A trio of Northwestern athletes met with the media following the Wildcats' 24-0 win over the Indiana State Sycamores Saturday afternoon. This is what S Brandon Joseph, DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, and RB Evan Hull had to say about the game.
Safety Brandon Joseph
On if he has experience with punt returns given his standout performance on special teams:
"I did it back in high school, I had a few punt returns my senior year. Since then, I hadn't, but during fall camp, we realized that this was going to be a new role after losing Riley [Lees] last year, so someone was going to have to step up and I was I was ready to do that."
On communication within the Wildcat defense:
"It's something [defensive coordinator JimO'Neill] preaches; communication is one of the main things. Whether we're right or wrong, if everyone is on the same page, we'll be alright. So there was a huge emphasis on that this week in practice, and then we were able to go out and do it in the game. Communication was much better this week than it was Week 1...We're just being loud and making sure everyone's talking out there. You can't just know the call and be in your own zone -- I have to make sure my cornerbacks here it, I have to make sure my linebackers hear it. We all have to be talking to each other out there to be on the same page."
On what he expects to focus on this week in preparation for Duke:
"It's going be stop the running game. You saw what Michigan State did to us last week, and teams are going to see that on film and want to attack it, so we have to keep the emphasis on stopping the run. We're Big Ten football, and we realize how big that is. And then on the back end, defending the deep shots. Once we solve those two things, we'll be alright. So keeping an emphasis on the run and no deep balls -- those are our defensive goals."
On if he will ask for more opportunities on special teams:
"It's whatever the coaches tell me. I'm going to be back there catching them in practice so that whenever they call my name, I'll be ready to go out there. [Raymond Niro III] had a few good returns, and he was making people miss, too, so wouldn't be surprised if they put him back there. But whoever they decide to put back there, I'll be ready."
On how the defense's tackling improved from last week:
"It was much better. That was something that we had an emphasis on in practice, and for us to be able to come back out this week and, like I said, have that emphasis on stopping the run, we had to tackle better. I'm not sure how many rushing yards they had, but tackling was much better for me and for the rest of the team. [Head coach Pat Fitzgerald] came to us early on and said that we were reaching for them, putting our hands out there. We have to make sure that we keep doing the techniques that we're coached to do to be great tacklers."
DL Adetomiwa Adebawore
On the defense's focus on fundamentals:
"That's what we talked about in practice all week -- as a defensive lineman, using your hands, running your feet, transitioning, and just shedding off blocks to make the tackle. We heavily emphasized that this week in practice."
On how the team's performance against the Sycamores boosts the defense's confidence:
"It was definitely good, but I feel like we still have stuff to work on. Same thing, back to those fundamentals and tackling. We just have to do better in those simple parts of the game."
On the defense's improved communication:
"We as a collective have just emphasized the communication at practice, making sure everybody knows what's going on, not just yourself."
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RB Evan Hull
On opportunities to establish the Wildcat run game against the Sycamore defense:
"One big thing is we noticed they played a three-down front, so right off the bat, we thought that inside zone and outside zone were going to be our bread and butter plays coming into the game, and it ended up happening in that way. But as you get into the game, it's always going to be something different, and we made our adjustments as we went along."
On the challenges of preparing for a team that did not play a 2020 season due to the pandemic:
"It was a challenge, honestly. We were looking through the archives trying to find things that would help us just gain an edge. We put a lot of our stock into the last game that they played against Eastern Illinois to get an idea of how they were going to play."
On the Wildcats' offensive struggles in the second half:
"I would say Indiana State definitely started to buckle down [in the second half]; they pressured a lot. But I think just getting back to what we do, fundamentally, is where we need to be better, as far as the details and just knowing our assignment. We just kind of lost momentum for a bit there, but we got it back and we were able to finish strong."
On the importance of the team building confidence week over week:
"It's everything, because as far as the run game goes, we're going to be running basically the same things pretty much every week. It comes down to the fundamentals and just knowing your keys and knowing your reads, so building momentum and building that drive going into each and every week is really important."
On how his confidence has changed from fall camp to today:
"Well I know what 20 carries feels like now, so I'm definitely more confident just knowing my assignment and knowing what to do out there. It's definitely a big jump from last year. I'm able to be a catalyst for this offense for the first time."
On if he'll continue to be a key player on the Wildcat offense:
"I believe so. It's up to the coaches, honestly, but I'm just going to keep doing my thing out there and make the most of every opportunity that I get."
On how the defense's performance motivated the offense:
"It's very motivating for the offense, especially when they give us so many short fields. When we come into the huddle and we got that momentum going already, it's so important to capitalize on it. Sometimes we didn't really get it, but that'll be one thing that we try to buckle down on coming into next week."
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