We’ve got seven players’ worth of quotes to get to so let’s just dive right in and see what FB Mason Stokke, NT Keeanu Benton, TE Jake Ferguson, ILB Jack Sanborn, LT Cole Van Lanen, QB Graham Mertz and S Eric Burrell had to say to the media this week.
Cole Van Lanen
- There were a lot of questions about how Stokke has been playing this year. “Mason is just a gritty football player. Love to have him on our team and our offense. He’s a dynamic player and gives us options.”
- On jet sweep success against Michigan, Van Lanen notes they are fun plays for the o-line too. “It’s always fun when you get to be out there on an island blocking linebackers or safeties.”
- “Every year Northwestern has an excellent defense. They’re a different d-line than you’re used to. Different ways to block these guys, different type of pass sets.” He mentioned NU has big, stout guys on d-line, similar to Wisconsin so the o-line gets good practice in before playing the Cats
- “Their d-line are gap fillers...and it makes it tough to run between the tackles.” He said they’re different than Michigan and Illinois in that regard.
- On playing NU’s defense, which he hasn’t done yet. “You flip on the tape from this year and you see a strong, physical defense. You’re going to have to earn it.”
- Mertz praised both Stokke and John Chenal for understanding the whole offense and executing at a high level.
- On his first game back after being out with COVID-19. “I think that it was solid for a first game back,” but he mentioned that there are definitely things he saw that he wants to work on; mentions footwork and reads.
- On how well NU’s defense does in forcing interceptions. “I’ve got to be crisp with my read keys and my decisions.” Said he’s excited to play against them.
- On being injured in the Michigan game and whether or not he plans on playing against Northwestern. “I do plan on playing, I got a little dinged up on my ankle but everything else is good.”
- On playing a BUNCH OF NERDS! (might not have been the actual question) “They’re just a smart team overall. Northwestern University, kinda crazy?”
- Praises D’Cota Dixon for getting him and fellow safety Scott Nelson prepared for bigger roles. Noted that Nelson played great in his return to his home state. “Hell of a job, hats off to him.”
- On one of the main reasons why the defense is doing so well this year. “Jim Leonhard. That guy there, he’s a genius. He studies more film than anybody.”
- On missing two weeks of games. “Those weeks off gave us a chance to get our minds right and get ready to play ball again.”
- On trying to replace some of the production lost with Chris Orr and Zack Baun graduating. “We’ve definitely let the defensive line loose to let us do more things.”
- On what he is trying to do to get better. “I’ve improved a lot on the playbook and trying to improve on my nickel package so I can stay on the field longer.”
- “I like the way people look up to him and I want people to look up to me like that,” Benton on Isaiahh Loudermilk’s influence on the d-line as a whole.
- On how the Badgers defense plays. “Ever since I’ve been here, they’ve got a sorta mindset that they’re going to punch you in the mouth. It’s that mindset where one guy makes a play and everyone on the sideline is going crazy.”
Jake Ferguson mentions something about his grandpa being at the last game against Michigan but didn't say his name, so it's hard to say who he is talking about. #Badgers— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 17, 2020
- On young TE Hayden Rucci. “I love Rucci, the kid’s a beast. He’s making big blocks for a young kid.” He also called him a “monster” and said that he’s “making strides to be really, really good.”
Ferguson mentions that QB Graham Mertz has been putting "perfect balls on him" every time he runs a seam route (on which he has scored 2 TDs this year).— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 17, 2020
- “I think with the pass rush we can improve even more.”
Sanborn mentions that OLB and current New Orleans Saints player Zack Baun said last year "we don't rebuild, we reload" in regards to losing talent off the defense each year. Seems to be the case again this year. #Badgers— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 17, 2020
- When asked about the defensive line and Benton in particular, Sanborn says they are “dominating” so far this year.
- “We come in thinking ‘if they can’t score they can’t win,’” Sanborn said on how the defense prides themselves on keeping their standards high.
- On the Northwestern defense. “They’ve got a really good defense. Their linebackers are a senior-lead group, it feels like they’ve been there forever.”
- “Any time you can expand your game it helps you in different situations,” Stokke on playing multiple positions including fullback, running back, H-back, etc.
- On playing a smash mouth game against Northwestern. “These are the kinda games get you excited.”