by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Here’s the Northwestern team we all love/hate.
Against Indiana on Saturday, the Wildcats finally started to look like the team everyone thought they would be before the season started. The wide receivers, including one named Kain Colter, began to look like a group that could, if necessary, carry the offense. Disregarding West Virginia’s Geno Smith (who threw up a ridiculous 656 yards and eight touchdown performance), Kain Colter was the most Heisman-worthy player in college football today. The running game, led by Venric Mark, continued to be a pleasant surprise. And the defense, particularly the secondary, nearly threw all of that out the window.
This team sure loves to live up to its nickname.
The Cardiac Cats pulled this one out, 44-29, but not for a lack of nerve-wrecking moments.
First, the offense. Despite external doubt over the two-quarterback system, the Kain Colter/Trevor Siemian duo was, for the most part, very effective. I don’t really see how you can argue against 704 yards of offense, a school record.
Colter made huge plays with his feet from the quarterback position, including four rushing touchdowns. He also made several critical catches, amassing 131 receiving yards. Since he can’t throw the ball 20 yards downfield to himself, Siemian came in and should be credited with making several critical throws. He finished with 308 yards, so he must be doing something right.
Colter is undoubtedly an incredibly versatile player and the team should absolutely take advantage of every talent he has, which includes receiving.
Such frequent switching of quarterbacks could hinder the flow of the offense, but in this case, Indiana’s defense had trouble adjusting from the Colter-led offense to the Siemian-led offense and back again. Who’s to say other defenses wouldn’t have a similar problem.
The offense’s one major blemish was the turnovers: three of them, including a critical interception in the fourth quarter leading by only eight. Those will hinder the flow of an offense much worse than the alternating of quarterbacks.
Now on to the defense. I don’t know what Pat Fitzgerald said to this unit at halftime, but next time he should probably just keep it to himself.
The defense had been surprisingly not terrible, even good at times, this year, until the second half of this game. Admittedly, losing starting safety Ibraheim Campbell to an “undisclosed injury” in the second quarter put the Cats at a big disadvantage against the Hoosiers’ impressive group of receivers. Indiana exploited this loss to the tune of 29 second-half points.
NU’s defense really struggled to get any pressure on backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who came in during the third quarter and ended up throwing for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Happily, nearly every part of Northwestern’s offense is playing at or above the level expected of them before the season. Unhappily, the defense started to play to preseason expectations as well. Northwestern better hope this was a one-time drop in play and not a downward trend toward last season’s disastrous defense.