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Northwestern 23, Penn State 21: Press conference notes

Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) earned it's second straight win on Saturday after Jack Mitchell kicked a 35-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a 23-21 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2). Here's what coach Pat Fitzgerald and some of the players had to say after the win.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • On Penn State: "They did a great job coming back, they resized momentum and our guys in the second half found a way to get it done in the second half... Really proud of our guys that stepped up, we had a ton of adversity."
  • On Oliver: "He's been through so much, to see him just stay the course, prepare the right way and be prepared when the opportunity presented itself... That has everything to do with Zack. I'm just really, really proud of him and really happy for him. He's a guy that's been a great teammate and a great program guy."
  • On the new practice facilities that will begin construction next week: "From a support standpoint, our program has never been supported the way that it is [now]." An unbelievable amount of support and generosity from our trustees and donors that makes these types of transformational opportunities not only for our program, but for our university happen... It's game-changer for us from the standpoint that our campus and our student athletes are now fully integrated."
  • On game plan on the final drive: "Our gameplay was once we got inside the 33 we were going to kick the field goal to win... "We had the wind at our back... We knew in the fourth quarter the wind was going to shift north a little bit [in Mitchell's favor] and it did."
  • On offense's success going up against Penn State's defense: "We stayed patient and stuck to the plan, made a few little tweaks as the game went on. To get Justin going against that type of defense, you've got to give credit to the o-line, super backs and wideouts for the way they blocked, it was huge--especially to have Clayton go down."
  • On moving forward into final games, said he talked to the captains and the leadership council this week about being ranked No. 21 in the first College Football Playoff rankings: "We're in the mix for a New Year's Six bowl... What a great testament to what we've been through...We'll continue to focus on us but we've got a lot of goals left in front of us and I'm not going to shy away from it with the guys."
  • Fitzgerald said he knew Oliver would come in (over Matt Alviti) at second-string quarterback after Thorson left game and had no updates on Thorson's condition other than that "he's ecstatic that we won."


Zack Oliver, Jack Mitchell, Justin Jackson, Dean Lowry

  • Mitchell on making big kicks before:"I'd say the Notre Dame game was good practice and with that under my belt, I felt this was not as big of a moment, that really helped me stay focus."
  • Oliver on the throw to Carr on the final drive: "It was pretty much one-on-one, [Austin] made a great move, he was wide open, I gave him a chance to get the ball and  he made a great play."
  • Oliver on facing Penn State's defensive line: "I think our offensive line showed their character...they definitely showed up when game was big."
  • Mitchell said Fitzgerald asked if he wanted to kick the final field goal from the left-hash or middle and he said he preferred the middle, last Jackson run set that up. Mitchel said he told Fitz during pregame he was comfortable kicking from the 33.
  • Lowry on the defense regrouping after giving up lead: "We just got back to what we do, playing physical, tough defense and playing smart and disciplined."
  • Jackson on the need to step up with Thorson out: "Every time your starting quarterback goes down you have to step up."
  • Lowry on playing competing with the Penn State defensive line: "Coach Fitz said before the game this game would be won in the trenches and I think we outplayed them today."
  • Lowry on adjustments to Hackenberg: "We gave different looks ...different alignments, different blitzes to keep him on his toes."
  • Jackson on his improved performance: "I'm really proud of my o-line and my receivers blocking on the outside, I think they did a really good job against a really good defense."
  • Lowry on Saquon Barkley: "He's very athletic... very elusive. I think at times he got away from us but I think when it mattered we stopped him."
  • Jackson on coming from behind in the fourth quarter: "I think we responded to adversity better than we had the last few was an awesome feeling."