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Press conference notes: Northwestern puts up 54 in win over Michigan State

After an impressive offensive statement, Pat Fitzgerald & Co. were feeling good.

After Northwestern’s 54-40 upset win in East Lansing, a satisfied Pat Fitzgerald and some offensive and defensive reps addressed the media.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • On the team’s slow start: “The game didn’t start the way we wanted to. We knew they wanted to knock us out early.”
  • Fitzgerald also commended his team’s endurance: “We didn’t flinch. We kept battling.”
  • After Thorson’s pick, Fitzgerald said his quarterback stayed even-keeled: “He didn’t lose his composure. He didn’t get upset. ... Bad things happen. It’s more about how you respond then what happens.”
  • On his team’s ability to run the ball and stretch the field: “A year ago, we couldn’t do that. Now, we can.”
  • Fitzgerald was consistently questioned about improvements from earlier in the season: “Earlier in the year, we weren’t a very good team. We could pout, be sorry for ourselves and point fingers. But we stayed on the grind.”
  • Fitzgerald called the secondary play “abysmal”: “They gotta grow up and grow up in a hurry. ... That group has got to get a lot better.”
  • On Solomon Vault, who he said has to minimize fumbles: “He’s coming into his own ... He’s learning how to be an every-down wide receiver. He’s dude-ish.”
  • Fitzgerald said he completely replaced the punt and kickoff coverage teams after they were gashed 254 kick return yards against Iowa.
  • On Clayton Thorson’s improvement: “He’s maturing the offense. We’re six games in. He’s 19 games into his career. He’s starting to become comfortable. His confidence is building.”
  • On Joe Gaziano, who recorded his first career sack and a fumble recovery: “ He’s a young pup. he’s just a young guy who’s really worked hard to get stronger. He’s really worked hard to improve.”
  • On the wide receivers: “99 percent of the time—the outside noise of the program—you shut off. But occasionally, you use some of that noise to make the guys mad. And the wide receiving corps had a lot of noise over the past two years. ... They put a chip on their shoulder in the offseason.”

Justin Jackson, Clayton Thorson and Austin Carr

  • Thorson on the offensive improvement: “We’ve been working at this for a long time. The first two games, we weren’t playing like we felt we were capable. ... We’re showing what we can do.”
  • Jackson echoed Thorson’s sentiment: “We’re a completely different team.”
  • Thorson on the pick six: “Everyone realized that the interception for a touchdown was my fault.”
  • Thorson commended the stars around him: “I can throw it to one of the best receivers in the country. I can hand it off to one of the best running backs in the country.”
  • Carr on the physicality of today’s game: “We knew this would be a physical game. If you’re going to beat a Big Ten team like Michigan State in their own home, you’re going to have to take hits.”
  • Jackson spoke for one minute praising the offensive line: “I’m really proud of those guys up front.”
  • Jackson was asked if he was tired after rushing for 188 yards and 34 carries. His response: “I was alright.”
  • Thorson on winning two homecoming games in a row on the road: “It’s nice to hear the silence. Silence is a lot louder to us than loudness. Silence is deafening.”

Ifeadi Odenigbo and Joe Gaziano

  • Odenigbo was adamant that teams shouldn’t schedule homecoming games against Northwestern: “We were like, ‘Let’s make it our homecoming.’”
  • Odenigbo also said that he joked in practice that Michigan State killed his dog, something he used as a motivation tactic: “They didn’t actually kill my dog.”
  • Gaziano on Odenigbo’s quirkiness: “He’s goofy off the field. ... But he’s got a crazy mentality on the field.”
  • When Gaziano recorded his first career sack on Brian Lewerke and forced a Michigan State safety, Odenigbo said his reaction was, “that looks like a dead body”
  • Odenigbo on preparing for three different quarterbacks and adjusting to surprises: “They weren’t running their traditional offense. They were running a spread, and we had to adjust. We were out of sync in the first five minutes.”
  • Odenigbo ended the press conference with en emphatic “Go ‘Cats.”