COURTESY OF WISCONSIN ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT
OPENING STATEMENT: Well, proud of the way the guys battled and fought against a really good football team, a team that we've always had tough games with. Ton of respect for Pat (Fitzgerald) and that program. Really well-coached team that has good players and they stress you. Obviously our defense was big today, and in so many different ways made plays and changed the game and gave us a chance.
Certainly there are things that we got to clean up and need to improve upon to keep going forward and keep growing as a team. But it's not easy to win, and in conference play you appreciate all that went into it and want them to enjoy and appreciate that part of it, the victory, and then come back and find ways to keep going forward.
There are plenty of ways we can keep growing.
Paul, last week from the start you were aggressive on fourth down calls. Today you had a couple opportunities where you punted. Is this a day where you look at the game the way it's going and say, my defense is playing better; I've got to rely on them?
CHRYST: Yeah, I think a couple things go into it. What are you doing offensively? How is our defense playing? Different situations.
What do you think the biggest challenges were offensively today?
CHRYST: I think it's a really good defense. You know, a really good defense, and we didn't help ourselves. Caught in a lot of third and extra longs, and that always makes it tough. I know one time we tried to push it down the field a bit; take a sack. Now you're second and 16, second and 17. So just didn't do a good job of kind of keeping it normal, so those are some of the things.
But it's a good defense, and they have been. I think it's a combination of both. It always is, right? It's always a combination of who you're going up against and what you're doing.
What went into you not throwing the ball down the field. You didn't attempt many, and when it did happen nothing good happened. What went into that not throwing the ball down the field?
CHRYST: Right. Well, you're trying to get into a rhythm a little bit. One of the times we did, first and 10, and we threw a pick on it. Second time trying to push it down the field and take a sack on it.
We've got to give ourselves more opportunities and better opportunities when you do, but I think those are some of the combinations, and then you don't have the ball.
Second half, you know, played out really a little. You've got twice — you appreciate it and you love it. Defense scores and then we don't take the on-side and then we fumble the punt return. I haven't looked at the number of stats we had, but then when we did, we didn't do anything to earn the rights for more kicks at the can.
You were able to get to their quarterback pretty consistently in a variety of ways, whether it was a blitz or not even blitzing. How important was that just to keep that ...
CHRYST: It was huge. I thought it was really big. And like you said, it was a number of different ways that the guys got to it. You know what's fun about those two is there a lot of guys working for that one guy to come clean.
Obviously I thought it was a really good plan, but what made it extra special is the players brought that plan to life and they played and competed.
There was. There was a lot of different ways.
Second game you've had an on-side kick not go your way. I know you haven't been able to watch it yet, but what did you see on that play? What do you think went into that play?
CHRYST: Yeah, we didn't have the hands team on, but kind of playing for it or the possibility of it. You know, we've got a chance to make the play and we don't. Spend a lot of time working on it. Doesn't mean it's guaranteed. Those are things we got to learn from and continue to grow.
But guys were doing what we wanted them to be doing, and you got to find a way to make those plays.
Your defense forced three turnovers, scored two touchdowns today; played very well through four games. In your mind, what do you think have been some of the keys for success for that unit this season?
CHRYST: I think they're playing together and I think they're playing off each other. Like I said, I think Jimmy (Leonhard), our defense staff, is putting a good plan together, but the guys are executing it and playing.
Each week you'll be tested different. That's what's kind of fun about it. I think guys are — and there is also we've got a number of different guys that can impact. I don't know what the stat line was, but I thought Isaiahh Loudermilk played really well today. Showed up. Zack Baun did. Noah (Burks) has a big play. Different guys made some things happen in the back end. I thought the linebackers played well.
So a lot of guys. I think it was Keeanu (Benton) had the big play on one of the two points. There are different guys contributing and they're playing off each other, and I think that's a big part of it. It's a good start.
Paul, I don't know if you think this was a big play or not, but it was 14 to 3 after the second touchdown; you guys 15-yard penalty. Zack (Baun) basically sends it down to the, what, the 7? Basically did it come off to be a touchback, and how big was that big play for him to help you get your defense?
CHRYST: Oh, he's been really good. I think it is big, you know.
Chris Orr just plays with an intensity in everything he does lately. Just seems to be big and exciting. How much does that rub off on his teammates and just the entire staff maybe?
CHRYST: No, it absolutely does. Loves playing the game and equally loves who he's playing it with. It's infectious. And I think he truly does, he cares a ton about his teammates and loves playing. He's been really fun to be around. You appreciate it every day.
The other thing is it truly is every day that he's like that. It's a heck of a gift that he's given everybody.
What does Northwestern do that makes it so tough to run on them where you have to earn every yard?
CHRYST: Certainly it's a sound scheme, you know, if you don't do some things to take advantage of it. We tried some opportunities, but they're going to get for running the ball, they did a good job getting their safeties involved. Couple times we picked it up; sometimes we didn't.
But I think they do a good job. And I think they got really good players. Their linebackers, ton of respect for them. And up front they're long, they're strong. It's a good defense, and you've got to take advantage of some different things.
You put yourself in a bad situation makes it hard. Then your third and longs you're going to see a lot of drop eight. They played smart. It's not tricky, but it's a good defense and they executed.
Why start Collin (Wilder) and John Torchio at safety? Normally those guys may be fourth or fifth just based on the depth chart out of fall camp. Does that speak to the depth that you feel like you have in them of different positions, and how would you assess how they played?
CHRYST: Yeah, I think each one of them made some plays and did some things. I think it's depth or it's them stepping up and also trusting themselves and those around them.
But it was big. Also thought that EB (Eric Burrell) and Reggie (Pearson) did a good job of kind of handling be out first the half and coming in. Both of them, you know, you felt them and had an impact. But you appreciate all the work that goes into it. It's going to play out differently, but it's going to take that throughout the season, right?
Might be another position, but everyone has to keep growing and keep going forward because we're going to need everyone. You don't know when. But it was pretty neat to see what they did, at least on the field. I'll watch the film and everything, but I thought they all showed up and did something. They can own part of this.
(Collin) Larsh had a field goal for you, couple big kicks. Overall, do you need to get more consistently sound play from special teams from top to bottom?
CHRYST: Yeah. I mean, you talk about this game and we started off — we had both, right? Start off and we get a great return on the first play. I thought we had an opportunity; Anthony (Lotti) on a couple punts was good.
And then we — you look back and say if we're going to touch it back here, you know, probably a ten-yard swing. I mean, it's inconsistent. Zack (Baun) has been really good, and I thought obviously was good and came up big. Talked about it earlier on the play there.
You know, obviously it's a tricky thing, but obviously Dunner (Jack Dunn) doesn't want to put that one on the ground, right? Especially the way the game was going. We hadn't had the ball.
And so to get a chance to, one, give our defense a break and try to get our offense into rhythm and didn't happen. You look at it and talk about each one is doing their part and good things, but no question we got to be more consistent so we can move forward. That's where, again, there is a trickle-down effect that we all got to see. When guys are dinged up, new guys need to step in and step up. A lot of good coaching points, lessons to be learned. Each position, each person, really does, I think, have some good stuff they're doing that they can build on. Each guy, each position has things that, you know what, we need to clean up if we're going to be the best team we can be we got to make those and take strides. Then you can do that and you know you're going to be tested each week a little bit different.
That's kind of the fun thing about a season.