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December 29, 2017

Matt Alviti

Pat Fitzgerald

Justin Jackson

Kyle Queiro

Nashville, Tennessee

Northwestern - 24, Kentucky - 23

PAT FITZGERALD: We're a young football team. We saw a lot of that on display today, a lot of that. A lot of young guys stepped up. That's exciting for the future, to say the least. We had to have guys step up. I mean, it's unbelievable we're here, I spoke too long, but he was one of our best players, Nate Hall to a non-contact injury two and a half weeks ago. Warren Long goes out there, plays his rear-end off today, just like Matty did, just like Foxy did. There is Warren getting his last game, first college start, at a position he didn't come here to play. I thought he was all over the field. I'm incredibly proud of Warren.

Q. Teams talk about togetherness, next man up. What makes your team's brotherhood so special and so strong?
PAT FITZGERALD: I think it starts and ends with recruiting the right young men from the right families. They come together and they own the culture of our locker room. We'll bring guys on unofficial visits, and our guys, it's very rare, but they'll say, I'm not sure he's the right guy for us. More times than not, we're right as a coaching staff. Occasionally that type of ownership creates a brotherhood. Any brotherhood cannot be broken. It's owned by our young men.

I'm incredibly honored and privileged to be their coach. I think it showed when we got our first competition down here. I mean, we went to the Wild Horse Saloon to win. We went there to win. We had the worst song picked for karaoke. We knew that might be an issue as coaches. Our song writers did awesome. Jesse and the guys did a great job winning the hot chicken contest. That was win number one, we weren't going out of here without being champions.

Before I go, it was great to compete against Kentucky, and their coaching staff is first class. That was a heck of a battle. Those guys are going to be friends of ours as we move forward because of the competition, but more importantly because of the camaraderie.

Q. Justin, talk about the running game.
JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, obviously Clayton was big. Matt stepped in and did a great job. I think he ran the ball well. So did Lark, obviously. I saw that. We knew it was going to be largely on the running game. But we've been there before. So we kind of just channeled that energy.

Q. Talk about your pick-six, then when Kentucky went for two on that final play.
MATT ALVITI: I'm not sure if you guys noticed, but a lot of the times, maybe 30 percent over the course of their season, they go unbalanced, do shifts, have wildcat quarterbacks. That play we actually made a mistake, to be honest. We thought there was an unbalanced formation. They shifted. I got one-on-one with the tight end. I was fortunate to just anticipate what he was running.

I guess I tiptoed down the sideline, just kind of overwhelmed by emotion at that point. I don't know, I had a feeling that was going to happen, and it did, so...

The goal line play, I really didn't do anything. Like we were anticipating, their number two and number three receiver were pretty close together. They were going to try to rub each other off to create some separation. We staggered ourselves so that wouldn't be an issue, and it wasn't. Fortunately they threw the ball I believe to Marcus' guy, but Godwin was able to come back off of his man and also get a piece of that. It was a great play.

Q. (No microphone.)
KYLE QUEIRO: I don't even know what to say. Like coach said, it's been a long five years. Yet it's all worth it, thanks to guys like this. That's why you stay. You stay for the university, but you stay for your brothers. Something we built four or five years ago. I got my roommate over there. We're lucky to have him, ride his back. He took us to victory today.

Q. Matt, what will you remember most?
MATT ALVITI: Yeah, you know, I think the thing I'll remember most is when guys were coming up to me, all of my players, all of our players, all of my brothers, saying, You got this, we believe in you, just the support I got from the staff and the coaches and the players.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAT FITZGERALD: Shall I share the joke, I was saying? Early in the year, we'd be in practice. I'd tell Justin, You better get a lot of yards, he's coming for you (laughter).

You know, I think we've got a great group of guys coming back. You can't replace Justin. He's an irreplaceable player. We have some young men coming back, like Lark, Johnny, Jesse. It's a group of guys.

You go back to the start of this off-season, our runningbacks, it was unbelievable the work ethic they put in, unbelievable. It showed. Lark was a guy that was right there at the forefront. To see the way he played today I think gives all the runningbacks, now that Justin has retired as a Wildcat, but getting ready to play in the NFL, gives every Wildcat back, I've had the privilege to coach some great ones, play with a couple great ones, I think the guys will be excited from what they saw Lark not only today but this year.

Q. Were you happy to see Coach Stoops go for two at the end?
PAT FITZGERALD: Well, I had three, so that was number one. Even though it was an NFL stadium, I still could use him. First of all, I thought we were on the same level, the time we were lined up. So I wanted to take a timeout and let Hank and the staff, talk to the DBs about what they thought we might see.

Then the second time, we just wanted to make sure we were getting on the same page, save one for the on-side kick. That's just the way it shook out.

We talked about it. I probably would have done the same. Probably would have run a reverse pass from the one, not get it (laughter). What are you going to do? That's a good call. I would have done the same thing if I were Mark.

Q. Kyle and Justin, you were not on Twitter during the game. People think your head coach is nuts for some of those decisions.
PAT FITZGERALD: Did you say Twitter? Who cares, man. Come on, dude. All Illinois grads.

Q. Anyway, people thought two of those decisions were odd, the fourth-and-one call. In general, what do you take from those decisions and your head coach today?
JUSTIN JACKSON: I mean, I always want to go for it on fourth down. Fourth-and-one, I had a lot of faith in us to get that. It is what it is.

I mean, we know he's going to be aggressive. Our kicking game was great this year. When we get past the 40, we always feel like we're in four-down territory. It's nice as an offense knowing the coach has confidence in you to go make a play.

KYLE QUEIRO: Yeah, first of all, on the offensive end, we've had a lot of success on fourth down in the first place. I don't see why stop. Even when we've been stopped on fourth down, when you look across the whole season, we've only let up three points after we turned the ball over on downs. I think that not only talks about the faith we have in our offense, but also the faith we have in our defense to make a big play a big stop. We've done it all year, did it again.

PAT FITZGERALD: Put that on Twitter.

Q. Kyle, after that stop, the defense got together, It's time for us to make a play, maybe not score, but stop them.
KYLE QUEIRO: That is kind of the dialogue at all times. We knew even after the pick sick that it was going to come down to us somehow, some way. Of course, had our hearts racing, but it came down to the last play. We were fortunate to come out on top. I think we deserved to.

Q. Justin, given all that you've accomplished over your career, what are some of the emotions going leading up to the game, during the game? Has it hit you yet it was your last game?
JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, just being out there last time with the guys. I think a lot of us kind of went into the game, Let's go out there and have fun, last time putting on purple and white. Have fun, let it loose. It's been an unbelievable four years, five years for these guys.

Like I said on the field, what I'm most proud of is just the culture that we built in the locker room and in our community. I think we leave Northwestern in such a better place than when we came in. That's credit to the guys in the locker room and our coaches, the belief that we've had in each other, the brotherhood that we've built.

It's been an honor to be a Northwestern Wildcat. I think all of us believe that.

Q. Justin, a mix of sadness also?
JUSTIN JACKSON: Yeah, I mean, all things come to an end. I think back to really a lot of stuff off the field with these guys, which is really the best part. Like everyone says, you're never going to have that brotherhood ever again in the locker room. It will live on beyond that, but it's been unbelievable.

Q. Coach, what does it say about this team, had the 2-3 start, eight straight wins, the adversity, to come out on top?
PAT FITZGERALD: Well, I mean, we lost to three bowl teams, one that's already a bowl champion, and we didn't play very well, we didn't coach very well. We responded. We had a chance, nine points short up in Madison, we got the ball, down a score. I think that will be something that we'll be fighting for in the off-season, to find a way to get 10 more points to get to Indianapolis. That's the next step.

That's what these guys have built. We're on an incredible foundation right now. The next step for our program is to get there. That's going to be earned. We have to earn that. We're going to enjoy tonight, enjoy the week off academically, but at the same time the foundation is rock solid right now. We got to go out and earn it.

Q. Kyle, you seem to have a knack for the spectacular. Is there something that when you look back, are you going to think about how those plays could have gone differently? Do you feel lucky to be in the right place at the tart time?
KYLE QUEIRO: I wouldn't say lucky. But on a lot of those plays, I kind of get overwhelmed with the feeling that something is about to happen in these next few plays. Stanford, I haven't told anybody about, but I was like (indiscernible) corner, I told them that. Pitt, once he scrambled out, I knew he was going to run a comeback.

It's just kind of maybe something over five years, the experiences I've gained, the guys that I've gone against, since day one when I came in going against really great players, Tony Jones, kind of groomed me, battling every day against not only great opponents like Kentucky but also great guys within our own program, helped me be ready for those moments.

Q. Matt, stats weren't great for you today, but --
PAT FITZGERALD: C'mon, guy. That's how you're going to end it? Go ahead, finish your question.

Q. How important was it in a close game?
MATT ALVITI: I think that's huge. Coach talked about it all week in bowl prep, if you win the turnover battle, you're going to win the game.

PAT FITZGERALD: We can't end on that one. That was a downer. Not to be mean to you.

Q. Justin, what are you going to do to relax? Take a little time off now?
JUSTIN JACKSON: Well, I promise that we're going to go straight to the bar at the hotel (laughter).

PAT FITZGERALD: Wasn't that in the song? Absolutely.

Thanks a lot. Happy New Year. Go, Cats.

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