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Pat Fitzgerald and players Week 9 press conference notes

Here’s what they had to say after the Indiana win

Northwestern Athletics

Pat Fitzgerald:

  • Offensive player of the week, Austin Carr: “Another great performance by Austin, he’s the leading receiver in yards, touchdowns, and receptions, he’s off to a great start.”
  • Defensive player of the week, Anthony Walker: “Probably played his best game of the year, very solid.”
  • Offensive Big Playmaker, Macan Wilson: “Great to see him get his first career touchdown.”
  • Defensive Big Playmaker, Montre Hartage: “Terrific interception, but also great on special teams.”
  • Special Teams Player of the Week, Chris Fitzpatrick: “10 for 10 on punt snaps.”
  • Congratulates all the high school teams on making the IHSA state playoffs: “Want to wish all those teams nothing but the best of luck.”
  • On retirement of Matthew Harris: “He’s been in our protocol since he was injured, and we’ve had great communication as a program with Matthew. We’ve talked to his mother, his brothers, obviously doctors, and we’ve sat down and talked at least once a week about the short term and the long term. It’s been a long road for Matthew in terms of injuries and as we looked at the long road, where do you want your life to be? He put great thought into it and I fully support his decision and I’m just very thankful for what Matthew brought to our program. From the minute he stepped into our program, he’s been just a terrific young man, great attitude, terrific work ethic, such a great teammate. The team gave him a standing ovation this morning which shows the impact Matthew had on our team and will continue to have on our team in the short term. Matthew has touched their lives. I’m very thankful for him. He’s in great spirits. He actually made the decision last week, he didn’t want to make it a distraction from the team. It just shows you who he is.”
  • On whether Warren Long can play this year: “As of right now he’s still out.”
  • On playing Ohio State: “Our focus is on us. Saturday we didn’t put together 60 minutes of good football. We were pretty fortunate. We have great respect for Ohio State, these guys are unbelievable, incredibly well coached, they’re very very talented, fundamentally sound, they had a great comeback in Madison, you can see a change on the sideline at halftime. They adjusted very well, they’re incredibly well coached. Coach Meyer is a Hall of Famer, their assistant coaches are all talented, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us but we’ve got to focus on getting us better.”
  • On switching sidelines: “The sideline doesn’t matter, how we play matters. Just mixing it up.”
  • Most important: “Go Cubs.”
  • On second half against Indiana: “We had some guys on offense stop fighting. We’re a 4-3 football team for a reason, we just got to keep coaching the heck out of them.”
  • On Marcus McShepard switching to wide receiver: “I think it was hard for him initially, it’s like playing ping-pong, it’s not fair to an athlete, I’m very proud of him for being unselfish and putting the team first. I’m not surprised, he’s a great young man, and I think he’s responded very well.”
  • On decision to award McShepard a scholarship: “It was his speed, athleticism, he was a young man who we were unsure about what position he’d play. He’s shown efficiency at both positions. He’s a great student.”
  • On recruiting in Ohio: “We always start out recruiting in Chicago, we have got to win our recruiting battles in the state of Ohio. That is critically critically important to our success. We allocate 3 coaches to that state for recruiting. We have to go in on high academic student athletes in the state of Ohio.”
  • Have you ever beaten Ohio State on a player? “No. That would be over a decade.”
  • On the “angry-team” theory: *Laughs* “There’s not a whole lot I can say about that. It’s football man, anything can happen on a Saturday afternoon. You typically play the way you prepare. It sounds so simplistic but 18-22 year-olds, you have a lot of nonsense going on, if you’re focused, disciplined, and prepared, you perform.
  • “I think they’re going to be more focused in practice because Coach Meyer is a great coach.”
  • On Ohio State: “This is team that has won a ton of games, they know how to win, an incredible fan-base, an amazing stadium and atmosphere, it’s going to be a huge challenge.”
  • On mistakes against Indiana: “I’m concerned about the blocked punts, I’m furious about getting a penalty on a 20-yard punt return, I’m mad at myself for not coaching the fake well because we had a guy open. I’m mad as hell, but that’s why you coach.”
  • On Ohio State’s defense: “They all stand out. It starts up front, it jumps off the tape. Fundamentally sound, amazing with their hands, they have a rush man package that’s relentless, I don’t know how we’re going to block them. Their linebackers can all run and they’re physical. I wish I was going to say there’s 11 NFL players but there’s more. If I were going to mention the starters I wouldn’t be doing justice to the backups. It’s impressive to watch, I’ve known a lot of guys on the staff for a long time, they’re doing a great job with the defense. The offense and defense are terrific, but what jumps off the tape is the kicking game. We’ve got to improve in all three phases to give us an opportunity. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault

  • Jackson on leadership role after ISU loss: “We felt like we needed to turn it up in practice, and just holding each other accountable because we weren’t playing like we wanted to. Obviously it worked, so we’re going to continue to do that.”
  • Vault on playing Ohio State: “Obviously Ohio State is a great team, it’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve rattled off three straight wins so I see it as a pivotal moment.”
  • Jackson on Harris’ decision to retire: “I mean obviously it was tough for all of us, it’s just tough to hear that because he’s one of our brothers, a guy you’ve seen battle through so much, playing so well, being a leader for our team, and going into senior year with high aspirations after college for football. You got to take care of yourself because football doesn’t last forever, and he’s going to live a great life, he’s a great leader, he does so much for the community and he’s going to do such great things in his life and football isn’t the only thing in it.
  • Vault on the Ohio State, Penn State game: “My biggest takeaway was on special teams, how Penn State got after them on special teams. That’s something we definitely need to be better at as a team. Coach Fitz says it’s the character of our team. Young guys stepping up in the kicking game is going to be huge this week. I feel like to win this game, we’re going to have to make some big plays on special teams.”
  • Jackson on making his first trip to Ohio Stadium: “Great college football environment, Ohio State is one of the great programs in college football so they’re going to have a lot of students obviously, a lot of fans there in general, and it just looks like a fun place growing up watching teams play there. We tend to play well in environments like this just because everyone is ready to go and focused, ready to have fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Marcus McShepard and Jaylen Prater

  • McShepard on his ever-changing position: “Moving to receiver, I honestly just wanted to make an impact. Whether it be vocally or on the field, I just wanted to make some impact in the room. I did my best to contribute to changing the culture in the room.’
  • Prater on Harris: “This guy has put in so much on and off the field, you just hate to see it. I’ve kept in touch with him and try to give him space because it’s a hard process. We’re here, we still love him, and it’s an opportunity for a guy like Marcus to step up.”
  • McShepard on transition from receiver back to corner: “It helps with understanding different route combinations, sometimes as a defensive back you don’t really get a chance to work on your ball skills.”
  • McShepard on choosing NU over a scholarship offer from Penn State: “We talked about networking after football and understanding that football isn’t going to last forever.”
  • Prater on Anthony Walker this week: “He’s playing fast, he’s playing aggressive, he’s playing relentless. It comes from preparation, he’s always in here with the linebackers, DBs, d-line, we’re always watching each other. I think it’s the little things that he does that helps himself and us as a defensive unit get better.”