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Northwestern press conference notes: Pat Fitzgerald talks injuries and win over Penn State

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Video courtesy of Northwestern Athletics.

Pat Fitzgerald, cornerback Nick VanHoose, offensive guard Matt Frazier and linebacker Nate Hall met the media Monday after Northwestern's 23-21 win over Penn State. Here's what they had to say:

Pat Fitzgerald

- The big news from Monday is that Clayton Thorson is "doing fine," according to Fitzgerald, and is expected to play Saturday against Purdue.

- Offensive lineman Geoff Mogus and linebacker Jaylen Prater, both of whom left Saturday's game against Penn State with injuries and did not return, are "out right now," according to Fitzgerald. When asked if that meant they are out for the game against Purdue, Fitzgerald said both are "out for today." However, Fitzgerald spoke later about Prater's replacement, Nate Hall, and it sounded like Prater could be missing some time.

- Fitzgerald on improvements in the running game against Penn State, and previous struggles: "Well, we didn't struggle, I think we played two really good defenses. Up front, I thought Nebraska was stout, we couldn't get some things going, we couldn't move anybody. Even when we had angles, we weren't successful. Against Michigan, I think we struggled at everything we did offensively. So those were more anomalies than anything. We just couldn't get things going in the run game.

"Saturday, I thought we were pretty good at the point of attack. I thought that Justin (Jackson) was able to get going early, which helped his confidence. I thought our offensive line probably finished more blocks than we had the previous five, six games."

- Fitzgerald on Hall, who replaced Prater at outside linebacker: "He played really, really well from a standpoint of — at the start of the week, not expecting to be in as much as he was. So I think he prepared well. Fundamentally and technically, he'll be much better this week than he was last week because he'll go into the entire week operating as a starter.

"Biggest play of his young career was that second down play, when he made the play in the alley, one-on-one, an open field tackle against an outstanding back to create third-and-1, which we end of getting the stop on.

"He was probably pretty sore after the first eight games... by the time we get to Thanksgiving, he's going to be really sore. So he better hydrate, buckle it up and get ready, because it's going to be three important weeks for him."

- Fitzgerald said the players had a players-only meeting on the Monday after the loss to Iowa. Northwestern has beaten Nebraska and Penn State since.

Players

- Nate Hall on the third down stop on Penn State's final full drive: "Me and Nick [VanHoose] had good communication, and kind of sniffed out the play a little bit. I read my keys right, and just did what we practiced, and was there to get in on the play.

- Nick VanHoose on preparing to play his final home game at Ryan Field: "It's gone extremely fast. Honestly, it's hard to believe it'll be my last time on Ryan Field playing with my brothers."

- Matt Frazier on senior day and his career: "It really has gone quick. A lot faster than when you're in the moment. It seems like winter workouts drag on. But looking back on it, can't believe it's almost over. But it's exciting to think that we can go out and really make a name for ourself, and leave our legacy."

- Frazier on improvements in the running game: "I thought we had a really good scheme. We had a good idea of what they were going to do, and coach McCall had some great plays to attack their defense. They had some weak points that we saw."

"From an offensive line standpoint, we harped on, 'let's keep running outside. Let's get [Justin Jackson] in space, allow him to make some guys miss, give him some big holes.' Personally, I love blocking for him. He makes us looks good."

- Frazier said that at the team's Monday meeting, "the bigger picture was addressed. We try to take everything week by week, but the bigger picture was addressed, and playing in a New Year's Six bowl was addressed."

- VanHoose pointed out that if Northwestern wins out, and wins its bowl game, this could be the first Northwestern team ever to win 11 games. The current record is 10, accomplished most recently in 2012.

Other notes

- Northwestern's game at Wisconsin will be either an 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. start. That game time, along with the TV network, will be announced this upcoming weekend.