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Pat Fitzgerald and players Week 13 press conference notes

Hat? Hat.

Fitz and players met with the media for their weekly press conference. Here’s what they had to say heading into a crucial rivalry game needing a win for bowl eligibility.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • Offensive player of the week was Justin Jackson, Flynn Nagel was the big playmaker.
  • Brett Walsh was the defensive player of the week, Anthony Walker was the big playmaker.
  • “You get excited about playing your rival. We’ve got great respect for the University of Illinois. Coach Smith has done a great job. We’ve got a ton to play for. That trophy is a big deal for us.”
  • On Jackson catching 8 balls out of the backfield: “Taking what the defense gave us.”
  • On offensive line play: “When we execute up front, we’ve won five games. When we don’t, we’ve lost six.”
  • On WR drops: “Those were some tough situations that our receivers were put in by the decisions we made at quarterback.”
  • On potential fear of Minnesota’s reputation as dirty: “If you’re playing scared, you shouldn’t play our game. You should play videogames.”
  • On passing game/protection: “The timing and the rhythm just didn’t seem like it clicked. It did on some series.”
  • On what they expect from Illinois: “We haven’t played their coaching staff before so we’ll plan to adjust. At some point around the second quarter, we’ll know what they’re doing and we’ll adjust.”
  • “I’m just very thankful for our seniors. We’re very thankful for all they’ve given to our program. You want to send them out with a win on their senior day.”
  • On Minnesota: “Up front, I thought they played really solid. I thought those two backs were outstanding on tape and lived up to the billing live.”
  • On inconsistency of young players: “You’ve seen some flashes of what we’re going to see in the future, and you’ve seen some of what we’re going to have to do starting next Monday to get back to competing for championships.”
  • On retirement of Cameron Queiro: “He’s just an outstanding young man from a great family. It’s been really cool to see him get to play with his brother. Any time that you get something that you love taken away from you, it’s really difficult. The only promise I have for any guy about football is that it’s gonna end. That’s why you choose a place like Northwestern, you know you’re going to be prepared for the next 40, 50 years outside of football. It’s tougher mentally than physically.”
  • “It’s time to eat turkey.”

Offense: Justin Jackson, Eric Olson

  • Olson: “It’s win or go home against our rival, so we gotta show up ready to play and ready to defend our home field.”
  • Olson: “We win, we get another month together. You wanna beat your rival but the most important thing to us is to extend the season.”
  • Olson: “I don’t think anybody was really happy with the way we played up front. Lot of one-man breakdowns. We’ve gotta do a better job being on the same page. We also need to get back to focusing on fundamentals, you sometimes lose that as the year goes on. It’s pretty hard to be a successful offense when your line isn’t playing well. You can’t succeed in spite of your line.”
  • Jackson on Illinois: “They know what we’re gonna do, we know what they’re gonna do, it’s just about who does it better.”
  • Jackson on Minnesota: “They’re a good defense, they threw a lot of different looks. We left some plays out there.”
  • Olson on Minnesota: “They did a really good job of buckling down in key situations.”
  • Jackson on big day as a receiver: “Especially with Solo moving to receiver, I just try to be available for Clayton if there’s nothing else there for him. Worked on that a lot in the offseason and still have work to do.”

Defense: Tyler Lancaster, Godwin Igwebuike

  • Lancaster on facing a run-first team like Illinois: “I get really excited. For Purdue, who passed around 70% of the time, that kind of took me out of the game a little bit. I get excited when we know they’re going to run.”
  • Lancaster: “We just gotta play like dogs. Our backs against the wall, we gotta show who we really are. This is our championship.”
  • Lancaster on success up front against Minnesota: “Jordan Thompson was killing it up front. It makes up proud that we were able to stop the run.”
  • Igwebuike: “I think their longest run was my fault. Other than that, I thought the secondary played really well.”
  • Igwebuike on losing to Illinois in same situation in 2014: “That was obviously a tragic situation. We had a lot of guys banged up. We’re going to attack it with our backs against the wall because that’s the reality of the situation. I think we lacked some passion in that game but that’s not going to happen this time around.”
  • Igwebuike: “If you’re not excited for this game, you might as well go home right now. I’ve got nothing to do at home. We all want to extend the season for our seniors.”