Over the past two weeks, the Northwestern Wildcats had been working on implementing starting quarterback Kain Colter as a wide receiver.
In Saturday’s game against Indiana, Colter played three positions on offense similar to last season and helped the Wildcats to a 44-29 victory in front of 33,129 at Ryan Field.
Colter had four rushing touchdowns on the day with 164 yards on the ground and 131 yards receiving on six receptions. However, Northwestern’s other stellar quarterback, Trevor Siemian finished with a career-high 308 yards passing.
The Wildcats trounced Indiana on offense and totaled a school-record 704 yards of offense on the day. Northwestern last gained more than 650 offensive yards in a 51-48 victory over Wisconsin on Oct. 8, 2005.
“Offensively, similar to when we were starting the year, the only thing slowing us down today was us,” said head coach Pat Fitzgerald. “That’s no disrespect to IU, I just thought we had a good plan, the guys were executing pretty well but we had one-man breakdowns and we didn’t pick things up that we expected to see.”
With the immense amount of offense, the Wildcats had an uncharacteristic day with turnovers as both Siemian and Colter threw interceptions and running back Venric Mark lost a fumble.
The adjustment of Colter as a wide receiver was something the team has worked on in practice and it was a surprise to Indiana, so much so that Fitzgerald thanked beat reporters for not spilling the beans about it over the past two weeks.
Northwestern’s offense has primarily been strong with its rushing attack and Saturday was no different as they accumulated 412 yards on the ground. Mark added 152 rushing yards while Mike Trumpy rushed for 89 yards.
Colter was the star of the game and rightfully so as he capped off what was a close contest in the fourth quarter with a 22-yard rushing touchdown. The Hoosiers trailed at halftime 20-0 but were able to mount a comeback by scoring 21 points in the third quarter.
One of those touchdowns came after Mark had put the Wildcats ahead with a 1-yard touchdown run. After trailing 34-14, Tevin Coleman fumbled the kickoff return and proceeded to return the kick 96 yards for a touchdown.
Fitzgerald noted that escaping games with a victory after playing poorly in the second half won’t happen often during conference play.
“When you lose a turnover battle, you end up giving up explosion pass plays and kickoff return yards like we did, we dodged a bullet today,” Fitzgerald said. “We have a lot of work to do and we’ll be in a very hostile environment a week from now for our first Big Ten road test. If we don’t get better, we’re going to get blown out.”
While Siemian had a great day throwing the ball, he was able to find Colter quite easily, especially in crucial third down situations. Colter on the other hand, took a lot of big hits from Indiana’s defense and he continued to play despite the risk of injury.
“It’s just my mentality when I get the ball,” Colter said. “I’m looking at where’s there’s a crease in the defense instead of thinking ‘I should probably slide.’ It’s just not my first instinct. I definitely need to try and take care of my body. It’s a long season and we have a lot of games to play.”
The victory over Indiana marked the third time Northwestern had gone 5-0 to start a season. Northwestern also concluded a four-game homestand and will face Penn State on the road next Saturday.
With Minnesota losing to Iowa, Northwestern is one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the Big Ten and could very well reach its goal of playing for the conference championship. Although having this record could boost morale, the players understand it takes one game at a time in a long season.
“We have Penn State coming up and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” Colter said. “They’re going to be a tough challenge. We’re going to have tough challenges coming up for the rest of the season. It’s more about what we do and less about who we’re playing. If we play how we play to the best of our ability, I like our chances.”
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