The QB Non-Controversy; The Wildcat Way & “Bring It”

Trevor Semian’s game-winning TD drive has received quite a bit of press. The immediate word from ESPN sideline reporter, Jenn Brown, was that the back-up’s insertion in to the game was a coach’s decision, not that Kain Colter was hurt. Semian promptly marched the ‘Cats on a 7-play 75 yard game-winning drive in which he went 6-7.  Semian, the RS sophomore, showed signs of brilliance (see:game-winning TD) and near fatal decision-making (see near interception).  The good far outweighed the bad and when the ‘Cats escaped the sweatbox known as the Carrier Dome with a 42-41 win, most fan bases would erupt in to QB controversy talk.

Sure, some fans logically commented that Siemian seems to be a better downfield passer and weighed the merits of Kain’s solid day (14/21, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) including his rushing ability and escapability given the offensive line’s poor play. However, most fans quickly resigned themselves to being actually comfortable in having a great problem to have – two quarterbacks that will press for time because of how good they are, not because of the ineffectiveness of one or the other.

Then, within 24 hours, the story changed. We learned that Kain Colter did the anti-machismo football stereotype call and tapped himself out on that final drive, as he was still feeling the effects of getting smacked in the ribs on his left side earlier in the third quarter. Colter reportedly told offensive coordinator, Mick McCall, on the phone/headset that he thought Trevor would give us the better chance to win.  This obviously contradicted what Jenn Brown had said and, to some extent, what Fitz had said immediately following the game. We can put that under the microscope another day – was it Fitz protecting Kain’s injury, miscommunication between McCall and Fitz etc..? Today, you’ve got to go under the assumption that Kain is telling the truth.  Fitz has changed his tune and acknowledged the fact Kain pulled himself out and wisely is lauding him for making such a gutsy call.

The Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh waxed on about this unselfish move by Kain Colter and Fitz acknowledged that while he wouldn’t say who or what game, that a player in the past has cost his team by not doing what Colter did. Haugh, Fitz and a host of other media scribes are lauding Colter for “true leadership”.  I’m right there with them.

Many commented that the first image after Demetrius pointed to the sky to celebrate the gorgeous TD was Kain Colter running on the field to embrace his back-up, Trevor.  NUSports.com’s Skip Myslenski, who detailed Kain’s thought process throughout the final drive here in a great blog post, asked Kain what happened in that moment. Here’s what Kain said he was thinking:

“A big, deep breath. We’re finally on top. We’ve got to make the extra point, but,” Colter said. “Went out there and told Trev I’m proud of him, that was big time of him. The bottom line is we’re all team. I know we play the same position and a lot of people might want to stir up a quarterback controversy. But as long as the team’s winning and we’re out there making big plays, whether it’s me or Trevor, I’m going to be happy.” – Kain Colter to Skip Myslenski on his reaction to Trevor’s game-winning TD (NUSports.com).

I mean, how cool is this ‘Cat? Kain is the ultimate teammate. For those of you that have played at this level, you know that ego and confidence are part of the secret formula that gets you there, to be able to table that for the greater good in the heat of the moment, well, all I an say is I’m thrilled this guy is playing for us and not against us. Kain will be out there starting on Saturday and Trevor will get in for a series or two, you can surmise, but I for one am all for the two playing – whatever it takes to get us the “w”.

The Wildcat Way

Props to Northwestern Athletics. Yesterday, the launched what is reported to be the first collegiate social media network. It is called The Wildcat Way (www.thewildcatway.com ). It’s essentially a TV guide, if you will, of all things Northwestern social media. It’s not only got Twitter feeds, it has a NU media Twitter guide, a celeb alum Twitter guide (which can be expanded exponentially), and player, coaches and former ‘Cats Twitter address “book”. It has combined video that NU Athletics creates (YouTube), Pinterest, Four Square and of course, Facebook. It is easy as pie to navigate, looks slick and will be replicated by every major college football team within the next few months. We recently had new head communications man, Paul Kennedy on LTP last week and we discussed how the former role of Sports Information Director has morphed in to a much more complex role. This is case in point. Congratulations to Northwestern for being a pioneer on this front and keep up the great work! Be sure to bookmark the site here.

Also, last week, the social media team announced they have selected the hashtag #B1GCats for this season for all things NU football. The B1G is a nod to Chicago’s Big Ten Team and the “Cats” part is pretty self-explanatory. For those in the Twitterverse you know what this means. For those that aren’t, it is a way to mark your tweet so that it can be easily searched and become part of an ongoing “thread”.

Fitz Tells Vandy “Bring It”

There has been quite a bit of criticism over the repetitive talk from the NU coaching staff regarding certain problem areas that you have said is going tiresome. I do thing it merits mentioning, while no consolation prize, the problems in the secondary were completely different than the 2011 ones. Our DBs were stride for stride with the Syracuse receivers on the deep ball (with the exception of Quin Evans slipping and falling on the 50-yard TD). Last year, it was complete mix-ups on coverages with half the guys going one way, the other half the opposite way. The result may have been the same, but you have to acknowledge the differences.  Also, when Fitz comes out and speaks positively about the team, or the unit, really, what do you want him to say? He’s trying to build confidence, not shatter it. I get frustrated too, but moreso when he does say things like “I thought our kicking game stunk”, which contradicts the above.  Regardless, the most popular vote among the nearly 500 fans who voted in the poll said “I’ll take a wait and see approach, one game does not make a season.”   A few percentage points behind was the large contingent of folks saying that this all talk, no action act is getting old. Let’s at least be civil about this.  Folks calling for Jerry Brown or Mike Hankwitz’s job, you are entitled to your opinion. However, can we at least save it until December? There are no coaching changes that are going to happen in season. It won’t happen. Calling for it now will only serve as a distraction. Plus, there are 11 games to go before we really know what the season will be.

As it relates to “talk”, Fitz sure cranked it up a bit yesterday. I’m all for defending and boosting the confidence of your players, but man, did Fitz put himself out there. I do invite you to watch the entire interview below for a couple of reasons. First, context. When you hear Fitz say

“I guarantee (Vandy QB Jordan) Rodgers will come after our corners on Saturday. We saw double digit moves. Bring it. That’s all I’m going to say, bring it.”

It sounds like bravado. However, when you see Fitz in the context of this interview captured by Chris Emma of PurpleWildcats.com it doesn’t have the same feel. He was honest about the challenges the CBs had and almost mirrored to a tee what Brian Peters told us yesterday what they are taught – “trust the technique” and “have a short memory”.   I really believe that this is a textbook example of how quotes, when put in print, can be taken out of context.  Fitz was humble and actually looks exhausted (Stacy, make sure he’s getting sleep!) in this interview. I thought he was candid, entertaining, and much less coach speak than years past. Clearly he has confidence in his guys, but respect for Vandy. In this day of multimedia, it is why I like video. You know the above quote will make its way to the Vanderbilt team, I thought it was important to show it in its entirety. Here it is:

Vandy Uni Play

Vandy tweeted a teaser about their Nike special all-white uniforms they will be unveiling for the first time in Saturday night’s home opener for the ‘Cats. Northwestern, meanwhile, will be sporting the new purple home uniforms for the first time.

Perhaps the all-white Nike Vandy Unis will help with the Ryan Field lighting?

 

It seems that those under the age of 35 are raving about the ‘Cats uniforms, while some of the media curmudgeons are starting to tee off on the unis. ESPN and Gene Wojciechowski in his BMOC feature (see #2) trashed the ‘Cats uniforms and cited that they looked like they were bought at Play It Again Sports and that one writer said they looked like Montreal Canadiens uniforms. Well, ESPN also rated the Canadiens as the best NHL uniform. So, thanks for the compliment? Darren Rovell, serve up a poll for us on the ‘Cats unis and where they rank in CFB will you?

Later Today…
We’ll be posting the first edition of The Pat Fitzgerald Show which premiered past my bedtime last night (11:30 pm ct) on Comcast Sports Net Chicago. I hope to bring it to you here every week. Stay tuned.

Recruit Exploits

A ton of good news for the 2013 class in their respective high school play (Alviti wins again!) including Brad North stealing the limelight by playing in the much discussed $60MM high school stadium in Texas. But, how about RB Godwin Igwebuike who rushed for 201 yards and 2 TDs – on EIGHT carries for his Pickerington (OH) North squad. Good grief.

Recruiting News
WildcatReport has a feature today on 3-star WR James Clark of Smyrna Beach, FL who has – get this – 31 offers including Auburn, Notre Dame and Miami, but Northwestern is atop the list of now. Once again, a bigtime recruit is citing the fact that NU was there first as a contributing factor. Stay tuned for more, Louie Vaccher reports he won’t be making a decision until AFTER the 2012 season.

  • DarkSide

    Work. Beat Vandy. Go ‘Cats

  • cece

    speaking as an older fan, Gene gives older fans a bad name. very cool new NU site.

  • Nate

    This team has a lot of character, and it shows when guys like Kain are as unselfish as he was Saturday. Saw the following on Hail to Purple’s facebook page via their twitter feed.
    “Fitzquote on Colter taking himself out w inj: “I’m not going to tell u who, I’m not going to tell yu when, but we’ve lost gms the other way”
    Not really surprising, but it makes you think. Anyway, I like this team’s attitude, now it’s time for it to translate to consistently good play. Pumped for Saturday night…get to Rodgers is all I’m gonna say.

  • FloridAlum

    I do not think that we have a qb controversy. Colter is the starter, and Trevor will also get a fair bit of playing time. This was the plan in the first place. My question is whether or not we will see them on the field at the same time, i.e. Trevor taling the snap and Colter moving to rb or receiver.

    • Estif

      I don’t think we’ll see that as much this year, though I think it would be great. Practicing as QB1 means less time practicing WR plays as Colter had last year. I think they were able to move him around more in practice (and therefore in games) when Danny was still in the top spot. And his reps last year catching passes from Persa don’t help him lock in on “Semian-to-Colter”. The increased depth at WR is also a factor. But I’d sure love to see some gadget plays with him catching out of the backfield!

  • CatFanSeattle

    Normally isn’t it the media/blogosphere who stir up a QB controversy where none exists rather than denying it when there actually is one? ;)

    Sarcasm aside, I personally would like to see more of Siemian as I believe we would have more success using the pass, especially a few more deeper/wider routes, to open up the running game. My recollection is that Mark had some of his best runs inside in the 2nd half when Siemian was in as I suspect the defense was thinking pass more than inside handoff.

    Just my .02, Go Cats!

    • birdofpreydavide

      In my opinion, the best play by far on Saturday was the wheel route to Mark in the end zone. Great play call. Getting him matched up with a linebacker is something you will take every single time. I’d like to see that again and again and again throughout the season.

      • Good call. I agree. Watching the replay, Colter sidestepping the unblocked defender was highly underrated on that play.

      • gocatsgo2003

        Kain also made a heck of a play coming out of our own end zone, sidestepping a number of Cuse defenders and picking up 20 or so yards.

  • GradCat

    What I love about all of this QB talk is looking toward the future. Next year when Matt Alviti joins the team, Colter will be a senior and Siemian a rs junior. If we red shirt Alviti, he will have his first year of eligibility when Siemian is a fifth year senior. That gives him a year to improve and practice, then a year to play backup to an experienced Siemian before assuming the starting role as a rs sophomore, giving us 3 years with one of our most decorated recruits to date starting in the QB position. I don’t know about y’all, but that’s an encouraging prospect to me.

    • Dozer

      Don’t forget RS Freshman Zack Oliver– people seemed pretty high on him when he committed. I’ve got to think he’ll be working to challenge Siemian (and Alviti) for the starting role as well in a couple of years.

      • GradCat

        Fair point, and once again, a great problem to have!

  • UVA Cat

    Actually, the ESPN poll had the Canadiens’ uniform ranked as #1 in all of North American professional sports (122 teams):http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=640411

    So, I’m OK with that comparison. I, personally, like the new unis, and I think the purple jerseys with the white pants (and white numbers) will look even better.

    Beat down the ‘Dores!

    • Great correct! Thanks..Go Habs. Go ‘Cats.

      • UVA Cat

        Also, Phil Hecken, over at the uni-watch.com blog raved about the new unis. http://www.uni-watch.com/2012/09/02/sunday-morning-uni-watch-7/
        “My favorite thing in college football besides ND golden domes are Northwestern’s new uniforms. So awesome! =D I don’t even mind the missing notch in the the side panels. I especially liked how almost about every player was on board with the undershirts.”

        Not that I agree regarding ND’s helmets (though I admit they’re pretty iconic) but it shows that people outside the NU fan base also notice and really like the new look.

  • DR

    Anybody think Fitz was referring to Dan Persa with his comments? I know we, as a group, love Dan, but think of the pressure he was under with all the Heisman stuff coming out of the athletic office, and all the talk about how he was overlooked by Penn State, and let’s face it, early talk about his impending professional career, which is not going to happen now (correct?). Colter did the right thing for the team and his own well being, and it worked out.

    If it was Persa who Fitz was referring to I couldn’t hold out any acrimony against the young man, especially when all those crazy billboards touting his Heisman candidacy started popping up all over town. Talk about a build up, you can’t blame the kid for trying to literally will himself into the next game if it is in fact Persa who Fitz refers to.

    • Dozer

      I suspect that Fitz had multiple instances in mind. Persa might have been one of them, but my thoughts went to the much-maligned Stefan Demos, who we now know played through 2010 with a hip injury. I’m guessing there are plenty of others that we don’t know about, who opted to play through injuries at less than 100% and resulted in dropped passes, missed tackles, etc.

      I didn’t read Fitz’s comments as being especially acrimonious toward those who did that, either, so much as praising Colter for being mature enough to take a step back when it was for the good of the team, a choice that a lot of good players wouldn’t make.

      And yeah, I definitely don’t blame Persa for anything. I can’t imagine the coaching staff holds anything against him either, given that Persa gave pretty much everything you could ask a football player to give for his team.

  • Chasmo

    What is most disconcerting to this NU fan about the Syracuse game is the fact that once again the Cats blew a big lead. When MSU staged the biggest comeback win in NCAA history vs. NU at the start of the Fitz era, it began a pattern of his Cats blowing big second half leads. These losses are burned so deeply into our collective memory that NU fans don’t have to try to recall them, they’re just there.
    No one is blaming Fitz for trying to be as positive as he can about his defense after its opening game performance. He has no choice. But NU fans have seen this movie before. We can’t help but feel it’s getting tiresome because it is.
    Let’s hope NU can learn to put teams away the next time it has a big lead.

  • bandcat

    Kain and Trevor lined up in Pistol variation could be very interesting. If number 22 is healthy turn him loose…Noticed Andre Battle on The OL on our short yardage TD…Like to see more of him on D….

  • HurricaneCatrina

    Fearless thoughts for the Vandy game:

    *secondary issues get somewhat addressed and safeties can communicate better with CBs due to lower crowd noise and lack of 95 degree indoor bubble keeps defense fresher in second half. but pass coverage still not great as pass rush is not super effective and Vandy qb has 4-5 seconds to pass during most plays. and because Brown is still position coach.

    *vandy goes to a “box & one” and shadows Venric and his stats are meaningfully less impressive than game one but still good. they also refuse to kick to him on kickoffs or punts.

    *passing game for the ‘Cats is better from start to finish and the length AND strength of the WR corps starts to show. we see several plays that really showcase the length and speed of this group as they connect on several 20+ yrd plays and make some amazing post catch moves for extra yardage.

    *QB controversy continues. talk of “nagging injury” continues as reason for playing Siemian more at QB.

    *fan base continues to complain about lack of pass rush and calls for jerry brown/steve harvey’s head get louder.

    *Ifaedi is a disappointment because he is too small (even though he has one play that gets everyone excited) and we all regret burning the red shirt

    *Jimmy Hall and all others get shots to show themselves in the secondary. We still don’t know who is good and who is not and what the real issues are. They are turning their heads during coverage (versus Syracuse game) but we realize that when they turn their heads too early, they fall a step or two behind and the long ball still hurts them.

    *Budzien kicks a couple of FGs. We are shocked and excited that we have a kicker and that he can kick FGs.

    *We start to see more from the other RBs since Venric is less effective this game and chatter begins on who becomes our primary “we need 3-5 yards on this play” back

    *Bo Cisek (aka Fat Demos) is not hit by a premature long snap in this game.

    THE CALL: Vandy was winless when opponents scored 24 or more points last year. Their least desired outcome is a shootout. The ‘Cats put up 30+ points and win a close one 34-31.

    POST GAME: Fitz speaks of gutting it out, all the great young men, the poise and unselfish play of our offense, watching video on sunday and flushing it after, the communication/personnel issues on the defensive side of the ball and continues to defend Coach Brown. he also says he wishes the students were all on campus and regrets scheduling home games pre-full student body having started.

    • Man, this is like my random thoughts throughout the day and the same level of detail.

    • gocatsgo2003

      1) It would be a great thing if Vandy shadows Venric — that means Kain would be able to run relatively free. Watching the South Carolina QB run through Vandy I kept thinking that we could kill these guys on the read-option and that would only help.

      2) Do you not see the inconsistency in saying that the pass D will struggle due to lack of pass rush then calling for the DB coach’s job?

      3) If we didn’t schedule home games until the students were on campus, we would never have home games before the third or fourth week in September. Do you propose playing our entire OCC schedule on the road?