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Northwestern-Wisconsin postgame press conference notes

Pat Fitzgerald and his players talked to the media after a tough loss, and had plenty of intriguing things to say.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was joined by Aidan Smith, Riley Lees, JR Pace and Travis Whillock to address the media after this game. Here’s what they told us:

Pat Fitzgerald

On two-point conversions: “When you’re down 15, you go for two. You go for two early, so you will be able to know what you have to go for at the end of the game. You can’t ever know what’s going to happen next...You’re trying to get as many points as you can right here, right now.”

On play-making/two-point conversion decisions: “We work with some analytics companies. I wish I could teach a class at Northwestern on analytics.” (via The Daily Northwestern)

On stopping Jonathan Taylor: “Our guys did a really good job filling gaps...We’ve tackled well. He really didn’t get out except for the fourth down play. He’s a great player. As I said on Monday, I’d vote for him for the Heisman.”

On Hunter Johnson’s status: “I don’t know what’s going on with Hunter, but I’m really proud of how he stepped up. I grabbed him at the end of the game and told him I was proud of him.”

On that block in the back call: “You should never block behind the ball. It’s bad coaching. It’s my fault.”

On playing Anderson instead of Bowser: “IB’s been grinding through injuries. I’m so proud of how tough he is. Just trying to get the guy out there who has the chance to make some plays.”

On defending Wisconsin: “When you play Wisconsin. All 11 have to be ready to defend the run because otherwise you’re gonna be one gap short.”

On special teams: “Overall it was solid. Stealing a couple possessions was critical in the opportunity of winning the game. The guys made some huge plays. Charlie’s been on a roll kicking the ball well.”

On being on the verge of greatness: “I think outside of the self inflicted wounds we’re really close. We can’t give up a [defensive] touchdown and expect to win games, let alone two. We’ve just gotta work diligently to have our quarterbacks and entire offense take care of the ball.”

Aidan Smith

On his rough start: “Starting out I didn’t play like I wanted to. Once I got in the flow of the game, people like Riley were getting open, the O-Line was helping me out.”

On getting game exposure last week: “That was the first time I’ve been tacked in four years. I’m fortunate to be put in the backup position due to an unfortunate situation.”

On his interception: “That was my fault. They were bringing boundary pressure. I should’ve changed that protection. It was a poor decision on my fault.”

On two-point conversions: “Those are plays we repped during the week. They went well. We have to trust the play calling. Those are plays that do work. It’s about the execution.”

On Hunter Johnson: “He’s a super tough guy. Very strong minded, physically too.”

Riley Lees

On overall offense execution: “I think we’re more than capable of it. We just have to do it on Saturday. We just have to get a little mojo going, a little confidence.”

JR Pace

On Jonathan Taylor: “I think we had a great game plan. Stuff the run as much as we can. I still think in some areas we could have stopped him more.”

On his interception: (After Whillock cut him off with “Playmaker! He’s a playmaker.”) “We were in a three-deep. He threw it up, so I appreciate that.”

On team confidence: “It comes with practice and experience. As games go on, we gain confidence. We’re doing well playing off each other.”

Travis Whillock

On frustration with the offense: “I don’t think you can have that mindset. Every time you go out there you’ve just gotta control what you can control. I know they’re gonna go back to the drawing board like we are. We just need to stick together on the inside, and we’re gonna be alright.”

On the the past and the future: “We’re not worried about last year. We’re worried about this team. There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves there’s a lot of ball left. We’ve got a great team coming up, and we’ve just gotta get ready for them.”