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Wisconsin gameweek press conference notes

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Walk-on running back Chad Hanaoka highlighted the day’s session.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what Pat Fitzgerald and players had to say ahead of this week’s matchup against Wisconsin:

Pat Fitzgerald

-Fitz opened by praising Chad Hanaoka, who was the player of the week on offense, highlighted the performance from Isaiah Bowser. Chris Bergin won defensive player of the week, and Fitz noted that Montre Hartage played well. Joe Bergin was the special teams player of the week. He said that the team needs to play better this week.

-On the RB crew: “You put certain guys in the best situation to succeed, we were trying to get the guys, all three involved, and kind of see who could get going. Chad played well and then we were sprinkling in the young guys, Isaiah played a little better as the game went on, but I’m really proud of all three of them.”

-On the redshirt situation: “Yeah, it’s game by game, I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future. You always have a plan but you gotta adjust the plan sometimes. To see the way Chad has stepped up is awesome, and those two young guys are just going to get better.”

-On the kicking situation: “(Kuhbander) is out this week.”

-On Gaziano: “I think Joe is incredibly talented. A guy that I think has great football instincts, great knack off the edge, he’s just so productive for us, he brings it every day in practice, every day in the weight room. I think he’s got a great future in this game, bright future in the sport. I don’t think there’s been a mental error in his career and if there’s been one it didn’t hurt us.”

-On the left guard position: “We’re trying to find solutions at every position and we’ve gotta be more consistent. It’s a position that we haven’t been able to have someone consistently take it over. So we’re gonna have three people competing, so we’re trying to find a way to get better up there.”

-On Chris Bergin’s emergence: “Our offensive player of the week is a walk on, our defensive player of the week is a walk on, our special teams player of the week is a walk on, there’s a bit of a trend there. I think Chris has been outstanding, the Bergin brothers bring it every single day, they’re a joy and a privilege to coach.”

-On familiarity with Wisconsin: “I mean Paul [Chryst] and the staff do a phenomenal job, that’s why they’ve been so consistent. It’s fun to watch every week but this one, I have a ton of respect and I think there’s mutual respect on both sides. You get into divisional play and I don’t think you surprise anyone, it’s about who plays well. Every week is a one week season, it just comes down to who does it better.”

-On if this team can be the one to beat Wisconsin: “I really just want to have a good Tuesday practice. I need to get the guys playing more consistently.”

-On Jonathan Taylor: “It all starts with the offensive line, they’re all dudes. I love what they do, it’s similar to what I did in high school, I played tight end and I loved the offense that we ran, they’re very physical up front. If it was just Taylor it would be a lot easier but they have a three-headed monster at running back and Paul [Chryst] does a great job with them.”

-On Thorson’s performance: “I asked him point blank how he played, asked him to evaluate how he played on a 1-7 scale, one being the best and seven being the worst and he said seven. But man, has he won a lot of football games for us, he’s done a lot for us, he just needs to get a bit more consistent.”

-On Hanaoka: “I remembered him in the video room and he was a nice kid, all of a sudden in the winter he’s in the weight room and I was wondering what the video kid is doing in the video room. I started calling him Ochocinco in practice, and he just willed his way on this team. We have a bunch of great men with an awesome attitude and a relentless work ethic. I told him when I get older he’s going to be my doctor.”

-On fourth down decision making and what changed in 2016 that caused him to go for it much more: “I don’t know, emails from fans?”

-On Northwestern’s lack of consistency: “I thought our defense was lights out, we gave up 43 yards, so I challenged the hell out of our offense today, step up. When we don’t have competition on the bench that’s when you ride with what you got. This is not rocket science, I’ll go back to my fourth down answer, emails from fans, love them.”

-On Bennett Skowronek: “He flew back with us, was running around a bit today.”

Chad Hanaoka

-On wearing the number one: “I think for me ultimately it means the world to me because it comes from my teammates. Up until this season I didn’t have much of a role on Saturdays. For them to recognize my work ethic and embracing my role, it meant the most. The older guys that I’ve battled with for years, it really meant a lot to me.”

-On his cut block: “Yeah, honestly when I made that cut block I didn’t realize that he flipped over until I came to the sideline and the running backs were telling me what happened. Guys were just gassing it up, really just helped a lot being in the right place at the right time. That’s our technique when a guy comes in like that. I rely on my fundamentals, having leverage on bigger linebackers and doing my job, I was able to do that on Saturday.”

-On the offense’s lack of consistency: “I think it’s great to get a win, on the road in the Big Ten it’s never easy. As an offense we definitely came up short, a lot of stuff that we have to clean up. For us we have to keep staying the course, cause it’s the guys in that offensive meeting room that are going to help us find a way to go 1-0 this week.”

-On the unique RB room this year: “It’s definitely been difficult seeing so many guys go down, seeing guys go through injuries, but even with those guys removed from the game, they’ve still helped us out, in regards to Isaiah and Drake, they’re incredible players with incredible mobility. Moving forward, I think they have some confidence, and we have confidence in those guys. A big portion of their growth has been the older guys pouring into them.”

-On his transition from the video room to playing: “For me, it started in high school, I was always undersized, my junior year of high school was when I reached out to Northwestern. I got waitlisted initially so they couldn’t hold a spot for me. I was able to join the video staff for that first season. The strength coaches brought me in and had me doing a program on my own to prepare me for my opportunity. I can’t say I expected to get where I am today, but I’m just grateful to the coaching staff for giving me an opportunity and grateful to the rest of the guys.”

-On his recruiting process: “I sent out a tape to everyone, from teams like UT-Austin, USC, to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Washington U. St. Louis. I was really looking at Wash U., Harvard, Yale, and here [Northwestern]. I always had my eyes set here, I had a $5,000 deposit down at Wash U., but I’m happy it worked out.”

-On his professional career: “I’m not sure about my future, I don’t know if I want to be Fitz’s doctor, although I thought about going into geriatrics.”

Joe Gaziano

-On the Wisconsin offense: “Wisconsin loves to run the ball, it’s gonna be a great Big Ten test for us, they have a very potent running attack, they like to bring in heavy sets and test your strength. It’ll be a big test for our front for sure, hopefully it’s a game where our line can shine.”

-On the excitement for this game: “We’re extremely excited about this one, you don’t want to say this is the deciding game in the Big Ten West but it’s definitely going to be a big factor. It’s important to protect our house, we have a great opportunity this week to do that.”

-On Chris Bergin’s emergence: “I think he’s stepped up wildly successfully. Coach Fitz always talks about next man up and he embodies that. He plays really well, really aggressive, he’s attacked everything on his plate. He doesn’t slow down for anybody, 100 mph every play.”

-On his reaction to Chad Hanaoka first getting a locker: “I’m really happy to see him get out there and get some meaningful playing time, the guy has really embraced the role. He’s in a program called Wishmakers that I’m in, he was the president and I’m on the executive board, all of the proceeds go to Make-A-Wish. I think it’s a testament to Chad on the field and off the field.”