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Northwestern-Michigan postgame press conference notes

Fitz, Thorson, and others dish on NU’s loss to Michigan

Here’s what Pat Fitzgerald, Clayton Thorson, Joe Gaziano, John Moten IV, and Jared McGee had to say after NU’s 20-17 loss to No. 14 Michigan.

Pat Fitzgerald

  • On the offense’s struggles against Michigan’s defense:

“They’re really good. Have you seen Michigan’s defense?

“Our discussion was pretty clear on our headset: we gotta win our one-on-ones. And credit to Michigan, they won more than we did.”

  • On halftime adjustments:

“I think we made really good adjustments and it’s just that, quite frankly didn’t work. Offensive football is pretty ugly when it’s not clicking... We just gotta find a way to help our guys make plays. It starts with us, we gotta do a better job as coaches.”

  • On Michigan’s go-ahead touchdown:

“Yeah, we had a breakdown in communication. They went into an unbalanced formation. We had actually practiced it this week. That’s what’s really disappointing....Gotta look at why. I gotta look at why. Whether or not it scored or not, that’s one thing. The why we had that issue, to me, is what we need to fix as coaches. Are we asking our guys to do too much? Why are they thinking? That kind of stuff drives me crazy. See ball, stick ball. It’s not real hard. The formation wasn’t hard. We practiced it this week. So I’m not going to ever put it on the kids, it’s on us first. That’s what I just told them in the locker room For us to make that kind of mistake on something we practice, that’s really disappointing, it can’t happen... So the biggest question I’ll ask the guys on Monday when I see them is why were you confused? Why did we have the miscommunication?”

  • On defensive fatigue:

“No, I don’t think we were worn down at all.... I think we gotta get some first downs. That would help. The best defense is an offense that gets first downs and drives. The best offense is a defense that gets stops and turnovers.”

  • On the offense rebounding in 2017 after a slow start:

“Last year’s offensive lineman took it on themselves to stop getting their rears ends kicked and did something about it... We’ve got some pups in there fighting and I’m proud of them for going in there but we’ve got to do a better job of coaching them and getting them to be consistent, because it looked like fundamental technique issues today.”

  • On what kind of problems are facing the offense

“I wish I could tell you it’s just one thing.... Again, it starts with us as coaches, we gotta make sure we’re giving our guys a plan, giving them the opportunity for what they can do to be successful.”

  • On assessing the offensive line:

“...Number one, going into the game, we knew they had an outstanding front. That’s not a mystery.... We knew we were going have to play very efficiently. We were going to have to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and we set ourselves kinda behind the chains in third and long situations. We kinda played right into the mousetrap. We played right into their hands, that’s what they wanted.”

  • On what worked in first quarter offensively:

“Looked like we made some completions. Big play, explosion play by JJ. We gave Clayton the protection that he needed.... Looks like we made them played defense.”

Clayton Thorson

  • On his play from the first half to the second half:

“I’d like to have a few of those plays back and make some of those throws. We gotta fight, we’re up 17-0 and we didn’t finish the job. The past few weeks, that’s been the story. We’re up, and then the second half, we don’t finish the job.”

  • On how to finish the job:

“When we go into halftime, we had some good adjustments and we gotta come back and just execute it. We gotta keep the pedal down. It’s easier said than done.”

  • On the absence of Jeremy Larkin:

“I didn’t notice it. I think those guys did a great job.... I think those running backs played well and we need to keep getting them the ball.”

  • On Michigan’s adjustments:

“They came out and they played well. We just gotta score. When we get chances and good field position, we just gotta score. And our defense played well, I thought, and gave us a chance to win.”

  • On connecting on long passes:

“Maybe I could put the ball on guys a little better. I think we gotta get other things working underneath and then open it up.”

  • On how much of a say players have in play-calling and adjustments:

“Just come back and talking to the coaches. And so we’ve got a lot of open dialogue. But they’re our coaches and we trust them. We’re gonna run what they want to run but if we go out there and we say ‘Hey, this guy’s got this leverage, this guy’s got this. I’m seeing this,’ then we’ll run it and our coaches are very open to that.”

  • On how he feels physically:

“I wouldn’t say breakthrough. Just following what Dr. Andrews and what all the other doctors at Northwestern have to say. But felt physically fine.”

Joe Gaziano

  • On Shea Patterson’s rushing ability:

”It stresses the D-line for sure. We need to be more disciplined in our pass rush lanes... But for us, it’s just a matter of being more aggressive and not sitting back and waiting for him to make a play and reacting, but on the contrary, making plays and beating blocks and getting to the quarterback faster.”

  • On what the defense could have done better:

We need to get a turnover. Bottom line. We didn’t get the ball out, we didn’t turn the ball over, we didn’t get any interceptions.... I think if we turn the ball over and give the offense another drive, we have a good chance to win this game.

John Moten IV

  • On his first game as a feature back:

“Going into the game I was very excited. I was ready to go. I felt confident. I felt comfortable, especially after the first few plays. “

  • On Michigan’s front seven:

“In the Big Ten, you’re gonna face big, talented players. I tip my hat to Michigan, they’re a very talented defense.”

  • On the offense’s second half struggles:

“When you’re in the middle of a football game, one big thing you need to do is capture momentum, and obviously we found a hard time doing that. But I think that if we continue to stick together as a team, and keep drives going in the run game and the passing game and protecting Clayton, we will have success.”

Jared McGee

  • On what keyed the defense’s early success:

“I think we did a really good job of early on, stopping the run. Their offense, a lot of times, is geared towards running and then hitting on play action and we caused them to switch up their game a bit and do a lot of drop-back passing. That’s where we wanted them, but we weren’t able to make the plays we needed to once we got them to that style of play.”

  • On seeing the offense struggle and trying to stay motivated:

“I think a lot of guys on the defense, we relish the thought of the game being in our hands. We like to go out on the field, we like to have an opportunity to make plays and when we see our offense struggling, we know that we need to make stops on the other team’s side of the field in order to give our offense good field position.”