Here's what Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald had to say after Northwestern's 24-14 win over Illinois at Soldier Field:
(Video of players, courtesy of Northwestern Athletics, below)
-On the College Playoff Rankings Fitzgerald referenced a team "X amount of spots ahead of us we beat. Our kids dominated that game. I'm looking forward to the College Football Playoff committee getting it right."
-On his team's case for a New Year's Six Bowl: "Look at the resume. Not only did we play a Pac 12 team, we played an ACC team on the road. The two teams we lost to are 21-3. That's not an excuse but those are two darn good teams. Our guys have the highest graduation rate in the country, if that means anything. We won the games and that puts us in a position to be in the conversation. I feel like the guys are getting disrespected. We let two get away and that's our fault, but I'm tired hearing about five wins two years in a row and I'm tired of hearing that game [against Stanford] was at 9. I'm tired of it for the kids."
-Fitzgerald spoke highly of the seniors: "They are responsible for the season and got the program's values back and reestablished our standards."
-On reaching the 10 win mark: "We talk about going 1-0 each week. When you think about the distractions, the schedule we played, it speaks measures of where this program is heading."
-Fitzgerald on whether this is the best defense he's had: "I think for our ability to create big plays, absolutely. What jumps out to me is our depth."
-On the game against Illinois last year: "I was very self-critical. I thought I failed our team, we had over 30 guys out. It was my fault to not get the next group of guys ready. The players bought in and proved this year was different."
-Fitzgerald gave credit for the defense's success to defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz: "How is Hank not a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, can you guys write him in? Because that's a joke."
-When asked about his team's identity: "We're a Chicago football team...four yards and a cloud of dust. People think it's boring, but I don't care. I'd love to put up the Baylor numbers, but they can't shake a stick at our defense."
-On Justin Jackson in the second half: "It seems like every game he just gets stronger and stronger. As the season goes on, he gets tougher and tougher. It's impressive to watch from a true sophomore."
-On finishing the season with 11 wins: "I'd be ecstatic for our seniors. I'm incredibly proud of them and thankful for their sacrifice and dedication to our program. I think we have a lot of room for improvement, to win ten games and to think we have a long way to go, it's a special time to be apart of our program."
-On the resiliency of the team: "You could definitely feel momentum shift, it was one of those situations where we needed to put a couple drives together. Our defense needed to go out and we got a big interception by Matt Harris. We were fortunate enough to win despite losing the turnover battle."