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Ryan Buchholz | So. | Defensive End
Q. I know the offense gets a lot of hype because of Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, but you're giving up less than ten points a game right now and Top-30 in the country. What do you think has worked so well for you so far this season?
RB: I think it's the leadership we have. Every position, we have older guys, like Jason at linebacker and Marcus [Allen] at safety and Trap [Troy Apke], and D-Line we have Curtis [Cothran] and Parker [Cothren]. We have a lot of guys that have a lot of experience and are able to help out the younger guys, even in the game with plays and calls and stuff, and we communicate really well. So that experience that all those guys have helps.
Q. What stands out to you when you look at this Northwestern offense, and especially Justin Jackson and how much of a handful he can be?
RB: He's obviously a really good running back. He has good size and speed for that offense, and the offensive line moves really well.
I know they did a lot of stretch plays and zone plays to get the whole defense moving. As a whole, I would say they are a really good offense and they gave Wisconsin a run for their money, which also shows how good they are.
Q. You mentioned experience really playing a big role on the defense. How has your experience from game one against Akron to where you are now improved your game? Where are you more comfortable, what areas?
RB: I would say just with the plays. I know I've been in the system for three years now, but just getting more game experience with plays, especially last week with Indiana and their fast-pace offense. We would have to look at the sideline and get the call real quick and you've got to know what you're doing like that.
Just I would say knowing the plays and getting more accustomed to offenses of the teams we're going against.
Q. So going off the success, I want to know, is that at all frustrating to you to be a defensive guy and know the offense is going to be the one that takes all of the attention away from you guys?
RB: Not at all. I think the same thing as having like certain stats, like they say, ‘oh, I'm not upset that I don't have ten sacks.’ Jason [Cabinda] is not upset that he doesn't have five interceptions. It's the same thing as individual stats … you don't really care about that stuff as long as you're winning.
I mean, personally, myself, I don't think we care as a whole defense, as long as we win and hold them to as few of points as possible.
Q. Talking about winning and this team, all the past games, it's been big moments where players are able to not kind of let the pressure get to them. How does this team continue to do that, especially looking back at Iowa, how do you maintain what you're doing and not let the pressure get to you in those games?
RB: I think making big plays, and turnovers, especially; the offense is all doing their thing.
Just like last week, that second play on defense, after the first one, well, they got the penalty, but they got a gain on that and we forced a fumble on the second play and we kept getting turnovers. I think getting turnovers and changing the field position will always be beneficial to keeping that spark.
Q. Last week, what did you identify as an issue in terms of allowing yards on the ground, or what did you guys feel up front and how are you taking that to this weekend? Obviously you want to keep forcing turnovers but limiting the opposing offense from gaining on you like they did in the first half.
RB: I guess with that, obviously we were focused on stopping the offense as a whole but Indiana passed the ball a lot. They had like 400 yards passing in a couple games, so we were not more focused [on the pass game], but that was a big emphasis.
I think last week it was just a little different because we thought they would pass a lot more. I know Iowa, we did really well against the run. I think it's just different week-to-week, how teams run their offense and how we're able to stop it.
Q. When you talk about the depth and versatility of the defense, how effective does that make you guys as a unit?
RB: I think it helps a tremendous amount. We rotate a lot of guys, and none of us are selfish. Last week when we were talking about how to rotate a lot of guys with the way Indiana runs a fast-pace offense, the way just [defensive line coach Sean Spencer] was explaining it to me, I was like, ‘take me out, put [Shaka Toney] in.
If I'm tired, I'd rather have fresh legs in there, so I'm 100 percent happy with the rotation and the way it affects the game, because the offensive line is in there pretty much the whole game, but all of us are getting 20, 30 snaps. So I think it's really helpful.
Q. When you look at Northwestern, I think since last year, they allowed 54 sacks in their last 17 games. What do you guys have to do to slow down that passing game to apply pressure to quarterback Clayton Thorson?
RB: Obviously I think it would be early sacks. If they are getting the ball off and getting good chunks of yardage on passes, then they will get more confident and throw it a little bit more. So I think if we get some early sacks, some early stops, some early three and outs, they are going to have to change their scheme a little bit. So I think if we get some early plays that change the game, it should help a lot.
Q. You look at Yetur Gross-Matos and how he's progressed, what's impressed you from week one to now?
RB: Definitely his knowledge of the defense. We're roommates in the hotel, and during our tests, I'll ask him if he has any questions, stuff like that, and each week he's having less and less questions about it.
At practice, he's having less missed assignments and stuff like that, so I think his knowledge of the game is really helping. His talent, size and speed is obviously good enough to play at this level. Now it's the knowledge part he's getting down.
Q. Who are the best offensive linemen you've gone up against in your career?
RB: I would say best/biggest were Wisconsin last year. They are some big guys. They are pretty scary to look at. They were huge.
I would say this year, Iowa was definitely a really good offensive line. They have some big guys and their offense is a really good scheme. It helps them out. They don't match-protect all the time. But they usually have a tight end in their blocking with them and those six guys blocking are a really good front six to block with.
Cam Brown | So. | Linebacker
Q. Wanted to ask you about how much Jason Cabinda has taught you about the linebacker position, how much he means as a leader to this team?
CB: Jason, can't tell you enough about him. He's taught me a lot, especially going through last year. As he saw that I'm going to have a bigger role this year, he really mentored me a little bit more and showed that, first of all, taking care of your body is a big thing with him.
He just showed me the love to compete, and loving to compete and finding that love in everything you do when it comes to football: Lifting, how your diet is and everything like that. He means a lot to the defense. And the fact of how he leads off the field, especially during workouts, you think he's a great leader during the season. In workouts and things like that, he pushes everybody. He makes you feel bad when you don't do good and he makes you feel good when you do good. He's a great leader.
Q. What did you guys learn last week as a defense facing two quarterbacks where each one was in half the game that have totally different styles?
CB: We learned that, pretty much as a defense, we have to prepare properly like we did and adjust to the different schemes of that defense. Coach [Brent] Pry definitely got us prepared for that, and all the defensive coaches, mentally and scheme-wise. It wasn't too bad transitioning.
Q. We've heard from a lot of your teammates about the difference in preparation from last year and years past; going from a freshman to now your sophomore year, what differences have you taken in preparation or what are you doing off the field different compared to last season?
CB: Definitely film study. Last year, I didn't really watch film as much as I should have. I was preparing as if I was going to be a starter more so in the meeting rooms and things like that, paying attention to coaches. But now going on to my own and asking Coach Pry questions and talking with the older guys about what they see and what they feel we should adjust to, and even giving suggestions to certain things on the defense.
Q. Is this more like middle of the week, just kind of on your own and in your room, or where are these extra sessions coming into play during the week?
CB: Early in the week, actually, like Sunday nights, Monday mornings, I'm in there studying, texting Manny Bowen and Jason [Cabinda] about certain plays and things like that, just seeing how they feel about certain things.
Q. Coach talked earlier about team speed on defense. Is that something you guys pride yourselves on, and how much do you think that helps you during games?
CB: Yeah, we definitely do pride ourselves on our speed. We worked on it all off-season with [Assistant A.D. for Performance Enhancement] Coach [Dwight] Galt just trying to be faster. You can see it in Jason. He's slimmed down and he's moving a lot better. We're all moving better trying to be quick and explosive, because that's what the game is going to. So we definitely want to emphasize that.
Q. Going back to kind of the preparation element of your game, I'm just curious, one of your cousins, Andre Davis, played nine years in the NFL. Has he given you any tips about how he prepared and what are conversations you've had, if any?
CB: Honestly, I haven't really talked to him much. We're really distant cousins. His side of the family didn't really talk to our side of the family, type thing. I kind of just looked up to him playing when I was younger, more so than that. That's the reason I became a Patriots fan honestly. But no, we never really had any conversations recently.
Q. When you look at special teams and kind of the results we're seeing this year, what's different for you as far as your role in special teams last year compared to this year? Because they use you all over the place.
CB: My role hasn't really changed much. I'm out there to run as fast as I can and try to make plays but honestly it's kind of trying to help the younger guys; not younger, but the red-shirt freshmen and the freshmen try to understand the roles on kickoff and tell them, pretty much it is a key to getting on the field early, like it was for me. It's more so a role of just trying to be a leader for them and trying to lead on the field at the same time.
Q. Can you talk about Nick Scott's role on the special teams? He's kind of like maybe an unheralded guy, but he means a lot to you guys, doesn't he?
CB: Yeah, Nick means a lot. He brings energy to special teams all the time. We thrive on Nick's energy. Sometimes you look at him on the field and he's just laughing and giggling for no reason.
So we kind of thrive off of that and it brings the energy, because not everybody wants to do special teams all the time. Like we know it's not the most glorious thing but Nick definitely makes it a little bit better for us.
Q. Would you call him a sparkplug?
CB: Yeah, you could definitely call him that.
Q. What did you weigh when you got here and what do you weigh now? You talked about how Jason wanted to trim down to get quicker. Is there a limit where you want to be to maintain your speed?
CB: I was 202 when I first got here officially and now I'm fluctuating between 218 and 220 still. Other than that, with my weight goal -- my weight goal is about 230 before I leave here. That's my real goal. I feel like I should still be able to move at that size and I should be able to be physical.
But with Jason, he's definitely shown me that you don't really need the weight to bring the thump. With him losing that, it shows that weight isn't really a crazy factor in the game.
Q. How have you gone about doing that, to get your weight up to that point and how much will you continue in the off-season?
CB: Definitely my meal plan. Just eating in the mornings, eating breakfast. That was my biggest problem I think. I love sleeping, so I don't really like waking up early enough to eat breakfast, but that's become my regimen, and eating more consistently throughout the day, little snacks, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and things like that.
Q. If we haven't seen a freshman by this point we probably won't, unless something crazy happens. What can you tell us about the true freshmen behind the scenes that we are not seeing?
CB: Honestly they are working hard. They are working hard to learn the defense. They understand with a lot of seniors leaving next year that they have a role to step into; especially with Ellis [Brooks] because he's in my room, I see him. He's taking notes, asking questions and film and all those types of things. He's doing all the right things that you could ask for a freshman that's going to come in and play next year hopefully.
Q. I want to know, how exciting was it to play your freshman year and the season that you guys did, and what you learned from those leaders, because now even though you're only a sophomore, you're leading some of these younger guys. What was the biggest learning lesson that you took away from those veterans last year that you've been helping with the younger teammates this year?
CB: Honestly for me, being different, the different role I'm playing this year, has not really affected my viewpoint on the team or anything like that. It was a big -- it made me happy, I guess, to play. I mean, not everybody gets to play as a true freshman and having an impact, it meant a lot. But at the same time, it was just a learning experience for me.
With the older guys looking down at me, I'm trying to bestow the same energy and keeping a positive attitude on the younger guys now.