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Northwestern-Illinois postgame press conference notes

Pat Fitzgerald and his players were happy to have claimed the HAT.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • Fitzgerald opened: “Great team win, especially for our seniors. The rivalry, Land of Lincoln Trophy, and ability to get into the postseason just makes it that much special. I’m excited to get one more opportunity to be out there with our seniors.”
  • On decision to run the ball more than pass: “We won.”
  • “We had to make a lot of changes due to injury.”
  • On Moten: “He’s a guy who is developing, he reminds me a lot of Justin. He’s a young player with a lot of room for growth. He’s becoming a complete back, we had a pretty good 1-2 bunch with those guys today.”
  • On season-long growth: “You take a look at the amount of season-ending injuries we had, it presented unique problems. We had to adjust how we were coaching, that second loss is squarely on my shoulders, but I feel like we needed to have that kind of week in practice. We didn’t show a lot of grit, or mental or physical toughness. We had to get that fixed. Credit goes to the young men, they’re the ones who responded and led us through some tough times.”
  • “Hopefully as we move forward, this extra practice opportunity is huge for this young group.”
  • “I’m really excited about the amount of experience that this young group gained, there’s always a way to find a positive our of injuries.”
  • “From a program standpoint, we have to be a lot better, and it starts with me.”
  • “I feel great for our seniors. First couple weeks of the season sure didn’t look real good, and they’re the ones who kept it together and responded. This is the hardest we’ve practiced in season in my time here. You can see we are not even close to where we need to be, I’m ecstatic to beat our rival and finish the right way, but as a coach you get excited for a little and think about what we need to do. I’m ecstatic for our seniors they have another change to put on the purple and white.”
  • On 3rd quarter swing: “I know Coach Smith real well and we knew turnovers would be a big part of this game. We used to go up to Bears practices and watch him and his staff. Those were big turnovers, big swings.”
  • On Austin Carr: “I think it starts with who he is as a person. He’s what your sons turn out to be, great student, terrific human being, incredible attitude, and he’s a self-made guy. His work ethic is incredible and he went out and achieved it. I think he’s put himself in position to have one of those Hallmark moments in his life. I think it’s a great representation of how far we’ve come offensively from the beginning of the year.
  • On use of Jackson and Moten: “Plan was to have both guys make an impact. Both guys were fresh and both guys had terrific games.”
  • On Lovie Smith and his staff: “I’m going to root for him every game but one. He’s [Lovie] a great coach and a better man, and he’s taken on a challenge like we all do in this role. He’s the right guy for this job.”
  • Josh Roberts proposed before the game: “Really happy for him, he’s another one of our great seniors.”
  • On Justin Jackson: “Goes to show his durability, his toughness, and his consistency. When you think of our program, Justin Jackson is the guy on Mount Rushmore. He shows up every day ready to go, he’s got a great focus, he loves this place, he’s a joy to have around. I’m fired up to have him around another year.”
  • On secondary struggles: “Both our corners had long days, there are some things we need to look at, did we give them enough help? They threw the ball all over the place, we gave up a couple explosive plays but we’ll take a look at it schematically.”
  • Favorite holiday song: “Adam Sandler, the Thanksgiving song. Put it on your playlist, you’ll enjoy it.”

Justin Jackson, John Moten IV, and Clayton Thorson

  • Jackson: “I think we were able to run the ball real well today. The O-Line was opening up big gaps and getting us into the second level. It was fun out there, I’m just glad we could get the win. I really wanted to have another win with the freshman.”
  • Jackson on sharing time with Moten IV: “It’s always nice to see the other RBs in there doing well. I took what I saw from his runs and applied them to mine. It’s cool, I think John’s come a long way.”
  • Jackson on passing Autry and Sutton: “It’s pretty cool, there have obviously been some great running backs to come through here. It’s just cool, I’m just glad we could get a win on a day like this.”
  • Thorson on playing alongside Austin Carr: “It’s awesome to play with him, just to see what he can do, he’s one of the best receivers in the country. Off the field he’s an even better person, it’s awesome to see him get all this recognition. He deserves it.”
  • Jackson: “Austin [Carr] is a great guy, he took me under his wing. You guys don’t see how hard he’s worked before this year, couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”
  • Moten on the win: “I think it was definitely a good feeling, it was great to celebrate in the locker room.”
  • Thorson on the win: “It was fun, we’re going to enjoy it. It’s always fun winning against your rival.”
  • Thorson on responding despite slow start: “We’ve responded to a lot of adversity throughout the year. Everyone counted us out after those first four games, and we just knew that’s not how we wanted the season to go. We came together as a team, everyone on the inside came together, that’s what’s cool about this team. Real good group of guys, real good group of seniors, those captains have brought us a long way.”
  • Jackson: “We always say we want to win the turnover battle, when you win that it makes it a lot easier on yourself. We hadn’t been turning those into points as much as we wanted to so it was nice to capitalize today.”
  • Thorson on the fewest passes thrown all season: “It’s always fun to hand off the ball and see a lot of yards gained. I like it. As long as we’re winning I don’t care how we do it.”
  • Anthony Walker asked Moten about his second touchdown run: “It was an experience like no other. A great feeling.”
  • Jackson responded to Moten: “Thanks John.”

CJ Robbins, Montre Hartage, Anthony Walker Jr.

  • Hartage on interception: “That was a big play. We struggled at the beginning we knew we just had to keep fighting. Tried to make an explosive play, got exhausted at the end.”
  • Robbins on his sack: “It was nice to see the D-Line get active, and Ifeadi had one too. Always cool to see the two seniors get sacks.”
  • Robbins on making bowl: “It was a must-win game, we were focusing all week. Everyone was really happy to get that last win.”
  • Walker on his forced fumble: “It was a regular inside zone by them, I filled my gap and then I reached around and got my hand on the ball and knocked it out. That’s what good teams do, they capitalize when the other team makes mistakes. “
  • Hartage on leading the team in interceptions: “It’s been a roller coaster ride, you need to trust yourself, prepare every week to come out and compete. It’s been a good experience, I’ve learned a lot and played through a lot of adversity. As I look back it’s been a good season.”
  • Walker on his favorite holiday song: “Chris Brown singing This Christmas”
  • Robbins: “Big fan of Boyz II Men.”