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Postgame press conference notes from Northwestern’s loss in East Lansing

A very different tone at the virtual podium tonight.

Northwestern v Michigan State Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Following a disappointing road loss to Michigan State (2-3), head coach Pat Fitzgerald shared his thoughts on his team’s performance, as did quarterback Peyton Ramsey, wide receiver Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and linebackers Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher.

Pat Fitzgerald

Opening Statement: “Great news about Berk (Holman). The reports I got back from the medical team was that he was moving all of his extremities. He was having a conversation with our medical team. It was a tough hit and a tough play. We’re going to lift him up in our thoughts and our prayers. That’s what I asked our guys to do. After that moment it kind of feels secondary talking about the game, but it’s obviously what I’m here to do. Credit to Michigan State. [They had] Two weeks to prepare, they had some little wrinkles that took some adjusting to, but a lot of self inflicted wounds on our end. Turnovers, and we gave up two explosive pass plays, at least one for sure, that led to points. [That’s something] we’ve been so good at all year and we had to regroup at halftime, and I thought we did. Again, credit Michigan State. They made the plays that winning teams make and Mel’s doing an absolutely terrific job. Really disappointed in the outcome of the game, but we have all of our goals in front of us, and that’s something I told our guys after the game. We didn’t come up here and play clean football. Michigan State played clean enough to win and we credit them, but we got to get back to work here next week and find a way to go 1-0.”

On Berkeley Holman’s injury: “First of all, my mindset as a proud Catholic — I go right to prayer, and I was praying for him. You hope that everything works itself out. I usually let our medical team get over there and get clearance from the officials before I go over. He was at least semi-alert when I got over there, and as they were going through the tests he was moving everything, so that was really positive. Your heart and your thoughts are on him. We had a brief conversation with Jeff Mjannes, our team’s head physician, and I walked over and told the guys exactly what I told all of you. He’s moving everything, he’s alert, they’re taking him off in an abundance of caution, and at this time let’s hold at the 50-yard line, go over and say your thoughts, and then when it’s time to play football you got to go play football and lift him up in your spirits in the way that you play. Our defense ends up holding them to three and gave us a chance to still compete to win, so it’s tough. There’s no doubt, it’s unfortunately happened a couple of times for me in this role, and your whole thoughts, prayers and every focus go up for him, whoever it might be in that situation.”

On being confident going forward: “It’s absolutely essential. We’ve got great leadership. We’ve been in a lot of tight games. We get the big interception from Paddy, and on the sideline, [the] guys were pretty confident. We tried to make a play right after, and unfortunately that was one of the self-inflicted wounds. You can’t win like that. It’s like last week, we win the turnover battle resoundingly and it’s a different game. This week it was the other way around.”

On “not having the juice today”: “It always starts with me. I thought we had it all week. I thought we had a great week of prep, and I thought we were really focused when we came up here. We gave up an explosive play early, and that’s a tough thing to somewhat overcome, but you’ve got to respond to it, and then we get the tough turnover. Again, similar to what happened at Iowa, we put ourselves into a hole, but I thought the guys responded and the lack of what you saw was more being dictated by the outcomes of some plays, and I’ve got to coach our guys to be better than that. I thought they were ready to play.”

On Peyton Ramsey facing pressure: “I think we lost some one-on-one battles, that’s what it looked like to me. We handled their pressure fairly well, but it looked like we lost some of those one-on-one battles, so credit their D-Line. We were really impressed with their defense on tape coming into this game. We felt like they were getting better and better each week, and to see the way that they played in the second half against Indiana, you kind of saw a shift. Credit them, they made some big plays tonight that obviously stalled our drives, and it’s a credit to their staff and to their players.”

On Kyric McGowan’s fourth quarter fumble: “Yeah that was a big momentum swing, especially when it’s a self-inflicted wound. It looks like you have a chance for a big play that was materializing, and that’s the great thing about football. You got to do the things the winners do. Ball security is critical to success and being consistently successful, and our inability to that leads to points. They get set up with the long interception return, and it leads to points. It’s not playing complementary football, and it makes it really tough to win. And I don’t want to discredit Michigan State, please don’t write that. Please write that I believed they [Michigan State] played really, really well. I want to credit their staff and their players. It drives me crazy that every time we win a game the other team played terrible and that was the only reason why we won, so I want to give credit where credit’s due, and that’s to Michigan State.”

On close games with Michigan State through the years: “I think that number one with Coach D [Mark Dantonio], you’re talking about a team that got to the top of the Big Ten multiple years, and with him retiring and you bring in Mel, who’s just got a plan. He’s been a part of changing programs multiple times, and he’s just done a great job at every stop he’s been. He’s a great friend and I’ve got the utmost respect for the job he does, and we were really impressed with what they did schematically when he brought in Scottie to run the defense that he was running at Kansas State a year ago. We were really impressed with them in the summer. It just jumped out on tape how much better they were getting, and they didn’t turn it over. They gave us the ball one time. Prior to tonight, they had turned the ball over, and that had made it tough for their offense to get anything going. So again, credit Rocky [Lombardi], he played great tonight, probably played his best game of the year tonight, and credit him.”

On Michigan State’s success on the ground: “They had a couple of plays where we needed to tweak things schematically, so again give credit to their offensive coaches and players. We got to get better against the quarterback draw. It was Nebraska, it was this game, we got line movements wrong. It’s just disappointing, it’s really disappointing for us to not play that play effectively. They had one cool little wrinkle on the one, and we had a call on it, but we didn’t execute the call. We’ll look at it first and foremost, us as coaches, because we’re the ones responsible for making sure the guys can execute, so it’ll start there. But that’s where some of the yards really came tonight in the run game.”

On adjustments in the game: “I thought there were adjustments on both sides. We went to some things, they adjusted. They went to somethings, we adjusted. The difference was the turnovers. We stalled drives, and if our field goal drives end up being touchdown drives it’s a different game, so again credit their defense. Any time, the first time you play each other, which with our staffs we really hadn’t played each other in the past, so again credit them. With a week to prepare for us, they did a good job using their extra practices to have some nuances, nothing major, but we’ve got to win our one-on-one’s. We lost a bunch of one-on-one’s at multiple positions, and we got to get our guys back confident, and get them back to winning those one-on-one battles.”

On the failed fourth down attempts: “Number one, I don’t believe that fourth down is an automatic kick down, so that’s number one. Conventional wisdom may [believe that], I don’t. I wanted to be aggressive, we came up here to win the game. We liked the calls that we had. We blew the first run play because we had a communication breakdown, and obviously that doesn’t end up working out, and we give up the explosive touchdown. It was brought up that we didn’t seem like we were into it, I disagree. I think we were ready to go and that was just a momentum swing and we were ready to answer it. We put another drive together and on fourth down, I don’t know you guys tell me about that play. From my perspective I thought that should have been first down ‘Cats, not interception Michigan State. That’s just what I saw from the sideline, so I’ll take a look at it on tape. If it’s what’s called, then you got to play what’s called, and our defense did a good job rising to the occasion. But you can’t be spotting teams 10 points and think you’re going to win. You better buckle it up, because I’m not going say that fourth downs mean punt. That’s Pat Fitzgerald 1995. Pat Fitzgerald 2020 — we’re going to be as aggressive as I think is smart within the flow of the game, and I think at that point we had two good calls. They didn’t work and it ended up leading to 10 points, which I own, but I’m not going to be un-aggressive. I’m going to be aggressive because I believe in our guys whole-heartedly, and I believe they’re going to make those plays as we coach them better. That’s what I expect to do. Not to do it haphazardly or to throw caution to the wind. It’s well thought out and it just didn’t work out tonight. Again, sorry to get the loss. Really disappointed for all of our great fans, and most importantly I’m disappointed for all of our great guys. We’re going to coach them get better and we’ll get back to work.”

Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman

On areas to improve: “At the end of the day, there were plays left out there. Michigan State played a good game, and we didn’t make the plays we were supposed to. Going back to the drawing board and figuring out how we can be better next week to go 1-0. When the play is called, make sure we’re executing, simple as that. Whether it’s first down or fourth down. For me, making sure I’m getting open, making sure I’m getting my body on a body. Making sure I’m doing my job.”

Peyton Ramsey

On areas to improve: “We gotta plays when we have the opportunity to make plays and there were plenty of them out there. Especially on third down. Just got to be better. Just got to execute better. It all starts collectively. As a group, we need to be better at playing situational football. Our defense makes a play here, a play there, and we got to go capitalize on that. We moved the ball well, especially in the first half. It’s about sustaining drives and scoring in the red zone. Individually, it’s about getting better every week. There are small things that show up every week. Each team gives you a different challenge every week. There’s things to improve on each and every game.”

On his hand injury: “I’m good. I feel fine.”

On MSU defensive line: “When you start trailing and you get into the third and fourth quarter, you get one-dimensional and can’t run the ball anymore because time is not your friend. They were able to pin their ears back a little bit, and they knew we were gonna drop back and pass. It makes it a lot easier on those guys when they know it’s gonna be a pass, and they don’t have to go through different reads and different responsibilities. It comes full circle. You got to play better from start to finish and don’t give defenses those kinds of opportunities to get after you.”

On the loss of John Raine and Ethan Wiederkehr: “It’s guys who have experience and have played a lot of football in their careers, so not having that experience is a little bit different, but it was time for guys to step up. We’ve been high on Charlie Mangieri, and we’re high on some of the other young tight ends. Charlie Schmidt stepped up and did a good job. It’s just opportunities for guys to step up when their numbers’ called. We miss their experience, but we got a lot of faith in the guys behind them.”

Paddy Fisher

On losing one-on-one battles: “There were a couple deep shots that we need to capitalize on. It just comes down to making those one-on-one plays and not giving up points.”

On QB draws: “That first QB draw, I take full responsibility on that. I put myself out of position to make the play. On the rest moving forward, we just got to be better with our keys and what to expect going into the game. Looking at previous games, we knew that teams had hit us on draws. Whether it was a QB draw or a running back draw, we just gotta do better with our keys and executing.”

On the turnover sequence: “We’re just keeping our mindset in an attack perspective and not letting our circumstances dictate our attitude. I think we need to be better in those situations, coming out and getting those three-and-outs, and then making a stop and capitalizing on turnovers.”

On Michigan State’s offense: “Nothing surprised us. We came in with a solid game plan, it just came down to executing the job and we didn’t do that in certain situations. We need to do better as a defense. We gave up too many points and we didn’t execute as clean as we needed to.”

On today’s loss: “Head up and just get back to work like Blake said earlier. We’re gonna get back to work on Monday, watch the tape and get through this and get over this and get back to work. As far as we’re concerned, we’re still in the driver’s seat and we’re still in control of that.”

Blake Gallagher

On losing one-on-one battles: “I’ll echo [Paddy] and say that I lost some one-on-one battles that I needed to win, and some other guys on the defense did too. We’ll come out Monday, fix what we need to fix and get moving on to Minnesota.”

On the turnover sequence: “It’s part of the flow of the game. Turnovers are gonna happen, sudden changes are gonna happen. We just have to focus in and hone in on what we gotta do, bow up and try to get a three-and-out and get the ball back to the offense.”

On today’s loss: “It’s just a bump in the road in our season. We’re gonna come back, we’re gonna fix what we need to fix on Monday and keep on going, take everything up a level. We’re gonna scratch, claw and fight to win these next two Big Ten West games and to put us in the Big Ten Championship.”