After defeating Nebraska in a close 21-13 contest, Pat Fitzgerald, Greg Newsome II, Blake Gallagher and John Raine spoke to the media via Zoom. As the team travels to West Lafayette for a battle with Big Ten West challengers Purdue (2-0), it released its two-deep, almost identical to last week’s except for Bryce Kirtz’s moving into the second-string receiver slot in place of Genson Hooper Price.
On players of the game from Nebraska: Drake Anderson (offense), Chris Bergin (defense), Riley Lees and Kyric McGowan (special teams). His practice players of the week were Andrew Marty and Gunner Maldonado. Looking ahead to Purdue, he said that this week would present their toughest challenge yet against a well-rested Boilermaker squad.
On the defense: He emphasized the defense’s effectiveness in not allowing a touchdown drive longing than 45 yards on the season, forcing opposing offenses play a long field with several timely plays. At the same time, Fitz did not feel that his team has played cleanly, especially with poor tackling against Nebraska.
On the uptick in COVID-19 cases in the region: He said that his players need to make “great choices socially, every day, every moment, every interaction,” reminding the media that he and his coaching staff are not exempt from ensuring the health and safety of the team.
On Purdue’s offense: Fitz called attention to the Boilermakers’ receiving duo of Rondale Moore and David Bell. He called Bell the best wideout in college football while calling back to Moore’s explosiveness, particularly against the Wildcats: “They don’t give out the term All-American by accident. And we’ve been part of that.”
On the implications of the Purdue matchup: As always, he emphasized that “in 2020, every game is a championship game,” despite the massive implications this contest could have toward deciding the Big Ten West title.
On Jeremy Larkin’s role: Fitz ended his segment of the presser by talking about Jeremy Larkin, whose medical retirement from the sport followed his breakout game against the Boilermakers two seasons ago. Fitz praised his resilience and willingness to put himself out of his comfort zone, especially in his serving as a coach for defensive backs despite never playing the position in his college career.
Greg Newsome II
On penalty calls: “I’m an aggressive corner. I play to the boundary most of the time, so I’m going to be aggressive. I know some of those flags are going to come my way, but I know it’s important to throw them out and just get ready for the next play.”
On facing David Bell and Rondale Moore: “I’m really excited. I wasn’t able to see them last year because I got hurt. They’re both good players. We have a lot of good players over here to, so it’s a matchup we’re very excited for. Redemption number three. “
On Purdue’s offense: “It’s a combination of everything. They’re an offensive-driven team, not even those two guys (Bell and Moore). We have to take into account multiple guys. They live in the spread, and they’re a passing team and are going to get some yards, but we’re going to prepare like we do any other team. It’s gonna be a battle.”
On the secondary’s success: “The passion we’re playing with this year, we’re playing for each other, that we’re doing a great job. Nothing’s really changed mentality-wise; everything’s just clicking. We didn’t have a great record last year, but we were playing balls-to-the-wall last year too. We’re going to keep going and keep it up.”
On the pick club: “It started first game when we were picking everybody off. Last year, we weren’t able to get as many as we liked, so that was definitely an emphasis in the secondary and on the defense as a whole. It really started after last season after we started emphasizing picks, picks, picks as something we had to improve on, and I think we’re going a great job right now.”
On supplementing the offense: “We control what we can control. We got their back, and they got our back. Right now, we got their back. Sometimes, they screw up. We screw up, they have our backs. We’re playing the same way, doing the same things.”
On a turnover chain: “We definitely should come up with something because we’re ballin’ out right now. That’d be cool on the sideline.”
On who is bringing the juice: “The entire defense is playing with juice right now. We’re getting excited, getting on each other’s backs, making plays and having a damn good time doing it. We’re playing some good ball right now, but we have to keep correcting things and taking it to a new level every week. The guys on the sideline have been doing a great job bringing the juice. You can see it on tape when there are plays made on the field, our boundary’s going crazy, so we need to keep that up.”
On supplementing the offense: “It’s a team effort. It’s a team game. We just do what we have to do and continue to execute.”
On a “turnover chain”: “No turnover chain or anything like that. Coach Hank (Mike Hankwitz) will give us stuff after the game like steaks or have cookouts or occasional meals that they’re allowed to give us.”
On receiver corps stepping up on third down: “They [RCB, Riley Lees, Kyric McGowan] are all explosive and experienced playmakers. Any of them can step up at any moment and make a big play. I’m glad to be their teammate.”
On adjusting to the Big Ten: “Football’s football at the end of the day. It’s definitely a higher level of ball, a tougher league, but I feel used to it.”
On differences between NU and FAU: “It’s a different place. I was in South Florida and now in Chicago. It’s night and day in terms of the places. The people are great both here and there, and we’re winning football games, so it’s a lot of fun.”
On scoring his first touchdown for Northwestern: “It was awesome. They doubled Joe Spivak, as they should, and Peyton gave me a chance and I came down with it. It was a good play.”