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Pat Fitzgerald and players Week 12 press conference notes

They talked Purdue, Minnesota and much more.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Following a 45-17 victory over Purdue in West Lafayette, Pat Fitzgerald and several players, including Saturday’s breakout stars John Moten IV and Montre Hartage, met with the media. Here’s what they had to say.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • Justin Jackson was the offensive player of the week. Austin Carr was the big playmaker. Fitz on Carr: “Having one of those magical years.”
  • Montre Hartage was the defensive player of the week. Anthony Walker Jr. was the big playmaker.
  • “I thought the guys settled in after we spotted them 10 points. Great response.”
  • “Big (B1G?) challenge this weekend. A Minnesota team that is playing at a very high level and doing it physically. Entire defense is very physical, fast. (Rodney) Smith and (Shannon) Brooks are really good in the backfield.”
  • “I said at the beginning of the season, for us to have some semblance of consistency, we’re going to have to have that redshirt freshman/true sophomore class step up. They’re maturing, they’re improving. But we’ve got some guys playing at a really high level (Mentioned Moten IV, Hartage, Gaziano, Nagel) and we’ve got some guys not pulling their weight. They know who they are.”
  • On Moten: “Every running back is typically already really good with the ball in their hands. They have to learn the rest of the position. He’s starting to come on a little bit. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him, no question.”
  • Comparing Moten and Jackson: “I think they’re more similar than different. John reminds me a lot of JJ as a younger player. Runs with great vision and his balance is really solid. Catches it really well out of the backfield.”
  • On Carr: “The first time I got to know Austin, he was on my injury report because he cut his finger with a butter knife and wanted an MRI because he was worried about his piano playing. I’m like, ‘who?’”
  • On Minnesota game: “Its not just another game. It’s a big ten road game, those are hard to win. Absolutely bowl eligibility is a motivator. It gives you an opportunity to do something that’s only happened twice in our program’s history.”
  • On Hruby’s journey: “Well Tom’s an American hero. Enlisted, goes through the toughest challenge any man could ever face to become a SEAL and then goes and defends our freedom. We started doing some training with the SEALS and through that, I got introduced to Tom. He got into school and of course we were going to have a roster spot for him and he walked onto the program. It was really cool seeing him carried off by his teammates, that’s something I’ll never forget.”
  • On being the only Big Ten school to play two Friday night games next season. “We’ll be the most exposed team in the Big Ten. I can’t thank the Big Ten enough. Two Friday night games in three weeks. SO great.”

Offense: John Moten IV, Tommy Doles

  • Moten on similarities between him and Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot, who both attended the same high school. “We both play running back and both love football. We both use our abilities from running track.”
  • Moten on his big day: “I was just trying to take advantage of my opportunities. The O-line was definitely moving people. They made my job easy.”
  • Doles on responding from line’s bad game against Wisconsin: “The offensive line’s a group that takes a lot of pride in what we do. We took it personally, we had a little extra edge to us in practice.”
  • On what he sees in Moten: “A lot of speed. A guy that hits holes and makes the most of everything we can open up for him. Exciting to see the way he and Justin complement each other. Makes us look better.”
  • On pulling for stretch runs: “I love getting out in space. Brad (North) and I do that a lot and I had a lot of fun. As a team, we’ve improved a lot at that throughout the year. We get excited about going downhill and hitting somebody.”
  • On bowl motivation: “Absolutely. You look at where we were earlier this season, it takes some mental toughness to bounce back. At this point, we’ve put in the work. We want to see the seniors go out the right way, so we as upperclassmen have to play like we’re seniors with that sense of urgency. We’ve gotta get a win this week.”
  • Moten on comparisons to Jackson: “He uses his vision and quickness and I try to use my speed.”
  • Doles on Hruby: “That was an unbelievable moment, especially on Veteran’s day weekend. To think about the sacrifices our veterans have made to allow us to come play a football game on a Saturday. Anything we can do to lift him up, this time literally, was the least we can do.”

Defense: Montre Hartage, Joe Jones

  • Hartage on his journey to Northwestern: “It was a long process, honestly. Got an opportunity to come here. I was committed to Georgia Southern near signing day when I got the call, and had a long talk with my family about coach Fitz’s offer and took a leap of faith. It was like a dream come true. It was a business decision in terms of pursuing a career after football.”
  • On being thrust into a starting role early this season: “Coming in, I was nervous, butterflies everywhere. Trying to make sure I get the calls, my alignment is correct, figure out what the receivers going to do. Slowly but surely, started to get more comfortable and trust myself.”
  • Jones mentioned it was a long weekend with his family. Took his infant daughter to a birthday party and several other things and she cried the whole way back, but luckily slept all the way through the night last night. Jones said she’s been to one game but probably won’t make either of the last two because of the weather. He said his wife was at last year’s bowl so “when we make a bowl this year, we’ll try to get her out there again.”