Talk about waiting until the last second.
And if you weren’t watching College Gameday on ESPN you might have missed it, Ryan Hilinski is the starting quarterback for Saturday’s season opener against Nebraska. The junior is set to take the helm in Dublin after a lengthy spring camp and preseason battle with sophomore Brendan Sullivan for the top spot. There is a possibility Sullivan may see some snaps today as well, but his senior will start.
Postseason reports from the program indicated Hilinski, following his transfer from South Carolina, was not supposed to play to the extent he did last season, but injuries and inconsistencies between favored QBs Hunter Johnson and Andrew Marty thrust him into the spotlight as early as Week Three against Duke. The three rotated throughout the season, a trend that stemmed from each of their inabilities to establish a real connection with the offense.
Hilinski finished 2021 having thrown 95 completions for 978 yards and three touchdowns over nine appearances. He also threw four interceptions, notched a 54% completion rate, and was sacked nine times. However, considering he wasn’t supposed to play much if at all, his performance wasn’t necessarily indicative of what he could have done if he had prepared during the offseason like he was battling for a starting spot and not a place on the sideline.
Instead of starting his season on a whim and in a rush to answer for another quarterback’s faults, Hilinski will set the precedent on his own terms. He has the opportunity to set the tone of the offense from the get-go and establish a flow that was absent throughout 2021. Northwestern’s successful 2018 and 2020 campaigns both had one thing in common — a consistent and reliable starting quarterback. It’s 2022, and Hilinski’s time has come to prove he can be that guy for the ‘Cats.