Chris Johnson
By (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Oct 28, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. — Here are some notes from coach Pat Fitzgerald’s Monday press conference:

– Asked whether senior running back Venric Mark, who has sat out six of eight games in 2013, would be eligible for a medical redshirt if he misses the rest of the season, Fitzgerald said. “That’s my understanding.” It remains unclear whether Mark would even want to return for another season, but Fitzgerald did say “We’ve talked to him about all the different variables.”

– Two of Northwestern’s best offensive players Saturday were running back Stephen Buckley, who led the Wildcats with 99 rushing yard,s and superback Dan Vitale, who scored their only touchdown. Fitzgerald was impressed by both of their performances, and understandably so. He said Buckley was Northwestern’s best running back Saturday and that playing time at the position going forward would be determined through competition.

– The defense played well Saturday, holding Iowa to 10 points in regulation. Fitzgerald agreed. “Defensively, we gave ourselves just about every opportunity to win the football game.” The Wildcats will face a much better offense Saturday at Nebraska, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten in average points scored at 39.9 and features dynamic skill players such as running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Quincy Enunwa.

– It was odd to see junior running back Treyvon Green, who had been having a resurgent season, get zero carries against Iowa. Fitzgerald explained Green’s non-involvement by saying he was limited at practice the week before. The implication is that Green was not benched for football reasons; instead, it seems, he was injured.

– One poignant memory Fitzgerald has from coaching Northwestern to an upset victory over Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in 2011 was the post-game scene, which included Huskers fans high-fiving Northwestern’s players.

– The Wildcats have not played as well in October as they have in November in recent seasons (the Wildcats are 15-9 in November under Fitzgerald). Fitzgerald acknowledged this. “We’ve been pretty salty in November,” he said. After going 0-4 in October, Northwestern surely hopes its fortunes change as the calendar flips this weekend. One potential solution Fitzgerald suggested for his teams’ historical struggles in October: “I’m going to bring in a shrink or something.”

– A problem Fitzgerald can’t fix is injuries. After making it through last season with some of the best injury luck of any team in the country, Northwestern has seen some of its most important players miss games in 2013. So it was no surprise to hear Fitzgerald say the following about this season. “I’d love to go back and be injury-free,” he said.

– It was easy to miss junior quarterback Trevor Siemian Saturday. That’s because Siemian, who usually splits snaps (not evenly, mind you) with Colter, barely played. Fitzgerald’s explanation was that Colter, who finished with 104 passing yards on 11-of-14 passing, played well, so he didn’t see a reason to remove him from the game. “We just stayed with the hot hand,” he said.

– Among the more notable developments on this week’s depth chart are Malin Jones’ move to superback, the listing of Matt Frazier as an “OR” next to Ian Park and Venric Mark’s absence.

  • Henry in Rose Bowl Country

    We score ten points and Fitzgerald thinks Colter has a hot Hand? If we had been way behind I’m pretty sure we would have seen Siemian. And even if we had won that game does anyone seriously think we have any chance to beat a decent team like Nebraska by scoring less than 20 points? The coaches were satisfied being close in a game where we only had a 50-50 chance to win rather than alternate with Siemian. So Colter carries the ball on every other play and eventually falters. Playing Colter all the time doesn’t work any better than playing Siemian has, At the very least they have to do something to limit the wear and tear on Colter.

    • Jonathan Hodges

      While one can certainly blame other aspects of the offense for a poor output at Iowa, one shouldn’t blame Colter or demand to see Siemian. After taking out sacks, Colter had 13 rushes for 68 yds (5.2 yds/car), and that’s not even considering how he evaded pressure on called pass plays (even when he wasn’t 100%). He also passed for 11/14 for 104 yards and a TD and from my recollection, 2 of those incompletions were drops (including one in OT that would have been a first down). Like Fitz said, NU essentially stopped itself on multiple drives: 2 fumbles (Trumpy) ended drives that were in Iowa territory. And on 2 other drives, those were essentially killed thanks to penalties on the OL that caused NU to move way behind the chains.

      Also, Iowa was playing man defense and was sending pressure that the OL couldn’t handle, and it’s hard to think that Siemian would be able to respond well to that after his last 2 outings (where he saw the same thing and put up even less production than what we saw at Iowa). When Siemian was in (due to Colter getting dinged up) it was all handoffs (plus one sack).

      All in all, the coaching staff is right: Colter played very well and gave NU the best chance to win (which they almost did).

      • bd005

        Still Colter only put up a combined 172 yds combined (taking out the sacks).
        And despite his struggles against a fierce Minny pass rush, Siemian threw for 234 yds (with receivers dropping more passes) and the O actually put up more points.
        Not saying that Colter shouldn’t have gotten the bulk of snaps at QB, but it was a mistake in not playing Siemian more, esp. when the ‘Cats needed a quick score (esp. since the O-line was getting a better push against Iowa’s front-4 than against Minny’s).

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