Big Ten teleconference: Randy Walker

Northwestern coach discussed his team's return from a bye week and aiming high in the Big Ten

Opening statement

"It is good to be back coaching, playing and getting ready to play another game. We had last week open and thought that we practiced and I think we had an outstanding week of practice. We were able to improve, I think, a lot of our technical skills and our fundamentals. We went right back to basics almost. Kind of a spring ball type of practice. It is good to be back in game week. There is always a great excitement getting back into action. I think our kids are ready to do that. We are getting some kids back. I think our health is as good as it's been for a while. Hopefully we can make this stretch run and play some solid football. We believe we are playing our best football right now and we have a chance to finish strong down the stretch and we are looking forward to doing that."

Is there any way you can compare at all this combination of Brett Basanez and Noah Herron in this offense to that great tandem you had with Zak Kustok and Damien Anderson in terms of their grasp of the offense and they fit what you're trying to do and the pressure they put on opposing defenses?

"They are very different but they are the same. That sounds like I'm not answering your question. We believe we have to be a balance. We believe the quarterback has to run the football in our offense. We need to find a way to do those things. We found some things that accentuated we thought at that time Kustok and Damien Anderson. We think we are trying to do the same thing with Brett and Noah Herron. We start with that principal in mind. These guys are different but we are trying to do the same basic philosophy with those guys, just accentuate maybe different plays."

There also seems to be this perception around here that Wisconsin overlooked you guys last year. How do you view that game last year? It seems to almost discredit the fact that you were a solid team that went to a bowl game and were just maybe the better team that day

"Well I can't answer that. We thought we played well that day and made some plays. We think at this point with our program and our kids that we can line up and match up with a lot of people. If we play our game and play well we are going to have a great chance win. It is not like the years and years ago where people here hoped to win. We go into games expecting to win. We expect to play well and expect to execute. We know if we do those things we are going to be OK. Like anyone, if you don't do those things in college football today, there's a lot of parity out thee and if you don't do those things you have a great chance of not winning. So we just count on ourselves trying to execute. Quite honestly, I couldn't answer that question about Wisconsin or anybody else. I could answer it about ourselves. We came ready to play that game and we thought we had a good effort and played well and made some plays to win."

Half way through this season how are you feeling about instant replay?

"I feel real strong about it. I think it's a great thing. As I said at the beginning of the season, it is not perfect. I give David Parry and the officials and everybody involved a lot of credit. I think it is going very well and I think it is something that I think we'll see adopted throughout the country."

Ron Turner suggested yesterday he might want a challenge system. Is that something you'd think about?

"Well, honestly, I kind of like it the way it is. It takes the pressure off coaches…At least in the near future we are not going to have the sophistication that the National Football League has far as the number of angles, the number of pictures. So, for instance, I quite frankly think there was a play or two missed in one of our games this year. In fact I know it was but it wasn't on the TV copy, so it didn't do us any good. But I still think it beats the heck out of the old system and it's still a very good think. It is a step in the right direction."

I'm assuming you watched the Wisconsin/Purdue game. What impressed you most about the Badger defense? Also, do you think their offense is underrated because of all the press their defense receives?

"Well, when you are No. 1 in the country, seemingly in every category the defense is going to get a lot of credit. Deservedly so. They are a great defense. They do what they do. They are sound. They are well-coached and they have great players and they have great players throughout the defense."

"The offense, in my estimation, having worked on them the last week, is getting better and better and you see the emergence of John Stocco at quarterback and he has grown as a player. They are coming together with a passing game. Of course they have always been able to rush the football with the big, strong offensive line they always have there and Anthony Davis and the other tailbacks they have. I think the offense is starting to hit flight as well. I think the combination of those two things make them very difficult."

Randy, how do you view the conference race and your role in it? At 2-1 do you feel like you are still very much in the picture?

"Absolutely. We have to win out and we believe we have the capability to do that. And maybe that's some tall talking but we just have to win one game at a time. If we do our job every week we think we have a chance to be right where we want to be. I think it's going to be a very demanding year in the conference. I think it is going to very chaotic. I think there is a chance for a lot of things to happen. But as I tell our kids all the time, if we're playing our best football in November we're going to have a chance and I think we're right where we want to be. Obviously I'd rather be 3-0 but 2-1 isn't bad. If we play out best football and play with focus and discipline we think we can play with anyone and I think we've displayed that. The key is for us is to play our best football but I think whoever plays us needs to play their best football as well. I think that's the nature of college football and the parity and throughout the Big Ten makes it an exciting game."

It also seems like this team fits the style of your other successful teams. Is that fair to say? What do you like about this team?

"Well starting with defense, I think we're getting some guys back and healthy and playing well. I think we can be a difficult team to prepare for because we are pretty multiple and we do some things that give you problems and I think we have some good quality football players.

"Offensively, we have achieved a balance this year that we'd like to have between the run and pass. I think it gives defenses some things they need to work on because we are not one dimensional. If we are playing our best football we can run the ball and we can pass the ball pretty effectively."

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