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HAT gameweek press conference notes

There’s excitement in the air, folks.

Fitz was joined by Clayton Thorson and J.B. Butler to discuss the upcoming rivalry game and the win against Minnesota.

Pat Fitzgerald

-Opened by thanking the seniors for what they’ve done for the program. He also thanked the senior marching band members, equipment managers, video staff, and cheerleaders. Thorson was noted as the offensive player of the game, Travis Whillock as the defensive player of the week. He also mentioned that he was disappointed that Whillock wasn’t honored as the Big Ten player of the week. Fitz proceeded to give endless praise to many facets of Illinois’ team and some of the players that he has a relationship with, such as guard Nick Allegretti.

-On Nagel and Hall: “Terrific, awesome.”

-On the targeting call: “I think it’s really challenging to tackle when you’re turning away from a guy. I support the targeting rule, I voted yes on it, but we had serious concerns that it was going to be overcalled. I think it needs to be re-evaluated, I think we can all look at a targeting hit and say, “yep, that has no place in the game.” But in situations like Nate [Hall] and Paddy [Fisher], I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do. I think the reason the NCAA isn’t doing anything is because there would be a public backlash, but this is probably a rules committee deal. We don’t want to look like we’re going back on helmet hits, that’s very much not the case, but taking playing time away from a player, Nate Hall can’t go out and play on Senior Day because of an antiquated rule. That’s pretty ridiculous.”

-On if he’ll have his guys be extra cautious about the rule in the second half: “I think when that happens you take the stingers away from the guy. It’s all about how we coach and teach tackling. I just don’t understand it, but we go right to the locker room and away we go. Not going to be mad at the officials, they’re just doing their job.”

-On the state of Illinois: “We’ve been on the struggling end of this rivalry sometimes too. Playing for the Land of Lincoln trophy is a big deal. We’ve won three in a row and it matters, we want to win the game and send the seniors out the right way on Saturday.”

-On recruiting overlap between the two teams: “We’re going to recruit how we recruit, bring the right guys in for the program so we can win a Big Ten Championship and win games.”

-On the shirtless warmup: “That was Clayton’s idea. The guy I’m most disappointed in is Mick McCall. I thought he was more mature than that, I had some guys ask me who’s the creepy guy? Yeah, that’s Mick. But I think Jay Hooten and his staff do a great job.”

-On Thorson’s running success: “He’s been really improving, feeling much better, he was under the weather the past couple of weeks. He’s done so much, I’m just so proud of him. The type of toughness and durability [that he brings] is just unheard of. He and his teammates have done great things for the program.”

-On rivalry games: “Typically now, you forget what you’re doing in September and remember what you’re doing in November. We beat ourselves in those two games, but we’re moving on and focused on this week.”

-On analyzing Michigan and Ohio State: “Our graduate assistants and video staff, their job is to be organized and ready to go. After our one o’clock staff meeting after the Illinois game, then we’ll go on to the next one. It’s a great problem to have, the East has two teams fighting their way to this game, and we’re already here.”

-On the line of scrimmage: “I think it’s a day to day discussion. The Big Ten will always be a line of scrimmage league, we’ll always have to recruit at a high level there and develop at a high level. When a guy gets out of a cycle there, it’s like removing a year. We’re all dealing with the same issues at the line of scrimmage. The development at that position with the lack of practice that goes into those positions in high school, it’s crept up to this level. It’s a universal football problem right now, where we’ve allowed our game to go, we need to practice football more, more at the line of scrimmage. Because until the rules change, it’s the essence of our game. Both sides, without a doubt.”

-On the defensive line’s play against Minnesota: “I didn’t think they could drop back on us. They’re almost a one hundred percent RPO team, so once you have them going in reverse it’s where you want them going. Our front was really active but we missed about four more sacks that we should have had. I thought they played well, I just thought they really could’ve dominated.”

-On Travis Whillock: “He’s a great player. When we signed he and Paddy [Fisher], that was one of the best recruiting coups that we’ve had. Opportunities have presented themself for Travis and he’s done well.”

-On Bowser’s lack of production in the second half: “I think we have to execute a lot better. There were some things that we had on Saturday that we left on the field that I’m fine with because we won the game. We made a conscious decision to just keep running it, and that was the goal, especially in the fourth quarter.”

-On J.B. Butler: “A guy that has walked on looking for an opportunity, terrific football family. When he came up here he just exuded his love of the game. He’ll have his hands full with the Illini defensive front, but he’s playing at a high level right now.”

Clayton Thorson

-On the shirtless idea: “It was a group decision, we decided to do it as a whole offense. We didn’t tell our offensive coordinator though, that was all him.”

-On this being his final game at Ryan Field: “It’s kind of weird. Especially with two more games coming after this. I have a lot of great memories here, it’ll be a really cool day.”

-On the possibility of sweeping Illinois: “They don’t really care what’s happened in the past, they just want to win. Our goal is to go 1-0 this week and we’ll just take it how it is.”

-On his illness: “That’s a better question for our medical staff.”

-On his play on Saturday: “All about taking what the defense gives me. I’m not trying to do too much, just trying to be efficient.”

-On the ball to JJ: “Yeah, we’ve given him a lot of crap for that, he’s supposed to be one of our fastest guys. But next time he’ll get in for sure. He made a great play on the ball on that one.”

-On Thanksgiving celebration schedules: “Nothing changes this week. If you’re in the area you get Thanksgiving dinner with your family, if not you get dinner with one of the guys. But our schedule is the same.”

-On his 10k yardage mark: “It’s a testament to all of the guys who have caught balls from me and the O-line that has protected me.”

-On approaching Kain Colter for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in the program’s history: “Maybe people will start to appreciate that I’m a dual-threat quarterback.”

J.B. Butler

-On the shirtless warmup: “I thought it was pretty cool. We were just in the locker room and we just said, “Hey, let’s do it.” But then coach McCall joined in and that was kinda weird, but it was cool, it was really cool. The video was the whole offense out there.”

-On the meaning of this rivalry: “It means a lot. Being an in-state guy, Illinois recruits a lot of guys from my area. It definitely means a lot, and I’m excited to have the chance to go 4-0 against them. It’s a pretty unique situation and I’m really excited.”

-On short yardage situations: “I think the less we can quarterback sneak with Clayton the better we are, just not having him in that situation. So this past week, Isaiah with the two touchdowns. Basically, whoever wants it more, but credit to Isaiah, he cut it back to an open hole, he just saw it and we’re just doing our jobs.”