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Postgame press conference notes from No. 19 Northwestern’s upset win over No. 10 Wisconsin

They want respect, and they feel they’ve earned it.

Pat Fitzgerald

Opening statement: Heck of a Big Ten battle, there’s no doubt about that. That was a huge challenge. Credit to Wisconsin, that’s an outstanding football team and I’ve got the utmost respect for Coach Chryst and his staff and his players. We knew it was going to be a heavyweight fight and that’s exactly what it was. Credit them, but our guys were ready to play. I thought they put together an outstanding week of preparation to get ready for the game and it carried over into the start. You know, as you looked at the first two games for Wisconsin and the way that they started against Illinois and Michigan made it really challenging. I thought our guys rose to the occasion. Bunch of turnovers caused, which were critically important to the game, and very resilient by our guys, just staying in the fight. It wasn’t pretty, it was an old school game, but they grinded it out all the way through to the finish. It’s with a heavy heart. We lift our thoughts and prayers up to the Orozco family. We lost a warrior in Joe here this week, and we had his mom and his sister and his dad and his uncle here with us postgame. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those that were touched by Joe, a special man, and we really want to lift up the Eastern Illinois Panthers. I know that for Coach Cushing and his staff and their players and their great athletic department it’s been a tough week. We lift you up in our thoughts and prayers.

On the game-changing second quarter drive: I think first of all, credit Wisconsin. They’ve got one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the country. To create those types of turnovers and only win by a couple scores is a huge credit to Coach Leonhard and the Wisconsin defense. But that was a critical drive, absolutely critical. I thought, again, that Peyton showed his experience tonight. He took what the defense gave him, he didn’t force anything. We’re just so thankful that he’s apart of our football family, and he’s doing a terrific job leading.

On whether or not this was a complete game: We still gotta play better. We gotta take care of the ball, we can’t fumble the ball on the goal line. That’s a huge swing in momentum. That’s a huge swing in the game early against a great team. That can’t happen. I couldn’t see what happened on the play but at the end of the day we’ve gotta take care of the ball, especially down in the scoring zone. We’ve gotta be able to run the ball more efficiently. They made it tough sledding and it looked like we were a block away, it looked like we got tackled one-on-one a bunch tonight. Again, I’m gonna give a ton of credit to Wisconsin. We’re gonna start with us as coaches. Look at the schemes, look at the fundamentals, look at the technique, look at what they did to attack us and then look at the personnel. We’ve got competition in the backfield, those guys have got to produce. I’m not ready to pass any judgments right now personally, I’ve gotta watch the tape and assess the run game but we’ve got to be better there if we want to continue to get better.

On forcing five turnovers: We just do what we do. You fall back on your training buddy. We work at it every day. There’s not a defense in the country that doesn’t talk about taking the ball away. There’s not a defense in the country that doesn’t work at it every single day and preach it every single day. It’s a big correlation to victory, there’s no question, but you gotta score points off those turnovers. We had a number of not even moving the ball after a turnover, so again, credit Wisconsin. That’s an outstanding football team that we just beat. We expected this. This wasn’t something that was surprising to anybody in our program. You fall back to your training, you fall back to the way that you prepare. This group has got an amazing camaraderie, an amazing brotherhood. This wasn’t an upset tonight in our locker room, we fully expected this. When I visited with the broadcast crew yesterday they said, “You seem awfully confident.” I said, “Our guys have put in the work to put themselves in the position to play an outstanding opponent, and now we gotta go out and make it happen.” To our young men’s credit and our staff’s credit, we were able to do that tonight.

On the progression of the secondary: Our secondary wasn’t necessarily the issue a year ago. Number one, we’ve recruited very hard in that position group. Matt McPherson has done a terrific job working with that group, but the credit goes to the whole group. Jeremy Larkin has been working with our DBs, Hank, but most importantly to our players. They are putting in the film prep, they put the work in in the offseason, they all want to play and we’ve got some talented guys that aren’t maybe starting right now or in the two-deep. JR is a senior leader back there, a captain for us. Greg is showing that he’s an All-Big Ten and, in my opinion, beyond-type shutdown corner. Cam Ruiz is getting better with each rep, and quite frankly, he’s really hardened himself, I think he’s learning how to deal with the momentary failures that happen back there on the back end. AJ’s playing great, Cam’s playing great, Coco got out there tonight, Bryce got out there tonight, B-Jo has just found the ball, or maybe I should say it the other way around, the ball has found him. Those guys are working incredibly hard and I’m really proud of the effort level that they’re putting in, and again, it’s falling back on their training.

On what they tried to exploit in the pass rush: I wish there was anything to see on tape to exploit, I mean, they were awesome their first two games. They went through Illinois and Michigan like they weren’t even out there. It’s credit to Wisconsin, they’re great, they’re an outstanding football team, but I think we’re pretty darn good too. Our guys rose to the occasion and to the opportunity tonight. I think it was more just us trying to be us. We talked all week about doing what we do and how we do things that’s all it’s going to take tonight. Nothing different, nothing more, nothing magical, just do what we do, and do it to the best of our ability. To our D-line’s credit, our linebackers were active again. We gotta clean some things up now, we’re gonna see some things that they did to us down the road so we gotta get those things fixed, but I’m really proud of our defense right now. They’re playing lights out.

On Joey Galloway’s comments: That really ticked our guys off, I’m not gonna lie to you. I thought it was incredibly disrespectful, but it is what it is, it’s not the first time. I just talked to the guys about putting the fuel in their engine, just use that as fuel in the engine, and just go out and play the way we’re capable of. We’ve got some really good football players. We’ve got outstanding football players, in my opinion. We’ve got a bunch of guys that will be potentially All-Big Ten, potentially All-American and potentially in the NFL. You’ve got to earn it every rep, we’ve had to do that here since I’ve been a part of the program. It’s like we have one bad year and it’s like 19-whatever again, and I understand that and I respect the people’s opinions, but that was a little bit of extra fuel in the rocket, there’s no question about that.

On seeing the defense excel: I’m just proud of our team. I thought tonight was a team effort. I thought we played pretty solid, complimentary football. I don’t know if you could tell at the end but we went for the jugular. We felt like three there really was a push, there’s not a lot of value in being up 10 compared to 13, so we went for the win. That’s how much belief and confidence we have in our team. It starts with our seniors and our upperclassmen leadership and it permeates through the entire locker room. We know we can still play better. To me, that’s what’s really exciting. I hope the guys enjoy tonight, I hope they get some rest and are smart, and just make great choices socially like I know they will. Now we gotta be ready to go be road warriors, we’ve got back-to-back games on the road, and we gotta go up and play a rested Michigan State team that’s got us at home so it’s going to be a huge challenge next week.

On this game being a “Pat Fitzgerald special”: Nobody’s wearing neck rolls, so I’ll start with that. I just think our squad is a tough group of football players. I think they love the game, they love each other, they love playing for each other and I think it shows in the physical toughness and the mental toughness that they demonstrate on the field. There’s not a lot of pomp, there’s not a lot of circumstance, there’s just playing the game the way we try to teach it and that’s the right way. Playing tough, physical four-quarter football and playing for each other. Like I said earlier, we expected to win this game, and no disrespect to Wisconsin, but because of the fact that we feel like we’re still not playing our best football, but we’re playing pretty darn good football right now. I think it goes back to the preparation our guys put in in the offseason, and in particular, in the micro for tonight, I think it came down to how our guys prepared this week.

Peyton Ramsey

On gaining confidence from the defense: It’s awesome. The way that they’re playing has been lights out. You know, five turnovers. We weren’t able to capitalize on all of them, and we have to be better from that standpoint for sure. That’s gotta be a point of emphasis for us. When you have that kind of defense, you have so much confidence as a quarterback. When the ball is in your hands, you can make the easy play, you can make the check down, you can make the throwaway. Nothing has to be special and you don’t always have to look for a spark when you have a defense that’s playing like our defense is.

On his leadership after Bowser’s fumble: It’s just one play in the first quarter, and that’s not going to make or break the game. Yeah, it’s unfortunate. You have the opportunity to go up 14-0 but the game was far from over, and there was no reason for anybody to hang their head, to pout or to be mad at anybody. We all make mistakes and the ball just didn’t bounce our way on that one. We just had to bounce back and keep fighting, keep scratching, keep clawing. That was kind of the story of the night, so I’m proud of those guys for how they responded after that and to come out with a win, none of that matters at the end of the day.

Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman

On the second quarter scoring drive: Peyton passed 7-for-7? That’s pretty good. For me, and I know for a lot of us out there playing receiver, all the drives kind of morphed together. We’re priding ourselves on our tempo and just making sure that we’re doing what we need to do every play. I remember seeing a ball up in the air on that touchdown ball and just thought, “wow, number 12 is great, he just put this in the perfect spot.” And then the rest was history. So, we appreciate 12, 12 doing his thing, doing his job, but besides that, all I remember is running around and us doing what we do every day in practice during the week and making the most of it.

On his mindset recently: The mindset has been the same going into every week. I talked about it last week, just keeping it routine, making sure I’m preparing, and then also reflecting to see what I can do better during my preparation during the week. The main thing is coming to play, coming to play for one another and trusting that guy back there letting the ball go. That’s really all it is, it’s nothing special, I wish I could give you a secret formula, but there’s not one. We could be better, like Peyton said, that’s the thing. We need to be better and we can be better. We will be better.

On his training recently: One of the main things is recovery. Recovery is something I pride myself on and just preparing in the week and offseason. Your body is your temple and your body is doing the work for you, so you need to make sure you take care of your body. Elevating my recovery plan has been crucial to getting back every week and being able to not only play on Saturday, but even more importantly, prepare on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I think that’s been one of the biggest things and then secondly, just embracing every moment. #12 makes sure during the week, during film, during meals that we’re embracing every moment, and I’ve really taken heed to that and made sure that I’m just trying to have fun with it.

Greg Newsome II

On the secondary’s confidence: We’re together all the time. We spend most of our time together. We hang out all the time. I think we built that during this offseason, as soon as we finished our last season. We didn’t have the best season, we had a good season statistically but we didn’t create any turnovers, so it was a point of emphasis going into this season that we needed to create turnovers. Brandon’s been leading us throughout the way, he’s been doing a great job and, you know, it’s infectious. We’re just trying to follow his lead.

On his fourth quarter interception: He had a nasty split, he released me inside and then came back out. Ramaud has run that route against me a few times so I was kind of familiar with it already, and when I saw the ball in the air I knew it was finally time. It feels good to join the pick club, I think I was overdue, so it’s about damn time.

On what this win means for the rest of the season: This victory means a lot, but at the same time it means nothing because we still gotta finish the season, we still got a few more games left. It’s not an upset, we knew we were gonna win this game. We prepared like it, we’ve been working since last season and we knew we needed our redemption. At this point, we don’t view it as an upset because we knew we could do this.

On being the underdog: It fuels us. We’re used to being the underdogs. We like being the underdogs because we know we’re gonna go hunt everybody every single game. We knew last year was a fluke. Look at Coach Fitz’s track record, he doesn’t lose that many games. So we knew coming into this season, we knew what we had, we just knew everybody else didn’t think we had anything. We woke up the country now, and we need our damn respect.

On Joey Galloway’s comments: It made me laugh at first. It was just funny. Like I said, that’s what they view us as, that’s the narrative we’ve had. It’s alright though, because we’re just gonna keep working, we’re gonna keep grinding, and at the end of the season they can call us “Rece Davises” all they want as soon as we get to the Big Ten Championship and win that. So they can call us “Rece Davises” all they want, it’s alright with us, it’s just gonna keep fueling us every single week.

Earnest Brown IV

On the defensive line’s development: Just basically Coach Long coaching us up, pass rush moves, you know, doing a great job of that. Different stuff, different pressures, you know, don’t want to show everybody the same moves every time. I got two words for you: Eku Leota. That man is a dog, and I gotta give credit where credit is due. Just trying to hype my boy up. If you don’t know him now, y’all should.

On embracing the challenge of facing Wisconsin: We loved it. We knew what was coming. We played them last year and I think we held them to 10 points. We knew what kind of offense they were going to run, how they trade their offense and stuff like that. We were prepared, the sky team did a heck of a job preparing. You saw it, they caused four of five turnovers. We just punched them in the mouth and gave them what we got.

On what this win means for the rest of the season: A win is a win always. You know, 5-0. Like Greg said, we gotta take it one game at a time. We just need the respect that we deserve, you know, because everybody thinking that because we came off a 3-9 season, we’re shit, like nah, forget all that. We keep working hard. We took advantage of it. We keep grinding the weight room, grinding whatever coach gives us, and we execute the game plan.

On being the underdog: It’s just motivation. Everybody thinks we’re just a smart school, but nah, forget all that. We need to get our respect right now. We just keep grinding, you know what I’m saying? Everybody doesn’t see that though, nobody sees under the lights. We keep fighting and fighting and fighting trying to get everybody’s respect around here and after this game I feel like we should get it right now.

On the defensive line’s preparation: For Purdue and Wisconsin, we knew they didn’t have a scrambling quarterback so we could work more moves, unlike Nebraska with Adrian Martinez who’s a scrambling quarterback. We knew we had to close the pockets as well, we couldn’t let any rat holes, you know, we constantly prepare for that because he will scramble if he has to. Coach Long teaches us some moves to get to where we need to get to the quarterback.

On Joey Galloway’s comments: For me I’m like, dang, I feel like I’m kind of athletic, you know? Rece Davis? I was like, dang, that kinda hurt my feelings! But like, again, we just took that to the side, we didn’t let that affect us at all, we love that. Like Greg said, that fuels us. We just keep working as hard as we can and we just keep dominating as the season progresses. We get to that Big Ten championship and we’ll go ahead and win that too.