Following Northwestern’s bye week, Pat Fitzgerald and four players spoke at the weekly press conference. Here’s what they had to say.
- “I thought the guys had good focus this morning. Looking forward to getting back into a normal game routine.”
- Called Michigan State an “extremely talented team.” Fitz said he has a ton of respect for head coach Mark Dantonio, that Dantonio is on a short list on the best coaches in college football.
- “I think it’s important that we improve. I don’t think we’ve played a complete game yet.”
- Said Michigan State could’ve won all of their games from what he’s seen on tape. Mentioned that both teams have struggled with self-inflicted wounds.
- “This is a team that’s won Big Ten championships. They know how to win. Sitting right up there with Michigan, Ohio State in terms of talent.”
- Repeatedly talked about his team’s lack of consistency. “We’re playing a lot of young players...those guys have to stop playing young. Guys have to learn how to play at this level.”
- Regarding inconsistency: “It’s on us. We’ve gotta do a better job coaching.” Says that was the focus of practices last week, that they went harder and got better.
- Said his older players have been playing well, but “need to accelerate with tremendous urgency the development of the young players.”
- On Thorson: Said he’s going to have to continue to make smart decisions with the football against a physical Spartan defense in a tough environment.
Defense: Anthony Walker, Ifeadi Odenigbo
- Walker: “They have three great running backs that we have to be ready for. We have to bring our A game no matter who’s playing.”
- Odenigbo: “When you think of Michigan State, you think about typical Big Ten football.” Mentioned the Spartans’ physicality, especially in the run game.
- Odenigbo on Godwin Igwebuike: “He’s been a lot more vocal as a leader.”
- Odenigbo on going on the road: “There’s nothing like hearing 60, 70,000 screaming fans that want your head off. “When you make a big play and the crowd goes silent, that’s the best feeling.”
- Walker: “Going on the road, it’s the mentality of going to war with your brothers and the only thing that matters is coming out with the victory.”
Offense: Justin Jackson, Andrew Scanlan
- Scanlan: “Defenses are starting to back up a little bit, maybe because Austin Carr is having a phenomenal year. We challenged ourselves (as receivers) to make plays down the field to open up the running game.”
- Jackson on physicality in run game: “Our mindset is keep pounding, keep pounding, and it’ll break.”
- Jackson mentioned the team might focus even more on establishing the run game when on the road, in part to limit turnovers.
- Scanlan on Carr: “It’s really inspired us all.” Discussed Carr’s improbably journey to this kind of production, that it’s all in his work ethic in the offseason.
- Scanlan on Thorson: “It’s night and day (from last year). He’s going to be scary going forwards.” Referenced improvements in confidence and control of offense as keys to his success.