Pat Fitzgerald was joined by Flynn Nagel and Joe Gaziano to discuss the week ahead and the team’s Big Ten West hopes.
-Opened by acknowledging Rashawn Slater as the offensive player of the week and Fred Wyatt as the defensive player of the week. Cam Ruiz was the special teams player of the week. Fitz emphasized how much respect he has for Kirk Ferentz and the environment that Iowa can produce in Kinnick Stadium. He also gushed about the Iowa offense, praising Nate Stanley for his play against Purdue, and claiming that this could be the best WR corps that Northwestern has faced from Iowa.
-On playing in primetime and afternoon games: I think we just stick to our process, our number one objective each week is to prepare for victory. You have to embrace the grind, enjoy the heck out of it. I put up a graphic behind me today in front of the guys, 20 days. That’s how many days we’re guaranteed in this season.
-On the pass rush: They threw a bunch of RPOs, you’re fitting plays right and they throw a hitch. But on third down we weren’t as consistent as we need to be.
-On Notre Dame’s final TD: That wasn’t Joe’s fault, that was on some other guys actually. Like I said after the game, credit them. When the guys come to the sideline you show them what happened and it’s like man that’s what we practiced.
-On Jake Collins: It starts with his demeanor, it seems like he’s 30. His demeanor and attitude have been outstanding. He’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s played really well. WIthout taking one kickoff rep in practice he went out there and did it last week.
-On Skowronek’s catch: It was pretty ridiculous, like spiderman. Going in to the half tied at seven, we felt very fortunate to have the score where it was. We knew we were going to have to score more points. Big plays like that are going to be critically important the rest of the season here.
-On Jared McGee and Trae Williams: I’d list both of those guys as doubtful, but we’ll have an injury report out on Thursday.
-On the Iowa wave: I’ll address it tomorrow. That’ll be something that I talk about in my team meeting, it’s one of the most cool and neat traditions out there. To be a part of that will be really special. What a great move by the Hawkeyes and their fans, that’s what it’s all about. As tough as it is to not be successful on a Saturday, you have to put it all in perspective. It’s something that we’ll be honored to be a part of.
-On Kirk Ferentz: You look at the job that Kirk has done, very little staff turnover and a lot of consistency. They recruit guys that fit their program, they have a great strength and conditioning program, and they win the right way. They’re incredibly sound, their technique is outstanding, execution is at a high level. They play very physical and they rarely make mistakes. You couple that with one of the most football-educated fan bases and you really have a complete program.
-On Thorson’s play: We just gotta take what the defense gives us, take advantage of some things. You have to credit Notre Dame. To be frank with you I thought that was their best pass coverage of the year. J.B. Butler played his best game of the year against a potential first round pick. I just expect him to go out and take what the defense gives you and have fun. He’s going to have his hands full against this defense but he’ll do what he needs to do.
-On the possibility for a 1,000-yard season: It would mean a lot, but I try not to pay attention to that stuff. I’m more focused on winning games.
-On if he’s getting more focus from defenses: Yeah I think it’s part of their gameplan. Toward the beginning of the year it wasn’t as much and now since the Nebraska game I’ve seen more teams bring a safety over the top or go double coverage. But we have guys in the room that can make plays, so we have answers to that.
-On the run game helping the passing game: I hope it helps, teams have respected our run game more and it’s opened up the passing game, so the balance there is really good.
-On Kinnick Stadium: It was a lot of fun to play there, great atmosphere. It just got loud and it was an unbelievable atmosphere. Every Big Ten game has a great atmosphere, so you just have to treat every game not paying much attention to it.
-On the team’s Big Ten West hopes: I think we earn the respect of other programs and this is just another point where we can earn that respect. Winning the west would mean a lot to the program, but you still have to go week by week and focus on Iowa, not the Big Ten West.
-On the pass rush: For us it was difficult to get it going, they did a really good job against us with RPOs and play actions. I think that’s something we need to improve on this week, gotta get to the quarterback, but credit to Notre Dame though, their quarterback executed tremendously.
-On the ‘20 days’ graphic: Our team has a limited life. We’re only guaranteed 20 more days. Each week you have to go out and play knowing that. These seniors could be walking off the field with a bad taste in their mouth if we can’t go out and perform.
-On things he’s learning as a player: Every time you step on the field you’re learning something new. I’ve been able to improve every week, I’ve become a cerebral player. I’ve been able to break down the mental side of the game and I need to improve still.
-On the balance of pass rush and run defense: We play in the Big Ten, so for us, stopping the run is first and foremost. A lot of teams can use that against us, but for us it’s about protecting our gaps.
-On Kinnick Stadium: It’s a great place to play. Whenever you travel in the Big Ten the crowd will be great. Kinnick is a great place to play, but for us it’s just another business trip that we’re going on. We like being the enemies as well as the favorites, so we’re looking forward to a great opportunity.
-On Northwestern’s Big Ten West hopes: We have to go 1-0 each week and our focus is on Iowa. It’s a tough opponent and a lot of focus needs to be put into this game. If we don’t take care of this week then our opportunities can diminish. This is a goal that we set in the beginning of the year, we haven’t won every game but moving forward we want our goals to align with reality. So we have to focus in on each game.
-On his ability to step in the kicking game if needed: That’s a great question for Coach Fitz.