ending the game.

- Fitzgerald commended Terrance Brown for stepping in for Henry on short notice, calling his effort "awesome."

- "I'm not afraid to talk about the realities of situations... We understand the opportunity we have in front of us this week." Fitzgerald said that may be counter to what most coaches do, but thinks the big picture is important.

- Fitzgerald said Bill Cubit is someone he has known for a long time and is impressed by his ability to bring his team together despite adversity early in the year.

- "We just got done with a heavyweight fight. And we're gonna get another one Saturday." Fitzgerald says rest and recovery both mentally and physically will be key.

Players:

- Gibson credited his first sack of the day to a great call from defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Gibson came off on a stunt and was basically unabated to the quarterback.

- Austin Carr said he couldn't tell whether Peavy caught the ball or not, but compared it to Christian Jones' non-catch right before the half against Nebraska. 'We knew that there was a chance... Given our luck the past four years, probably not but maybe things are changing. It's a new era."

- Carr said Clayton Thorson has grown into a "shot-caller." He added that Thorson has been "even keel, which has definitely made an impact on the rest of the guys on offense."

- Nate Hall said his pass breakup on the final drive involved a technique the coaches have taught in practice. "When his eyes lit up, I just punched through the ball."

- Northwestern allowed negative 26 yards on the ground (including sacks), and Gibson said a huge credit goes to the scout team running backs. "It was a realistic look in the game and it prepared us, so all of our success in the games is through early preparation from our scout team. We can't give them guys enough credit. They've done a great job the entire year."