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Indiana State game week press conference notes

“Fundamentals,” said Adetomiwa Adebawore.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Fitzgerald

Opening statement:

“Good morning, and Happy Labor Day to everybody. Obviously, a special week coming up here in Evanston. I think not only for us, for recognizing our heroes, but more importantly, throughout our country. It’s unbelievable, but the 20-year tragic anniversary of 9/11 and playing on that day. I’ll be visiting with our guys about that this week, and obviously, [it] takes me back to that day. As an assistant, we’re back in the Nicolette football center and, [we] want to lift up all the families that lost their lives that day, not only that were in the towers, but also the first responders and all those that tried to save our great Americans that perished that day and get people out of the tower. So, you know, it’s a heavy hearted week, I think for our entire country and one that I’ll definitely visit with our guys about, but look forward to honoring our heroes as our guests on Saturday and in several local ones during the game.”

“Looking back to players of the week, Peter Skoronski was our Offensive Player of the Week, you know, [he] played another spectacular game. We had no Defensive Player of the Week. Our big playmaker of the weekend on offense is Trey Pugh, getting two big touchdown receptions, really proud of Trey, and there was no big playmaker on defense. For practice players of the week, they were Calvin Johnson, Trent Carrington, Mac Uihlein. And then special teams wise, our player of the week was Troy Hudetz. Troy starts on three teams, we made some adjustments in-game, [and] he did a really good job of getting that done. He’s been a mainstay on our special teams throughout his career, really proud of the job he’s doing as an older guy here in our program.”

“You look at the tape and [there’s] a lot of opportunity for improvement. And that’s what our focus was on today, and will be throughout this week. [This] group of guys have a ton of pride and understand the standard and expectations that we have here and that we didn’t live up to that. And as poor as the outcome was, we still had plenty of opportunities to seize momentum and get right back in that game, and credit the Spartans, we weren’t able to do it. We weren’t able to capitalize on it, and they were, so moving on and getting ready to play an Indiana State team that comes off a win against Eastern Illinois a couple of weeks ago and had a bye to prepare for us. And then, you know, [they] didn’t play last year. So you got to go back and look at 2019 tape along with last week. So be a huge challenge for our staff and for our guys to get ready, but I know they’ll be excited to get back on the field tomorrow for practice and fix the things that we need to get fixed in a hurry.”

On the 9/11 attacks: “What I remember is being in a staff meeting and an assistant came in and interrupted our meeting to say that there was an accident, that a plane accidentally crashed into the towers. We kind of adjourned that meeting and we all went to our offices and it just didn’t seem right, something just didn’t pass that test. Then, obviously, everything unfolded live on TV, we had player’s families that were in and around the towers, I had a family member that worked right across the street. I think it’s one of those days that I think everyone will always remember where they were, what they though and who was impacted that touched their lives. You know, I think about how spoiled and privileged I am, I’m a football coach just coaching ball and thinking about my family. This week we make sure to remember those that we lost and those that you know when tragedy hit, they didn’t run from it, they ran to it, and that type of resolve and respond is what our country has been built on.”

On the play of Bryce Kirtz and Hunter Johnson: “First off, I’m really proud of Hunter. He’s been through a lot and I thought he had a great offseason. I think he’s worked his tail off to put himself in position to be our starter and gave us in a lot of ways an opportunity to win [on Friday]. We had more explosive pass plays on Friday night than we did all of last year, so that’s incredibly encouraging. Obviously, the chemistry that he and Bryce have going back to Brownsburg, that’s pretty cool. I thought Bryce played really well in the passing game. He and Steph [Robinson Jr.] I thought played very well in the passing game, but they’ve got room for improvement too in other areas. I know they’ll be focused on it, both of those guys are explosive and we’ve got to find ways to get the ball in their hands. Hopefully Friday night was just a small indication of where we’re going to be able to go offensively.”

On slow starts plaguing the team: “Every game has its own DNA, right? Friday night, on the opening play, we miss a tackle, we have an MA at the Will linebacker, you’ve got three guys make a mistake at the point of attack that leads to an explosive play. Credit Sparty, they were able to take advantage for a touchdown. we just didn’t seem to be able to capitalize or gain and momentum. You get in the redzone and you’re only putting up points on the board 50% of the time, and then you flip it over, we’ve been one of the best redzone defenses around for a number of years, and to let them score every time down there is definitely something we will work our tails off to improve and fix. ”

On Trey Pugh’s performance: “Trey’s been through a lot. To see him be able to go out and have some success, I think the only people that are more happy for him than I am personally is his family. I mentioned at our squad meeting here today that it’s that kind of perseverance and response that, in my time, has been kind of one of the fixtures of our program. I’m really proud of Trey. Same thing with Evan [Hull], he was banged up for most of training camp, and the way he went out and performed Friday night was awesome. I’m really proud of Evan and the job that he did, and I already mentioned Hunter. We have a lot to build on.”

On the running backs: “I think everyone will have a role. It’s no question, I thought Evan played really well on Friday night. His 40+ [yard] run was our third 40+ [yard] play of the game, which is not easy to do in a Big Ten football game. We’ll see how the game goes and the ebb and the flow, but at the end of the day, I think Evan’s earned that. As we came into last week we anticipated him being the starter, but he still wasn’t able to get close to 100 percent. He’s much closer today than he was this time last week, so that’s encouraging.”

On the lack of a Defensive Player or Playmaker of the Week: “I think some did [some good things] individually, but you can’t give up that kind of yard total and point total. That’s not up to our standard, by any stretch of the imagination. I think if the coaches would’ve put anybody up for player of the game, I think that player would’ve said ‘no thank you, I don’t deserve it.’ That’s the standard and expectations here. We’ll get back to that, we’ll get back to that in a hurry. Sometimes you get humbled, and when you do, it’s your task to get your mind right and get those things fixed, and I have great confidence that they will.”

On staying focused and not overlooking Indiana State: “I'd pop on the tape from Friday night, I think we got plenty to fix. It won’t be hard for us to stay focused. And every week, when we focus on ourselves and taken care of what we can control, we’ve typically won games. When we make mistakes and we gift-wrap things for opponents, it makes it really difficult to beat two teams. So our focus, trust me, is on us and us getting better, right now.”

Adetomiwa Adebawore

Adebawore said approximately 46 words total during his press conference appearance today, and all three of his answers included the need for the team to be better at both tackling and their overall fundamentals, but not much else. Thus, No. 99 shall now be known as “The Big Fundamental” from this point forward.

Bryce Kirtz

On his performance and Hunter’s performance:

“I felt like [Johnson] did a really good job controlling the offense. He kept his cool out there when things weren’t necessarily going our way... as far as my performance, with Hunter, I kinda expected it, just because in practice we’ve clicked. We played together in high school, so that was also a big factor... overall, I though we played good. There’s things we need to clean up... once we clean those things up, I think we can have an even more explosive offense.”

On playing with Hunter in high school:

“My freshman year, which was in 2016, I did not play varsity, but my sophomore year I did play varsity and Hunter was my quarterback. That was my first year playing varsity, so that was kinda new to me. Hunter helped me adjust to that, he made me feel way more comfortable out there, just telling me, ‘you got it,’ giving me confidence out there. The best memory I have with Hunter is him teaching me how to play football out there at the higher level, and now, here in college.”

On wide receivers that have mentored him:

“I would definitely say Ramaud [Chiaokhiao-Bowman] and Kyric [McGowan] ... they definitely kinda helped me adjust... my freshman year, I didn’t really know what was going on in the offense, and Ramaud would just help me out on the field. We would meet after practice and go over the playbook or the script... really just taught me how to get open, how to use my leverage against DBs, they both really helped me with that transition.”

On his familiarity with Indiana State:

“When my brother was getting recruited, he actually was recruited by them, so I went to a couple games... my Dad actually went to Indiana State. He ran track there his junior and senior year, so he’s looking forward to this game... So I have some familiarity with them, but not much.”

On his preparation this past summer:

“I really just watched film... I talked to the guys that graduated to ask them ‘what do I need to do to prepare and be that guy,’ and they gave me some great help there. I know Riley [Lees] would always come back, and then I’d always talk to Ramaud and Kyric on the phone.”

On Trey Pugh’s performance:

“I was really happy for him, just ‘cause he has dealt with a lot... I’ve seen his frustration when he has been injured... Seeing him score those two touchdowns, it definitely made me happy, and I’m sure it made him even happier.”

On Stephon Robinson Jr.:

“He definitely brings experience... he helps us win with leverage, just attacking the ball... He also brings a lot of speed to the room, as well. We both have the ability to take the top off of the defense.”