For 30 minutes Saturday, Trevor Siemian was on point. Under the lights, in primetime, he was more than holding up his end of the bargain. He was playing his best game of the season.
But in the second half, everything went awry. The offense stalled. Drives seemed unsustainable. And most of all, Siemian was, quite frankly, awful.
After totaling 262 yards in the first half, the offense gained just 28 in the second half. And Siemian, who completed only 5 of 16 second half passes for just 25 yards, was the biggest reason for that.
After the game, for the first time this season, coach Pat Fitzgerald admitted that Siemian was “not even close to 100 percent.”
Fitzgerald also said that he did believe the injury was affecting his senior quarterback. “Anytime your injured and playing,” he said, “I think it’s affecting him.”
Asked if there has been any thought given to replacing Siemian with Zack Oliver, Fitzgerald deflected the question, saying, “He has a chance every day in practice.”
But in the second half Saturday, it was clear for all to see that Siemian, in his current state, isn’t able to do enough for this Northwestern team. With his footwork perhaps hindered by the injury, his throws were falling five yards short of receivers. He was jittery in the pocket, and all too often was unable to get the ball out on time.
There are other problems too. The offensive line was at times shaky in pass protection, and especially in the second half, receivers were failing to win at the line of scrimmage and get separation.
But in this offense, with this current crop of players around him, a less-than-100-percent Trevor Siemian isn’t the answer. That doesn't necessarily mean Oliver is, but whether Fitzgerald does turn to Oliver at some point will be a lingering question as this season progresses.
At the moment, Siemian is holding the Wildcats back. And unless he gets healthy -- or perhaps even if he doesn't -- that’s not going to change anytime soon.