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Northwestern-Iowa press conference notes from an enormous Wildcats win

The team was happy but knows it played a far-from-perfect game.

Northwestern went into Iowa City and beat the Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 38-31 on Saturday afternoon. As expected, Pat Fitzgerald and some of his players were upbeat in their postgame media availability, but did admit they have a lot to work on as they prepare to face Michigan State in two weeks.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • On his team’s play: “A good start by us and then a great response by Iowa. Obviously, the difference was how we finished in the second half.”
  • On the Kinnick Stadium atmosphere: “We knew it was going to be a hostile environment and we knew we had to withstand that first round knockout. All in all, a great team win.”
  • On the criticisms of his offensive staff: “I never want to discredit our opponents, but I haven’t had an issue with the gameplan...With our lack of competitive depth at some positions, we haven’t been able to change up the personnel.”
  • On his defensive’s adjustments from last week to this week: “We missed four or five tackles on [Nebraska quarterback] Tommy [Armstrong], took some bad angles...That was probably the biggest difference.”
  • On Brett Walsh, who was carted off the field in the third quarter: “Our thoughts and our prayers are with Brett Walsh. He’s getting tested right now but has use of all of his extremities...There were positive signs as he was leaving the field.”

UPDATE: Fitz added at the end of the press conference that all tests on Brett Walsh were negative.

  • On Ifeadi Odenigbo, who posted a career-high four sacks: “Ifeadi was like a lot of our older players who weren’t happy with how they played in the first month. I think his practices over the past couple of weeks have been much better...He was passionate this whole week and I hope he can build off that. He won a lot of one-on-one battles today, too.”
  • On Trae Williams’ game-sealing interception: “It looked like Trae got a great break on the ball and made an outstanding catch along the sidelines.”
  • On his team’s resolve after the injury to Walsh: “There’s an amazing brotherhood and chemistry and love on our team. That’s the backbone of who we are.”
  • On his rush defense’s success: “When you play on the road, at Iowa, with as physical they are, you need to contain the run. I think it was key how we minimized their gains and got them into a lot of 3rd-and-5 or more situations.”
  • On his team’s poor punt coverage: “We’ve got so much work to do there, it’s unbelieveable. It looked like we got our butts whipped and got blocked everywhere.”
  • On his quarterback, Clayton Thorson’s, play: “I thought Clayton had a much better football clock in his head. Last week, I think he just held the ball for too long...It’s all a part of the maturation process.”
  • On questions about is coaching staff: “Six years ago, everyone wanted me to fire our defensive staff. But you stay the course, you get better and you win games...If you get caught up in it, it’s a rollercoaster. If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be at this level.”

Justin Jackson

  • On the team’s mental outlook heading into the game: “Our mindset was different. We knew it was going to come down to the end.”
  • On his personal gameplan on the ground: “Especially against Iowa, you aren’t going to get many opportunities. I think our offensive line was great and we finally got one [run] to break free.”
  • On the Iowa fans throwing stuff on the field due to displeasure with the officials: “It was fun. Obviously, you don’t get to be in an environment like that all time time. Once they started throwing water bottles, that’s when it gets to be more fun.”
  • On Austin Carr’s development: “You guys are just seeing this now. We saw this work ethic during the winter, spring, summer. He goes out there and makes huge plays all the time.”
  • On whether this game was a ‘must-win’: “We didn’t want to start 1-4. We really just focused on this game, this moment and this opportunity to beat a team we view as one of our rivals.”

Anthony Walker

  • Before answering questions, Walker read Justin Jackson’s stats out loud and both he and Jackson were laughing. It was a cool moment.
  • On beating the Hawkeyes, whom he was 0-2 against prior to today: “We had never beaten Iowa before. This is definitely a win that could turn our season around.”
  • On the team’s toughness: “I think everybody did their job. We came ready to play and were very physical. We knew we had to bring our big boy pants today, and we did that.”
  • On the importance of limiting the Iowa rushing attack: “We had to come and stop the run. As a front seven, we took it as a personal challenge to not let them run the ball on us.”
  • On Trae Williams and his interception: “Trae is a focused guy. He comes in every day and works hard, so I knew he was going to come in and make a play today.”

Ifeadi Odenigbo

  • Odenigo’s four sacks in the game moved him into fifth in sacks in program history.
  • On his speech to the team about doubt on Friday in a chapel session: “There’s nothing wrong with doubting, but you can go wrong if you don’t speak up about doubting. The more questions you ask, the more confidence you have.”
  • On his play: “Patience is a virture. It showed, because I worked my ass off for this game.”
  • On the big team win: “It was something special today. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
  • On his final sack, which jarred the ball loose from C.J. Beathard: “That was hands down my favorite sack there. Beating a guy clean off the edge and blind-siding the quarterback is great.”

Austin Carr

  • On Ifeadi’s speech: “I think it inspired a lot of guys. He was just reminding us to trust that we’re prepared.”
  • On coming together as a team after Iowa scored 17 unanswered points: “It came back down to regrouping as a family on the field. Coach Fitz is reminding us that it’s about us, 11 against 70,000.”
  • On his second and third touchdown catches: “I was able to loop around the defender and Clayton got it to the right spot. The other one was a great play call and it came down to me and Clayton’s timing. The defender hit me right in stride so i was able to bounce off him easily.”
  • On, as a wide receiver group, helping out with down-field blocking: “We felt like after the Duke game that us, as wide receivers, weren’t physical enough. We’ve been emphasizing finishing blocks in practice.”