Northwestern football players Clayton Thorson, Tommy Doles, and Paddy Fisher took part in Monday’s Big Ten Championship Game players teleconference. They answered question about their teammates, the season they have had, and also playing in the Big Ten Championship Game this coming Saturday. Here are the highlights.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson
+ Through 12 games, they’ve won the West Division, so they’re very excited to play in the Big Ten Championship Game.
+ Ohio State was good enough to beat Michigan, so this is going to be a very big test.
+ The 2016 game was a close one against Ohio State. “We couldn’t finish the job.” “We felt like we had a chance there to win.” It was disappointing but it gave them confidence.
+ OSU is very talented all over on defense. It starts up front with the defensive line. The linebackers are solid and the DBs make plays on the ball. There is a lot of speed as well.
+ They always search for advantages on offense, but the OSU defense is pretty talented. NU will have to play their game and see where they can attack them during the game. There are not a lot of wholes on defense. They are consistent players on defense and do their jobs well.
+ He’s not sure why OSU’s defense has struggled at times, but when they need to make plays, they’re able to turn it on. “They make plays down the stretch.” It is surprising to see teams throw points on them at times, but they respect the talent the Buckeyes have.
+ Unlike his head coach, Thorson didn’t watch any Ohio State film until Saturday night.
+ This has been a great journey throughout his career. He is thinking about the guys who have graduated and won’t be taking part in the Big Ten Championship Game. This is a great way to finish off his season and career.
+ Asked to describe the offensive approach for Northwestern, Thorson said early on they focused on being balanced. They drifted away from the run but have returned to it of late. The pass game is really efficient right now.
+ Fitzgerald’s message this week has been “do what we do.” The reason they’ve won games is because they are who they are. They just need to be themselves on Saturday.
+ It’s very satisfying to get to the championship game after a 1-3 start, but the more satisfying thing will be to win it. They’re not happy just to get to the game.
Guard Tommy Doles
+ There is a real brotherhood on this team. They play for each other and this is a great opportunity to showcase who they are as a program.
+ The OSU defensive line is an extremely athletic group. “There’s no one that you can fall asleep on.” They have to rely on their fundamentals when combating Ohio State. “Just doing what we do, and doing it well.”
+ What got the running game back on track? Give credit to the coaches for finding the right schemes to fit their strengths as blockers and running. Also, it was about living up to what they know they are capable of.
+ The leadership group wasn’t trying to ignore the fact that they had a Big Ten Championship Game, but they still had work to do and a game against their rivals to win. They wanted to sweep their division. They decided to take on the role of a championship team and didn’t want to look past anybody.
+ There is a lot of gratitude for making it this far as a group of seniors. “It’s something that we’ve been working towards and it’s pretty cool when something you’ve been working toward for five years is right in front of you.” It’s very exciting.
+ The losses to Akron and Notre Dame were character-building days for this program. They knew they weren’t living up to what they know they can do, so they went about getting back to work to be the team that they know they are.
Linebacker Paddy Fisher
+ “I’m excited to play on Saturday.”
+ Ohio State’s offense is a challenge because they are talented, explosive, and dynamic. They will have to be sharp in their fundamentals. They will need to tackle well and take the ball away from the Buckeyes.
+ It is tough to prepare for an offense like Ohio State because you can’t replicate it on the scout team. It will be important to know the game plan inside and out, as well as knowing the Buckeyes’ tendencies “inside and out.”
+ How do you stop Dwayne Haskins? “Hopefully our defensive coordinator is going to come up with a way to stop him.” “He can sling the rock like no other.”
+ The team knows Haskins can hurt them with his arm and his legs.
+ It’s been great to see the Northwestern program grow and the culture change.
+ What makes Fitzgerald special is willing to offer anything he has to help the program and players, and he expects the same out of his players. “He really sets the bar.”
+ The team’s approach the last two weeks with the division won was to continue doing what they’ve done to get to this point. They didn’t want to change anything.