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Northwestern vs. Michigan State Press Conference Notes

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Pat Fitzgerald and co. were jubilant after Northwestern’s thrilling triple overtime victory.

Will Ragatz

Pat Fitzgerald

  • On the game as a whole: “What a heck of a ballgame between two really well-matched teams. When you look at the regular season battle it was a really hard-fought defensive game, which I think will get lost in the final stats.”
  • On success near the end of the game: “A ton of big plays by a bunch of guys. Flynn [Nagel], Cam Green...even though Justin didn’t have a great game on the ground he made some big plays in the passing game.”
  • On Paddy Fisher: "His confidence is going up and up, every play, every rep. He's got a great work ethic. The sky's the limit."
  • On Justin Jackson’s success in the passing game: “Again, like I said, they loaded the box to stop the run. We’ve been using our backs different ways for the whole year...we want to get Justin in space, and we were able to get that accomplished.”
  • On when Jackson’s throw became part of the game plan: “Since training camp. I don’t know when we decided to put it in...it just didn’t fit in the game plan until today...Looked like a really bad throw, but it was productive.”
  • On how enjoyable the game was: “The modern fan will probably be more excited about this game because everybody just wants to see 98-97...I just want to win. I don’t care what it takes. I thought it was a heck of a college football game.”
  • On the officiating: “I thought it was a really clean game on both sides. There was a lot of stuff I couldn’t see...you don’t like every call. Just ask our fans, they don’t like everything I do either.”
  • On The Ball Carrier: “Nobody was more excited about that win in our locker room than Justin Jackson. He is one special Wildcat...He’s having one of the great careers in Big Ten history.”
  • On the bounce-back performance: “To our guys’ credit I think they’ve stayed the course. They’re working incredibly hard, just incredibly hard in practice.”
  • On throwing more dump-offs and shorter passes: “You guys play intramural football. When they’re playing zone, playing high/low, you just want to take what the defense gives you.”
  • On Lewerke’s late 45 yard completion to Cody White: “The first long one, we got pretty good pressure. It’s kind of like playing backyard football with your brothers, you go into scramble drill, and it was the receiver from all the way across the field who made that catch.”
  • On Justin Jackson, potential star quarterback: “No, we will not be calling any more throws for him.”
  • On Thorson’s performance: “As the quarterback now you’re the hero or the zero. That’s just what you sign up for...I thought he took what the defense gave him, stepped up in the pocket, made some great throws...I thought he had a great game.”

Justin Jackson, Flynn Nagel, Cameron Green

  • Jackson on his passing touchdown: “We actually didn’t work on that this week, but we’ve been working on it since camp. Coach always just says to throw it up, so I tried to do that.”
  • Jackson on whether this win was the biggest of the year: “Every win’s the biggest win of the year.”
  • Nagel on the offense’s recent struggles starting to turn around: “I think we’ve just gotta continue to fight. I think that’s been the mentality of the past couple weeks...I think we did a better job of that today and we’ve just gotta continue to improve.”
  • Nagel on the pass-heavy play selection: “It was part of the game plan. They stacked the box and tried to take away Justin, as a lot of teams do, so we had to beat them through the air.”
  • Jackson on what the game meant to him: “It was kind of a personal game too. My sister goes to Michigan State, so I definitely have bragging rights on her now.”
  • Jackson on the final play: “Everybody was just holding their breath. I don’t think anybody knew what happened until Godwin put his hands up and then the whole stadium kind of erupted.”
  • Nagel on his touchdown: “Obviously that was a huge drive for us. I don’t really know what was in my head...luckily I was able to get into the end zone.”
  • Green on the offensive line: “Sometimes it just takes a little longer for a group of people to come together, but right now they’re fighting for every yard...it’s been great to see them become a brotherhood.”

Paddy Fisher, Joe Gaziano

  • Gaziano on the final play: “I was coming off the edge, he went to throw the ball, I saw his arm come down. Then I got my hand there and felt the ball and saw it on the ground...Nate Hall made an even better play, which I ended up seeing from the vantage point of the quarterback.”
  • Gaziano on the defense’s progress: “We’ve been playing well, and we need to keep our defensive poise up. We still haven’t played our best game yet, and we’ve got a lot of mistakes to correct.”
  • Fisher on the field-storming: “You don’t see that every day. To be a part of that, that was awesome, just shows how much the school cares and the fans care.”
  • Gaziano, chiming in: "I was too tired to go celebrate. It was awesome to see, we love the energy from the ‘Cats fans."

Clayton Thorson, Nate Hall

  • Thorson on his big day passing: “They’re a pretty good defense. I think coming into this game they were top-ten nationally in passing yards against. Really proud of our guys. It all starts up front.”
  • Hall on the final play: “I actually didn’t even know that the ball came out, I heard the crowd roar, heard no whistles, and I saw him pick the ball up...We’re taught to wait back in zone coverage and that’s what I did, just stuck back and made a play on the ball in the air.”
  • Thorson on penalties: “We had a few pass interference calls against us, even one today that was...nope. I won’t comment on that.”
  • Hall on the defense’s mindset: “We just battled. We had confidence in our offense, and obviously they got the job done. Saw them battling and that inspired us to keep battling.”
  • Thorson on his feelings after the win: "This is definitely one of the most satisfying victories [since I've been here]...These are the games that we live for."
  • Thorson on finishing drives: “That was a big point of emphasis for us. Once we get across the 50, we gotta score. And in the first half we didn’t do a good job of that...but just kept fighting, kept grinding, and eventually got in.”