Northwestern's players are enjoying the weather and the experience of the Outback Bowl, but are keeping focused on the task at hand: their New Year's Day matchup with Auburn. Find out what Wildcats Mike Kafka, Zeke Markshausen, Andrew Brewer, Mick McCall, Brad Phillips and Corey Wootton had to say at yesterday's press conference.
Transcript provided by Outback Bowl Communications.
Quarterback Mike Kafka
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On wide receiver Zeke Markshausen:
"Before this year he actually caught one pass. He had one career reception before this year. I think it's a surprise for a lot of people, but the guys in the Northwestern football program. Zeke's always been a hard worker from day one, since he walked in. I was drawn to him because of his work ethic. He's a very intelligent kid. He's a first team All American, academic All American. He's a great athlete; runs great routes, can understand concepts of an offense and relay that to the rest of the guys on the team, especially the receivers."
On his contribution to the Northwestern offense:
"I was labeled as a running quarterback and that's fine. As I said, everyone has their own opinions. I've always had confidence in myself to be able to do whatever the team needs me to do to win. Last year it was run the ball. This year I needed to throw the ball a little more. So I've done that. The coaching staff and Coach McCall have done a great job of adapting to take the personnel we have on the team and be able to use them to our strength."
On the Auburn defense:
"They're very athletic, defensively they are very sound. So we have to execute at a high level. I don't think they've seen a true spread team. I think it will definitely be something fun to see what they have for us and we'll go out and play."
Wide receiver Zeke Markshausen
On decision to transfer to Northwestern:
"There were a few things. I really didn't know what I wanted to do. There were a lot of choices I had. I could have gone to a lot of different schools, but I wanted to pursue playing both sports. I wanted to run track and I wanted to play football and Wisconsin-Platteville gave me a good opportunity to do that. After I was there and I saw what that experience was like I had a dream the whole time about playing big time ball."
On recording 79 passes this season:
"It's a big number, but you don't realize it as you're going through the season. I'm just trying to help the team as much as I can whatever way that is. If that's catching 79 balls, then so be it. We're just trying to get that last win and finish the season right."
On the Auburn Tigers:
"Like everyone says they're a big athletic team and it obviously jumps out to you right away. On defense there are some big guys on the line. The secondary is going to be quick; they're going to be jumping on the routes. We're just going to be looking for areas where they are not and trying to work those areas."
On taking a fishing trip with his dad:
"We went out yesterday, my dad and I went out. It was a great experience. We caught ladyfish, we caught flounder and we caught some trout out there. We were just in the bay. I'm a big fly fisherman, so I really like doing that. We got to do some of that yesterday in the mangroves in the channels."
Offensive coordinator Mick McCall
One the Auburn defense:
"They come at us with a great bunch of guys up front first of all. We have to do some things with those guys to be able to handle them a little bit. The linebackers and secondary are going to give us all we want. We just have to control them, and do what we do on offense. We'll spread it out and the quarterback is going to be able to run the football and throw it around a little bit."
On what he expects from the Auburn defense Friday:
"A lot of people play cover four and cover two, and I know that is their base. I don't think there is anybody that I would necessarily compare them to. They're a good football team. They are very well coached. They do a great job up front, especially up front. Coverage wise they're going to play cover two and cover four and then blitz us and on third down they're going to play man. That's kind of what we expect, so we've got to be able to handle that."
On the Northwestern offensive game plan:
"Our quarterback has to play because he's going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit, so he's going to have to play well. Whoever gets the opportunity to get the ball in their hands, when it comes up they've got to make a play. We've got to get the ball in our playmakers' hands and when they get opportunities to make plays and the defense allows them to make plays, they've got to make it."
Wide receiver Andrew Brewer
On the Auburn defense:
"They're a solid defense as we've watched on film. They have a lot of great athletes. I think what we need to do is take what they give us. They're going to have some guys that we've seen that can make some plays up front and they've got some big boys that will be giving Mike some pressure. That will be something to look at as well. They have some good guys in their secondary, so we'll need to run some good routes and get open."
On whether Northwestern's offense will offer something Auburn hasn't faced before:
"I think the SEC doesn't have a lot of true spread teams. We really like to go fast tempo and have four wide receivers out there quite a bit. Looking back through the cut ups it doesn't look like Auburn has faced a lot of true spread teams. Hopefully that will definitely give us an advantage as we go into this game."
Safety Brad Phillips
On his time in Tampa:
"I think one of the benefits is the weather. Coming from seven inches of snow in Chicago and trying to fly out of that. We get the sun here everyday so it's great."
"I think just like when you're facing any offense you need to know our defensive game plan and know your job. Each job you have, you have a different key on every play, so as long as we know what we're doing every play and all 11 guys on defense know what they're doing, I think we'll be okay. The most important thing is having your eyes in the right place."
On the bowl week events and preparing for his final game:
"I think a lot of guys enjoyed Busch Gardens yesterday. The guys are enjoying Outback meals after practice. It's good to get away from watching film and practicing and getting to hang out with your teammates and buddies. Being a senior, I know a lot of us are enjoying our last moment together. It's a great experience."
Defensive end Corey Wootton
On his time in Tampa preparing for the Outback Bowl:
"It's been great to be in the city of Tampa. It's a beautiful city. The weather has been great. It's been a good change of atmosphere."
On the passing of head coach Randy Walker:
"It was kind of a shock to us. We were all at summer workouts and staying with the team and I was actually staying with a couple of teammates and we had found out from one of our coaches. He called and told us he had passed away. We were all in disbelief; we couldn't believe that our coach had passed away. We just came together. Coach Fitz took the helm and did a tremendous job."