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Wisconsin game week press conference notes

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Pat Fitzgerald seems to be gaining a sense of urgency with the 8th-ranked Badgers awaiting on Saturday.

NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald met with the media for a vigorous press conference today to discuss last week’s game against Michigan State and next week’s matchup in Camp Randall. Quarterback Hunter Johnson, defensive lineman Alex Miller, and cornerback Greg Newsome II also answered questions at the podium. Here are the highlights:

Pat Fitzgerald

On the rushing performance: “I thought we ran pretty well (in the context of playing against MSU), we just have to take more advantages when we have the opportunity to throw.”

On if he’s disappointed in Hunter Johnson’s performance against MSU: “Absolutely.”

On the task of stopping Jonathan Taylor:“I don’t think you’re gonna stop him... If i had a Heisman vote right now, he’s getting my vote.”

On the woes holding Northwestern back: “I don’t have enough time... we didn’t win, that’s the bottom line... take care of ball, take the ball away, we’ve got to make the right decisions with the ball when we have opportunities to make explosive plays, we had a critical drop, we had a critical turnover with two minutes, we missed a couple tackles on a drive route, we’re not lined up properly on a drive route... we punted the ball into the wind I think like 28 times it seemed like... we’ve got to coach better and we’ve got to play better, that’s the bottom line.”

On A.J. Hampton: “We have to coach him better and have got to play better... We went through the same thing last year with Greg (Newsome II), a young guy out there getting experience. We got to obviously, hopefully get Trae back here here sooner than later, but A.J.’s just got to trust, number one, fundamentally, technically, the calls and just execute. When he did, he was really good. Unfortunately, when we didn’t, or we didn’t help him, which we have to, Michigan State was able to make explosive plays.”

On Wisconsin’s defense: “The job that Wisconsin’s defense did is phenomenal... they’re playing outstanding, absolutely lights out... they’re playing physical... their secondary is outstanding, absolutely outstanding. We’ve got our hands full.”

On Jack Coan: “He looks like a guy in his second year starting... I’m sure Jack has learned a ton since then (his first career start against Northwestern last season), like every player does. He was incredibly efficient in the Michigan game, (Wisconsin) took their shots deep like they always do. He just managed the game incredibly well... he didn’t force anything. He looks like a guy who is comfortable being the starter... Again, outside of this week, I’m really happy for him. He’s a great guy, we recruited him, I just think the world of him.”

On Wisconsin’s offense: “Wisconsin does a really good job of of formation variations and scheme variation to attack your front seven so they can make sure they outnumber you at the point of attack... He (Paul Chryst) is a phenomenal football coach. Their staff does a great job of putting pressure on you formationally and then when you load the box, they’ve got the talents on the outside to take the shots deep.” (Chryst)

On the battle for Northwestern’s defensive line: “You’ve just got to fundamentally execute... you’ve got to control your gap, if you get reached, you can’t get reached by two, you can’t go from the B gap all the way to the backside A gap, that compromises the defense. There line is outstanding, they always have been. You have to keep battling fundamentally.”

On Trae Williams’ injury status: “Those reports come out Thursday.”

On the changes NU needs to make to have a solid passing game against Wisconsin: “We’ve got to execute. It’s not anything more difficult than that. Our receivers made some great catches on Saturday, I thought that they made contested catches. We had some throws that we didn’t make... we’ve just got to coach better and play better.”

As a follow up to whether he is pleased with the offensive game plan:

“We just take 90 hours and play wii and golf all week... I go into every game plan expecting it to work, to be quite honest with you. I understand there are 40,000 experts on Twitter that can call plays for me. My email address is #IDON’TCARE, ok? So shoot that out. We’ve got to be better and we’re going to work to be better. Anybody whose negative, I respect it and I don’t care. We have to improve and you do that by working.”

On the parallel’s between this season and last years’ early season struggles: “I’d like to say we have the same team right now, but we don’t. We’ve got a group that has to learn from all their experiences... Right now, I would say especially on offense, we got a couple guys that are squeezing the bat a little bit too hard right now.”

Fitz’s conversation with Hunter Johnson after pulling him out of the game: “Well, I didn’t give him a chance to have a response... I went up directly to him in the locker room and said the decision of putting Aidan in was mine. We needed a spark, we had sputtered through the third quarter.”

“We have to execute and if we don’t execute we have to have competition... Hunter knows he’s got to be better, he’s the first guy to admit it... I have firm belief that he’s just going to keep getting better... (on Hunter’s response) He was disappointed, I’m disappointed we lost. So, coach better, play better, you win. Right?...I don’t think I listened [to what he said], it was a one-sided conversation.”

On the current attitude of the team: “I’ve got to get this group, when things don’t go well, to learn how to respond... I don’t have time for the negativity. You can’t dwell on the nonsense... you have to respond to adversity, and you got to do it boldly...I just saw some things that happened, some attitudes, some body language that I did not like... The first person that is going to get it fixed is me.”

“We’re three weeks in and I’m starting to get to know some of these guys a little bit better, and I don’t like their attitude. So guess whose going to fix it? Good old Under Armor size 12 (himself). So, anybody who would like to come along with me, come on. We’ll workout tomorrow and get after it... That’s the only way I know how to do it and it’s worked in the past and it will always work, but you have to embrace it.”

The attitudes he wants to rid the team of: “Woe is me, i made a mistake, reading twitter, reading nonsense, getting caught up in things that don’t matter. What matters is how you prepare and how you play.”

Hunter Johnson

On the difference in his preparation for each game: “With each game it’s going to be a little different. You’re playing a different opponent, you’re playing a different scheme, you’re playing a different defense. Schematically wise on our side, you’ve just got to execute on your side of the ball and, kind of, keep doing the same things that you’re doing. But there are definitely adjustments throughout the week that you have to prepare for.”

On his disappointment in his performance against Michigan State: “There’s some plays out there that there were plays to be made, some that didn’t happen... You just have to go back and look at the tape and learn from it and move on... but I’ve got to play better.”

Following up on his struggles: “Just some opportunities for some plays... to hit some guys on certain concepts, opportunities to make some runs, just make some plays in general.”

On how he responds to adversity given his experiences at Clemson and NU: “Football is football... you’ll face adversity all the time, and it’s just about how you respond... My whole life I’ve been playing football and I’ve faced a lot of adversity through football, so it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before.”

How he will continue to prepare for opponents despite the early season struggles:“I’m going to keep preparing every day, preparing my butt off every day... Nothing really changes, I’ve got to clean some things up, that’s for sure. But, from a preparation standpoint, I’ve got to keep preparing.”

On the importance of this week’s game at Wisconsin: “This week is a great opportunity for us to go into a place like Wisconsin and play a great opponent... we’re excited about this one and its going to be a good challenge for us... we’ve got a good plan going so far and we’ve just got to go out there and execute.”

Alex Miller

On the defensive line’s performance against MSU: “I mean, I think we played well, but I didn’t think we played great. We didn’t play up to the best of our abilities, myself included. As a defensive line, I know we can do a better job attacking the line of scrimmage and getting more penetration.”

On how he approaches Wisconsin: “We’re just trying to do the same thing that we do every week. As a defensive lineman... I line up and I get off, and I just try to penetrate... and I’m going to try to do that again this week. When you’re playing Wisconsin, the first thing you’re thinking of is double teams. Especially at the defensive tackle spot. So, we’re expecting to get double teamed... It doesn’t really change my job.”

The team’s mindset when playing on the road: “We always get excited to play at other people’s places. There’s no better feeling than beating somebody in their own house... (Camp Randall) is a good atmosphere, they get loud, and we like to get loud too on the field.”

Greg Newsome II

Whether he takes on a leadership role with Trae Williams sidelined with an injury: “Yes, I think I am a big leader in that room with Trae out... I probably have the most experience out of the rest of the cornerbacks that are playing on the field... I try to be more of a leader now, I like to let my actions talk for me a lot, I don’t really like to say too much, but, I do consider myself a leader now.”

On the secondary’s performance“In the secondary, we definitely need to play better... it’s all about turnovers, as a defense we need to create short fields for our offense. As a secondary we have to better... we have to be better with our technique.”

On A.J. Hampton’s struggles: “Eventually, you’re going to get scored on... you feel sad, you try not to think about it too much. Early on last year, when I got scored on the first time... I was real shocked. I hadn’t really gotten scored on too much in high school. So, getting scored on in college is a big deal...I just tell him to trust your process, trust your technique. I mean, everything will get better eventually.”

On the difficulty of guarding Quintez Cephus and the Wisconsin wide receievers: “I think he’s a great route runner... The quarterback makes the safe throw and he puts it in places where DBs pretty much cannot get it. ”