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    Postgame Quotes: Minnesota 20, Northwestern 17

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 19, 2013

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    Northwestern vs. Minnesota
    Ryan Field
    October 19, 2013
    Postgame Quotes

    Northwestern Postgame Quotes
    Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald

    Opening Statement...
    "I appreciate everybody being here. Thanks again to our students for being supportive, can't thank them enough. Disappointed obviously in the outcome of the game. I thought the guys came back, responded pretty well. I though they had better emotion, better passion in the game, but you can't turn the ball over three times and expect to win many football games.

    "But I thought our defense rose to the occasion. They gave us an opportunity to win the game, they went out there and got stops. I thought we had two opportunities to get turnovers, one with the first fumble caused on the punt return which we didn't get and that obviously makes a huge difference in a game like that. So I'm proud of the way the defense fought. We've got to continue to look at the things schematically on offense to give our guys the best chance to succeed. Seven games into the season now and to see where we're making mistakes and things of that nature, we've got to look first at the scheme and make sure we're asking our guys to do the things that they can do so they can execute cleaner and do the things that winners do. That's not what we're doing right now."

    On if he ever considered replacing QB Trevor Siemian...
    "No."

    On how the offense changes without QB Kain Colter...
    "He's a dynamic playmaker and not to have that weapon hurts. But you're right. No excuses. Guys have to pick up the flag and make the plays that winners make and we just can't turn the ball over like that and expect to win a lot of football games. The football gods upstairs aren't going to let you do that. It's disappointing. We've been pretty solid in the turnover ratio throughout the last handful of years and to not be able to do that today is pretty disappointing."

    On how he sees his team today compared to two weeks ago...
    "I see a team that's not executing very well right now. I see a team that, from a coaching standpoint, we've got to look at what our guys are doing successfully and continue to build packages off of that to give them a chance to be consistent. And we've got to stay together. We've been pretty explosive offensively. There were some inopportune drops. There were some decisions and choices with the ball. All we've got to do is make smart decisions and choices and we win a football game. Not to see us do that, you've got to put that first and foremost on the shoulders of the coaches. We'll look at it first and present a plan for the guys for next week."

    On his decision to go for it on 4th-and-three late in the game instead of kicking a field goal...
    "I really feel like we needed to get a touchdown and get momentum. I think I went for it a bunch of times on fourth down, so we needed a touchdown. A field goal makes it a one-score game, I hear you, but we needed a touchdown and I thought that was the right thing to do, so that's why I did it. And kudos to the kids, they went out and got it done."

    On Stephen Buckley's performance today...
    "We've seen it for a while now, he's been coming on and I thought he stepped up pretty strong today. I thought he played pretty well. So, we'll determine his future roles as he moves forward but really proud of the way he played today, really proud."

    On refocusing the team after three straight losses...
    "Well I'd say if we were playing great and losing, that'd be tough. It's not like we're playing great. So, there's a lot of room for improvement and that's what we need to embrace. We need to embrace coming back next week and getting better at the things that winners do, first and foremost, taking care of the football. Number two, when you're supposed to be in a gap, be in the gap and do your job. And that's everybody. That's coaches, that's the staff, it's the players, it's everybody and we just need to stick together. And that's what I fully expect these guys to do, they'll stick together, they'll come back next week and have a tough road test. These guys are winners. They've won a lot of games. There's no confidence that's down in that room. It's just a lot of disappointment of not doing a good enough job as a program to win. So, what do you do? You get off the mat and you keep swinging. That's what you do."

    Northwestern Player Quotes
    LB Collin Ellis

    On what's happened since the Ohio State game...
    "We just have to play better. That's what it comes down to. We played well against Ohio State; we didn't play well today. That's pretty much how it is. The energy level at Wisconsin was lower than it obviously was at Ohio State, but I feel we regained our energy level and our focus for this game. It just comes down to execution and we didn't do that. That's what happened at Wisconsin, as well. It comes back down to getting lined up in the right places."

    On the mood in the locker room...
    "We have to play better. We know we're a good football team, a really, really good football team. We have athletes, we have some guys and we just have to play better. That's all that is, in all phases. Right now there's a bad taste in our mouth; everyone is upset. As hard as we practiced last week, we have to practice that much harder this week."

    WR Christian Jones

    On scoring that late touchdown...
    "We definitely felt like we would, kind of, bounce back the momentum in our way. Our defense was making stops the whole game and we finally started to pick it up and score a touchdown, so I felt like the whole mood on the sideline changed and the team came together and saw that we can actually pull this thing off."

    On mistakes made by players...
    "Mistakes were made with the team. A lot of the guys made mistakes. I made mistakes, I know I made mistakes myself. A lot of the guys came and picked it up around me and that's the thing with the team: somebody makes a mistake, everyone else has to pick it up around them. I couldn't tell you who made mistakes. I was just focused on myself and trying to make sure I didn't mess anything up."

    On continuing from here...
    "Fitz has talked to us the same way he has when we've won games. He's been highly motivated and focused on the next week. Nothing's really changed. We know we're going to bounce back and we know we have to win the next week. We always focus on being 1-0. So yes, we lost this week, but we focus on going undefeated the next week."

    Minnesota Quotes
    Acting Head Coach Tracy Claeys

    Opening statement...
    "You know I thought our kids were ready to play. They came out and played hard. They made some plays to stay in the game there in the first half and I thought in the second half we got a little bit better rhythm on offense. We moved the ball. We still need to score more points, we know that, but defensively for the first time we've been able to go on the road in the Big Ten and perform well and win the game. I told the offensive line with about five minutes to go that, `Hey, we're going to get the ball back for one series and let's run the clock out,' and I think that they did a hell of a job in the fourth quarter up front. We got the ball back and they did just that; they didn't give them the ball. So I'm very proud of our kids and I'm looking forward to getting back and starting tomorrow preparing for Nebraska."

    On how big this win was...
    "That was a big road win for us last year at Illinois for where we were at the time that made us bowl eligible, but I would tell you for what our kids have been through and everything this year and for Coach [Kill] to make that drive to be here and watch the game it's pretty special, to have him in the locker room afterwards too, for everything we've been through."

    On switching quarterbacks...
    "I said all week we were going to play Phillip for a series and we were in decent field position so it made sense to get him a series and get him in there. So that was kind of the plan and then the second half we put Mitch back in there and then Phillip got another series. I told the guys, `You know I'd really like for Phillip to get another series in the second half just in case.' When we put Phillip in the second time he just seemed like he moved the ball a little bit more. The later it got in the game, the experience part I think is important. Phillip has been in that situation. I think it's important to have somebody in those situations when you are managing the clock and trying to run the clock out."

    On intercepting for a touchdown...
    "We've been playing a lot of man and we tried to show a man look again. He read the blitz and it just so happened we were playing man instead of zone and so he []

    On the seniors making the big plays...
    "Experience means so much to our football team and to our players. So when you've got guys that have made catches before, have made throws before, I mean that was a rocket now, not the rocket, but that was a rocket that last touchdown pass by (Kirk) Cousins to B.J. Cunningham. That was on a rope, with pressure in his face, and he stepped up and delivered. That was an NFL throw but that's him. He responded. Our guys, we have great leadership at the ground level and I continue to say that and maybe that's because we work at it so hard. Our seniors lead, our older players with experience, they not only make plays, but they lead. You see how valuable Keyshawn Martin and B.J. are and Brian Linthicum made a big catch today, so guys were hurt and knicked up and somebody else played for them."

    On the defense's performance against Northwestern...<
    "Well, we're not trying to let them get the yardage but Siemian's a quality quarterback that can move around in the pocket. When we do have him covered, he can get out of problems. We did manage to sack him, especially I think in the second half, but he's got some good receivers. Without watching the game film, you know things are happening so rapidly at times, it's hard to recall everything, but they are very well tied together schematically, like I say every week and the same thing on defense. They do a great job, they work extremely hard, they'll be going to a bowl game. They were on a four-game win streak and I think they had a lot of momentum. But we wanted to play like big boys today and we came and played."

    Minnesota Player Quotes

    QB Philip Nelson
    On whether he expected to play as much as he did...
    "It was a little bit of a surprise, to be honest. All I can really control is preparing myself, and that's the way the week went for me."

    On his surprise at seeing coach during halftime...
    "I didn't expect him to travel here after we saw him yesterday. It was a good boost to see him, and it was good to see him upright."

    On what coach said to the players...
    "He said that we need to be able to fight through everything, and that he loves us and he's so proud of us. He gave us the little edge that we needed."

    On his mindset going in on the first series...
    "Move the ball, play like I know how to play, and do my best to lead the team down the field."

    WR Derrick Engel

    On playing with two different quarterbacks...
    "I think I got a good connection with both quarterbacks. I was at just a few more catches from Phil this year, but they both do well in practice, and they both got a lot of different throws. I thought Phil played well today and so did Mitch. We did what we had to do to get the win."

    On winning against Northwestern...
    "It was definitely a big win on the road, though I don't know how to compare it to other wins. I know Illinois, last year, was big because it got us to a bowl game. If you can go on the road in the Big Ten and beat a team like Northwestern - who was ranked 15th just two weeks ago -- that's big for us and big for our confidence. We're happy with the result and we're ready to move forward and keep grinding."

    LB James Manuel

    On what sparked his INT and return for touchdown...
    "In the play before, they ran above the string to the other sideline and then I was on the other side. My coach said I was a little bit too far inside so the next play, I said "forget it" because every time, when they had three receivers on one side, they threw above the string with No. 6 lined up as the third receiver. I said I would just get outside a little farther than I would normally. They threw the slant underneath and I was happy to be right there to make the play."

    On the spark in the second half...
    "I think it's coach. Just seeing him and knowing that we're going out there and playing for him is a big spark. It's all the spark that we need."