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September 30, 2017

Paul Chryst

Madison, Wisconsin

Northwestern - 24, Wisconsin - 32

THE MODERATOR: We will get started with opening comments from Coach.

PAUL CHRYST: Obviously it was good to win today and it took a lot of effort by our players and coaches and proud of the way they kept playing all day.

Certainly, you know, we knew who we were going to play against, and thought it is a good Northwestern team and well coached, and we knew it was going to be a hard one, and yet I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in this one, and a lot of 'em are -- it goes back to giving yourself your best chance and starts with protecting the football and certainly the take-aways. Natrell has a big, big play on his take-away, and it's executing.

I thought it was a great example, too, of how football is a team game, and it takes everyone. I thought this was one of those games of field position, and I thought that we had better field position and took advantage of it in the second half and able to get some points.

Really proud of the way the guys played and fought together and found a way to win. Obviously a big play, you know, guys like Dakota, that last play on the safety. There's a lot of -- a lot of guys put it out there, and I think there are many areas that we can get better in, need to get better.

Q. I know it's hard to come off a bye week of practice but I thought you said Thursday your guys practiced well during the week. You've been around a long time. How do you explain not protecting the ball and be not executing in the first half?
PAUL CHRYST: It's too easy to say it's off the bye. It comes down to good football and executing, and we knew this was going to be the best team that we've played to this point. Certainly still believe that. But we just -- it's the fundamentals. It's the little things. What's empowering is those are the things that we can control.

Defensively, I thought there was a lot of moments we played really well, but we've got to run our feet and do a better job of -- too many missed tackles in key situations.

Offensively, you have to protect the football, whether it's the ball carrier or the quarterback. So I think, you know, we've just got to continue to work and improve. Yet all those things happened, and that's part of it, and it's how you respond, and that's what I was proud of, the way the guys continued to play and respond and come together. Knew it would take everyone.

Q. How did the game plan or the approach change offensively with Troy out today?
PAUL CHRYST: It wasn't for sure until last night that we knew Troy probably wouldn't play. He had been practicing through the week, obviously not a ton, so there was an idea -- we weren't sure, he was maybe going to go or maybe wasn't going to go, so we had the opportunity to work on a lot of things without Troy as well, you know, in practice, as well. I give credit to really the other tight ends and the full backs. It didn't change once we knew -- certainly we like it when Troy plays, and he's a really good football player, but as far as what we were going to do didn't change as much as maybe people would have thought.

Q. Is this a short-term thing for Troy? One week or do you know yet?
PAUL CHRYST: You never know for sure but we truly thought he had a good chance to maybe play today. I don't think he was setback any from what he was doing, so it will be a day-to-day.

Q. Anything you can pinpoint about why this team appears to play so much better in the second half, at least in three of the four games this year?
PAUL CHRYST: I don't know for sure. I think a lot of it, though, is I don't think anything is that simple. It's what are teams doing and the situations that you're put in. It's hard, you know, first play we turn the ball over on a short field, does that happen every game -- every game is not the same, so you can't say, well, this happened and this is who we are.

I think that our guys certainly understand -- I felt like they were ready to play, but you still have to execute. I think that's what the game is all about, and I think there was moments when we didn't.

Q. What about the defense in the first half. You weren't executing, yet the defense kept gelling off the field with get-off-the-field plays.
PAUL CHRYST: They did, and certainly part of the credit goes to Northwestern, and you can't take that away. I know they scored in the last two drives, but I thought our defense did really well and kept us in the game, gave us a chance. I thought they did a tremendous job on the pass rush, we did a good job of mixing it up, and I thought it was a good plan, and most importantly I thought the kids understood the plan.

I thought the defense gave us a chance and was proud particularly in the second half where the offense was able to finish some of those drives and take advantage -- I thought we were playing complementary football at that time, with the special teams. Anthony had a couple of big punts and all that. You need it, and every game in the Big Ten we're going to need every one.

Like I said, like every game there is things that we did well that we've got to build upon and there is plenty of areas where we've got to grow and get better.

Q. Paul, you mentioned the pass rush. It looks like Thorson doesn't mind holding onto the ball as long as he possibly can. Did you anticipate you could get to him more than you had in previous games against teams?
PAUL CHRYST: He's a really good quarterback, so we thought there might be some opportunities where I think earlier, couple games, I felt like the ball was really out fast. It's also going to force us to cover longer, and you saw some of the DBs step up and make some big plays, and like I said I thought -- a number of different guys did a nice job of putting pressure on their quarterback.

Q. What's the difference between what you saw in Alex between the first and second half?
PAUL CHRYST: I think early I thought we were in some of those situations that, you know, you just never felt like -- we didn't help him, and he didn't get himself into a rhythm. He found himself into a little bit of a rhythm, and we've got to continue to help him.

I like the way that he plays the game. He takes it one play at a time, and I've said this every game about him, I thought there were areas that were really good and he's got to continue to build upon, and we're going to look at this film and it will give us some learning moments and he'll do that. That's what I appreciate from him.

It was one of those games. It's a good defense and you're not always going to be in rhythm, and you've gotta learn how to play that way, too. Football is a good game that way.

Q. Paul, Garret Dooley finished with four sacks on this game. What can a performance like this do for him this season?
PAUL CHRYST: I think you've got to take anything positive and you've got to build on it. There is no guarantee that it's going to happen again, but you've done it. Now you've just got to build upon it. I think Dools is a good football player, and I think he thinks he's a good football player, so he's got confidence, and he's just got to build on it.

And, you know, I bet you go back and look at that film, there is not one play that just one guy does. It takes all 11, and I think that's what I think our team understands and when one person or one side is struggling, we've got to continue to work on how can we pick up that guy or that -- a lot of those sacks there was a good rush from a number of guys, and maybe it turns it one way or the other, but it was fun to see Dools have that, and it's always good to get the production. You appreciate that.

Q. The two interceptions Alex threw it looked like he was giving his guys a chance to go a 50/50 ball. Were you okay with those decisions or did he need to put the ball in a better place on those plays?
PAUL CHRYST: I'll have to see it again. I know what he was thinking on it, and I think the biggest part of quarterbacking is that you've got to trust what you see, and then you've got to pull the trigger and make it happen.

If there is any doubt, then you've got to move on. I don't know. I thought one he didn't necessarily stripe it. And so was he thinking -- I know what he was thinking on the deep one down, I think it was to Kyle, and saw that, so, you know, those are learning moments for him.

Q. Paul, have you paid much attention to the turmoil at Nebraska and how that might impact you guys' trip there to the game next week?
PAUL CHRYST: Obviously I know what happened, and what's nice about being in the season is you focus on your team, and then you get to focus on the opponent of the week. So certainly I'm going to enjoy and appreciate what the guys did today, and then tomorrow morning early start on Nebraska. I don't know if that's answering it.

Q. (Away from mic.)
PAUL CHRYST: Good. (Laughter.)

Q. Paul, obviously the three games before this they were comfortable leads for your team by the time the fourth quarter came. How important is it that your team was able to finish out a close one today?
PAUL CHRYST: I think it's always important to make the most of the day. It comes in all different fashions when you play this game. Proud of the way the guys played. Are there things that we've got to get better at, absolutely, and you know what, this group will work on those. Each day is different, and that's what's fun about this game.

Q. What do you attribute the last five minutes to? Do you feel like your guys relaxed after the pick six?
PAUL CHRYST: No, I don't think the guys relaxed. I think it goes back to complementary football. They're a good football team, and they made some plays, and that's when it's a great opportunity for the offense now to pick it up. The way that the -- the on-side, the deep one, you know, you've got a long field, a lot of things come into this thing but absolutely I don't think there was one bit of relaxing at all, no.

Q. You've seen Jamerson come on a little bit but how important is his versatility, not only what he can do in the back end, run support, but special teams, on that punt, the one you downed at the two there?
PAUL CHRYST: You're seeing it. Natrell brings so much to this team and has been doing it for a while now. Two years ago he was our special teams player of the year. What you appreciate from him is that now that he's in a starting role, what he thinks about and how he approaches the special teams is every bit as important as it was when he was first breaking in, playing, and as you know, we're going to need all the guys.

There are good examples of players like Trell that will do anything for this team. And you get into games -- we're going to have a lot more close games -- that we're going to need plays such as that. Doesn't matter how it comes, what unit it comes on, we're going to need everyone.

Q. Justin Jackson had less than three yards a carry. How did you get that done, especially since you play a lot of nickel, and how important was it?
PAUL CHRYST: I thought it was really important. Going into the game, probably not different than any other time you play football, you want to be able to take away the run. We were -- certainly had a lot of respect for Northwestern, with the quarterback and the running back, they can really spread you out and hurt you in a number of ways. I thought guys -- I thought it was a good plan and guys played well, got off the blocks and rallied it when you needed it, whether it's the backers or the safeties, were fitting it. It was fun to watch a lot of it. We have a lot of respect for him as a back and knew it was going to be a challenge.

Q. You guys faced a third and three fake to James. Is that a field call or that you see something, when you go for something like that, a big hit when you're down like that?
PAUL CHRYST: It's -- I suppose it's a little bit of that. (Laughter.) The one that's second guessed if it doesn't work.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else?

PAUL CHRYST: No, I'm good. Thanks! (Laughter.)

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