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UMass postgame press conference notes

Fitz and company spoke to the media after the victory over the Minutemen

Following Northwestern’s 45-6 win over UMass, coach Pat Fitzgerald took the podium along with Evan Hull, Chris Bergin and Joe Gaziano to address the media.

Pat Fitzgerald

Opening statement: “Great team win. Really happy for our guys. It’s been a long time in the making to get that win. In the locker room after the game was awesome. I’m so happy for them and the work they’ve put in and to do it in a decisive fashion.”

On the blocked field goal return: “It was big. I thought the momentum was huge. It’s a flip-the-game type of play. We’ve been close earlier this season. We’ve gotta play better on offense to start the game.”

On offensive struggles: “We’ve got things we’ve got to fix on that side of the ball. Gotta take care of the football. Can’t turn the ball over. It puts you in positions to lose games.”

On Evan Hull: “I’m happy for him. He’s a great young man with a really bright future. We’re obviously depleted in that position. He played really well in practice this week and earned the starting roll and went out there and played really well.”

On turnover battle: “We had the ball two or three times in our hands that could have been interceptions. We need to make those plays. The number one thing that losers do on offense is turn the ball over. We have turned the ball over all year. Our respect for the football has been absolutely awful. We can’t turn the ball over the way we have been and expect to beat Big Ten teams.”

On the defense: “I thought our red zone defense was fantastic as it typically is. I think we over-coached some of it, but as the game went along, we suffocated what they were trying to do. We adjusted really well.”

On Jason Whittaker entering the game: “He’s a quarterback so that was the thought process. We’re trying to get those guys in the game.”

On finishing out the season: “We want to send our seniors out the right way. Last week was a really difficult loss. Our guys responded in a great way.”

On playing younger guys: “I hope its motivating for the guys, I remember my first playing experience and it wasn’t very good. I think you learn from doing and from playing. All those guys who played, it was great. I’m really happy for them.”

On not committing a single penalty: “Hallelujah.”

On benching Aidan: “There were thoughts about what we we’re gonna do at that position. It has not been up to the standard that we we’re hoping for, and that’s disappointing.

On the run game: “We set a goal to run the ball for over 300 yards. The O-Line took over.”

On why Drake didn’t play: “Gotta take care of the ball.”

On Hunter Johnson: “He was banged up last week, so we were resting him this week.”

Joe Gaziano

On being inches away from breaking the sack record: “What record? It was tough today. I was getting good pressure, having good moves off the edge. It was tough getting to the quarterback and getting him down. I need to do better at that.”

On the field goal block: “We had a push up the middle. Me and two D-tackles. Penetrating right where the kick points was. It was off-center so we were aiming to get the kick point where the guard point was. The two tackles beside me had great pressure. I got my hands up. Luckily, Chris Bergin was ready and he’s got the jets. He was off to the races after that.”

On early struggles from the defense: “Every team that we’re gonna play is gonna have a bit of wrinkles. After the first couple series, you will get in the game flow and see how you can improve on the things they are trying to use against us. In the second quarter, I feel like we were more in tune with what we wanted to do and not back on our heels.”

On ending the losing streak: “It was great to get back on track and wash that sour taste out of our mouths. It’s good to get a win and good to get a win at home. I’m happy for the young guys who got their first snaps today. Evan Hull had a breakout game. PJ Spencer is a guy that not a lot of people talk about — walk on freshman. He was in the two-deep and got in the he rotation today.”

On the locker room atmosphere: “It was light years different. The mood was great and guys were dancing around having fun. The guys realize how hard it is to win in this league. To be able to get a win like that is thrilling. The agony of defeat and the thrill of winning, you feel that every week, and we’re happy to be on the other side of it.”

On final two games: “Great opponent next week. They’ve played outstanding football the entire year. They’ve executed when it counts. After that Penn State game, they’re legit. We have to protect our home turf and execute against a good opponent.”

On playing his hometown team: “A little bit of sentiment playing UMass. They were my first offer when I was in high school. It was cool coming full circle.”

Evan Hull

On expectations for this game: “I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, to be honest. Throughout the whole week, I was just preparing to be the starter. Coach Lou told me on Wednesday that I’d be the starter.”

On his performance: “It feels very good. I put a lot of work into this, so just to have that happen for me was a very good feeling.”

On fatigue: I’m sure the offensive line is more tired than I am. Big props to them. I’m just thankful they had my back out there.”

On the locker room morale: “It feels really good. We got to sing the fight song that we haven’t sung in a long time. We’ve got some momentum going into these last two games.”

On tip-toed touchdown: “I saw it open up. It was an outside zone play. I gave the guy on the edge a little stiff arm. I saw the guy coming and just kept running.”

On which touchdown was his favorite: “All of them. This is still pretty new for me. The universe bringing it all together and just making it happen.”

On exploiting the UMass defense: “We’re just running what we do best. Knowing our 11 guys are better than their 11 guys.”

Chris Bergin

On the kick six: My job was to contain. I went out and saw how great of a push the defensive line had. I saw Joe Gaziano go up and block it. The ball bounced into my hands. Cam and JR did a great job escorting me into the end zone.”

On the onside kick: “Drew Luckenbaugh had one of the best kicks I’ve ever seen in a college football game. Again, it hit me in the hands.”

On getting a win: “I can’t tell you how good it feels. Regardless of our record, you can’t get tired of victory.”

On the joint tackle with his brother: “We’ve actually had a few of those in our career. When I saw someone else was on top of the guy, and it was Joe, he gave me a smile and a hug and we kept going.”

On next week’s game against Minnesota: “I think everything we’ve done this season has prepared us. We are thrilled for the opportunity to play such a good program.”