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Keeping it Real with EA Sports: Venric Mark, Kain Colter, and the option

Northwestern's pet set is the option, run by super-fast quarterback Kain Colter and super-fast running back Venric Mark. In NCAA Football 14, you can do that better than in previous editions of the game.


One of the myriad fun things about Northwestern football this upcoming season is one of the myriad fun things about Northwestern football last season: a very, very fast quarterback, a very, very fast running back, and option plays where one poor defender will have to make a decision as to which one he wants to try to tackle. Good news for gamers: this is very, very much reflected in NCAA Football 14, which is what we're writing about here.

A few weeks ago, I posted a video with gameplay from NCAA Football 14:

You'll notice pretty quickly that the AI is kinda single-minded with Northwestern's playcalling. Play 1, Kain Colter and Venric Mark mesh, Colter sees no defender on the outside, and Mark sprints upfield for a first down. Play 2, a defender dives off the end of the line and takes away the outside, so Colter bolts up the gut and gets a first down through a massive hole between Northwestern's center and right guard. And so on, and so forth, as NU methodically options its way down the field for a touchdown.

On ensuing drives, Northwestern does things like pass, which is a bummer, but the gist is made clear. The CPU is well aware that giving the defense the task of "hey, try and stop BOTH of these guys" is often met with "ughhhh they're both so fast :(" and eventually ends eight yards later with a depressed Golden Gophers defender getting ready for the inevitable movement of the chains. If you look at what you saw up there, and what MountainTiger highlighted in things like this post about Colter and Mark on the scrape exchange against Nebraska and Kain Colter scoring four damn touchdowns against Indiana, it doesn't look too different.

If you've ever played an NCAA Football video game, you know that generally, this isn't as fun as it looks here. The option is based around a very simple concept, but it's one that's understandably hard for video game sprites to understand: decision-making, and then reading the decision that's been made and reacting.

Luckily, EA Sports has made changes. Reading this same post by Mike over at Bucky's 5th Quarter, he mentioned that EA Sports had revamped the option game, making life more fun for the Badgers with Tanner McAvoy. And sure enough, he was right: this awesome post shows the work EA Sports did making the option in the video game look more like the option in real life. For starters, easier difficulty modes in the game highlight the player you're supposed to be reading, so you can make the correct decision with your quarterback on whether to keep or give. To go further, post details how EA Sports spent a buncha man hours watching game film of teams that run the spread option like Oregon to better depict how blockers and defenders react on option plays. I haven't gotten my hands on it, but ultimately, this apparently leads to a much better -- and realistic -- experience on option plays.

But that's not the most realistic thing here:

Kain Colter and Venric Mark: both really good at football.

If you love Northwestern football, you gotta love the option. There are a few variations on the theme, but when it comes down to it, there's a basic principle in play: that two guys, both of which are fast, can beat one guy. It happens in a blur, decisions made by football players who have spent hours and hours figuring out how to react with grace and calm to other football players sprinting at them with the intent to tackle them, but when you watch it on film, it's pretty brilliant to watch unfold. The fact that this game replicates that -- and gives us a much better opportunity to actually attempt making decisions football players do -- is pretty cool. As is the fact that you'll be able to murk people with Northwestern if you figure it out.

Golly, you guys, I'm just excited for football.

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