I can’t believe I actually exhibited the patience to wait for this post until today. As ‘Cats fans exited Ryan Field whooping it up, high fiving and shaking their heads in disbelief in the defense we had seen, you could overhear conversations. You know the kind. The ones where the guy speaking is talking loud enough for those outside his circle of friends to hear, almost throwing the bait out there for complete strangers to tap in to the conversation. They were similar conversations that occurred in most of your respective season ticket areas. It probably sounded something like this:
“Colter is such a great athlete and man is he a threat with the run, but it’s clear that Siemian gives us that downfield threat.”
Perhaps there was a variation that went something like this: “I wonder when Siemian is going to come in, because it is clear the offense just isn’t clicking with Kain tonight.”
Let’s take a quick context check, though. We’ve played a whopping two games. Just look at the emotional swings in a week. Fans were in quasi-panic mode after a win over Syracuse because of the second half collapse. Fitz was effusive in his praise of getting out of there with a win and promised we’d be better. He delivered. Yet, as fans rejoiced after a stellar defensive performance, Fitz took the entire team not named Venric Mark to task. We’re two games in and to use football vernacular we’ll completing the first quarter of the season this weekend. That would be a logical time to step back and discuss the 2012 QB thing we have going on, but the chatter has been too loud for me not to at least share my opinion and try to capture the essence of what I believe to be a pervasive thought.
I want to be clear about where I’m going here. I’m a huge Kain Colter fan. I think he represents everything you want in a team player and he’s got simply silly athletic ability and game smarts. The guy has that unteachable “winner” gene that you can feel exuding from him as if it’s some type of mystical halo of “thinks will be alright, relax” when you get within five feet of him. He deserves to be on the field as much as humanly possible.
Trevor Siemian is earning his stripes with back to back game-saving drives in consecutive fourth quarter drives. This is hardly a panic bell, but rather an attempt to address the good-to-have fortune of having two solid QBs, each with their own strengths.
Regardless if you were in person for the Vanderbilt game or watched on TV, you could just feel we were out of sync on offense in the first half. Each change of possession and I was casting my gaze at the huddle around Fitz, straining to see if #13 was coming in. It became something you could feel in our section was becoming more collective with each passing stalled drive. However, the first drive of the second half was a beauty by Kain. He got in to rhythm, made manageable throws and marched us downfield. A Brandon Vitabile hold killed the drive and we walked away with three points. OK, maybe he’s found it, I thought.
The next couple of series seemed to revert to first half productivity. When Trevor came in again, he didn’t really track. The second series he came in didn’t produce much more. By now, you could see Fitz toying with the Vanderbilt coaches. Before each change of possession he would have both Kain and Trevor in the huddle. He’d wait until Vandy’s “D” took the field and then our QB would march out. I thought “man, this has to be tough from Vandy’s coaches standpoint.” Then the 4th quarter started. The light switch named Venric Mark took the first Siemian pass and converted it in to an electrifying 86-yard TD. Or so we thought. It was called back by the refs for stepping out of bounds and Trevor had been leveled by a late hit so the consolation was we were already near mid-field. Then, game on. Trevor went to work and you could just feel the defense on its heels. Venric hand-offs on play action were producing good results. The receivers seemed to be picking it up a step. We marched down the field and Venric would cap off a great drive with a rushing TD. We had the lead. You know the rest. We scored 17 4th quarter points, highlighted by what many will point to as the play of the game. It was third and 15. Vandy knew we were going deep.
NU knew it. You and I knew it.
Still, Siemian threw a 30-yard, perfectly placed ball, in a driving rain, smack dab in the hands of Rashad, just like old times in Olympia, Florida. The fact that Rashad got his second foot down as he got popped and lost the ball is likely one of the many reasons Fitz called out the receivers. That’s not the point here. Trust me, I love Kain Colter as much as the next guy, but I’m not sure he makes that throw (or many other QBs for that matter). As if to keep the story arc in tact, Colter would re-emerge after a drive that had Trevor’s seemingly one mystifying pass per game. Clearly, after we had put up 3 to regain the lead at 16-13 and recover a fumble with under three minutes to go, Colter was inserted to run three plays, milk the clock and try and get a first down to end the game (Vandy had two timeouts in its holster, so we needed a first down to end the game). Well, no offense, but if you know that, they know that. So, there we were, all doing basic math calculations on how much time we could burn off AND whether or not you punt based on the field position on what surely would be a run on 3rd and 19. Kain Colter flexed his magic. He slowly rushed to his left and seeing the overpursuit, cut back on a dime, found a seam and was off to paydirt to do what NU has failed to do so many times – step on an opponent’s throat. The play was unreal. It was dazzling, smart, athletic and left you shaking you head.
It also setup the following opinion of mine. I can break it down in to a few bullet points:
• Trevor Siemian is a very good downfield passer. He gives us a better ability to stretch defenses that will, in turn, open up the running game for Venric Mark.
• Kain Colter needs to be on the field as much as possible. I would argue 100% of the time. He’s as dynamic a playmaker as you could want. And, he needs to be taking some snaps under center.
• Is there a way to have Trevor be taking 2/3 of the snaps and Kain 1/3 of the snaps, while keeping Kain on the field as close to 100% of the time as possible?
Talent fortunes like this are the things I imagine that offensive coordinators dream of at night. We want both to be taking a significant minimum number of snaps each per game. The prospect of having to prepare for both is a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. Especially when you mix in our ability to go in to fifth gear, no huddle.
The counter argument to this is as simple as the fan base fear in the off-season. That is, Trevor = pass, Kain = run. Well, you saw a glimpse of it on Saturday when Trevor handed off to Mark on what seemed like a pretty good presnap read and we had the “D” guessing. Plus, Kain is capable of being a solid short to mid-range passer. Kain is clearly a super smart guy and well-prepared as well and can read cheats that will enable him to keep defenses on their heels. I’ve heard from so many of you this week and folks, self included, have started to role play our lives as Mick McCall.
Is it possible to create some wrinkles in our “O” that all for a 2-back set that includes Kain and Venric? Can we rotate Kain within the same series from RB to WR to QB? Simply put, as great as Venric has played, I still believe the separating strength of our team is our wide receiver unit. Venric has been phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but I worry about how long he can take the pounding he did on Saturday and stay healthy. Trevor gives us the best chance to really stretch the “D” and take some heat off of Venric to be our workhorse.
We’re in a brave new world as NU fans. For the first time in the Mick McCall era, we’re not statistically slanted in the offensive category with the pass. Rather, we are an anemic 99th in the NCAA in passing with just 173 passing yards per game (11th in B1G). Kain has averaged 88.5 ypg in the air, while Trevor has 84.5 ypg in the air. On the ground we’re putting up 157.5 ypg which is a slightly below average 67th in the NCAA. Our total offense of just 330.5 ypg is a woeful 95th in the NCAA. Yet, thanks to the “D”, we’re averaging a respectable 32.5 ppg (54th NCAA).
Here are Trevor and Kain’s stats to date, both this year and career-wise:
Kain Colter -2012, Passing – 21/36 (58.3%), efficiency 117.97, 177 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT (long: 21 yds) 88.5 avg/game
Kain Colter – 2012, Rushing – 27 car, 134 yds (loss 28), 106 net total yds, 2 TD, 53 ypg (long 29 yds)
Kain Colter -Career, Passing – 18 games – efficiency: 138.58, 79/127 (62.2%), 888 yds, 8 TD, 2 INTs, 49.3 avg/game
Kain Colter-Career, Rushing – 18 games – 191 car, 903 net yds (136 negative), 4.7 ypc, 13 TDs, 50.2 ypg
Trevor Siemian – 2012, Passing – 2 games – Effic. 131.47 – 18/27 (66.6%), 177 yds, 1 TD,O INT (long: 34 yds) 84.5 avg/game
Trevor Siemian, 2012, Rushing – 3 car, -1 yds
Trevor Siemian Career, Passsing - 10 games played – Effic. 152.64 – 34/53 (64.2%) 425 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 42.5 avg/game
I thought these stats might be helpful for context. The great news here is that both guys are genuinely team-first guys, who could care less about stats, and care all about the “w”. You’d be silly to think they’re not competitive as hell and want to take as many snaps as they can. That’s the DNA of any great competitor. You wonder what Trevor could do if given a flip-flop in terms of snaps. Would he develop even better rhythm and rapport with the cadre of options at WR? Would we be able to dial up much more downfield action taking advantage of our speed and height? How would we be able to punch teams in the mouth with a dose of Trevor’s aerial act and Kain’s ability to be a triple-threat under center? For a team that is near the bottom in passing and total yards, I sure as heck have a ton of optimism about the possibilities. How about you?
There have been a couple of great posts recently over at SippinOnPurple, specifically on our kicking game and special teams. Check out how Herman has really put our 2012 special teams under the spotlight and offerred some historical context. Recently, he profiled Jeff Budzien and gave the PAT unprecedented love in NU circles. Don’t worry, he already tried to jinx Budzien and his perfect career PAT streak stayed in tact.
LTP Flag Project
Hats off to Joseph M. (McC ’80) who helped us put one of the last few states on the LTP Northwestern “N” Flag Project Map. We’ll be adding this shot of Lake Champlain, VT. He also has the ingenuity award for taking a photo at Stephen Colbert’s faux alma mater as he was dotting New England states off the map. More on that later.
So, I acted on a great idea from one of our readers to add the key blogs of 2012 non-conference opponents to the blog roll at the bottome of the page. And….that’s what I get for messing around with code. I’ve put out a 911 to Brian D. for some help, so stay tuned.