There we were up 27-0 early in the third quarter, on one of the nicest college football days you could ever have in late September and my mine started wandering. I had that same feeling about the defense that I did in 1995. Fans in our section were debating the reality of a shutout. I was trying to squash the negativity in my head that was screaming “go for the kill” and “don’t step off the gas” along with an assortment of sports cliches. But, Northwestern is so nice. They wanted to entertain the 33,000 plus and make sure no one left early or went home bored. So, within a blink of an eye Indiana had ripped off three TDs on three touches, including a 96-yard KOR for a TD and you had the feeling that crazy things were happening. The 2009 Indiana comeback (NU rallied down 28-3 to beat IU 29-28) started getting mentioned among the fans. Nate Sudfield entered the game and put on a passing clinic. And all of a sudden we were up by one possession after a reverse 2-point conversion cut our lead to 37-29. Gulp.
By now you know we won this game, so I don’t need to relive the anxiety too much. However, the “D” which had disappeared in the third got called upon after Trevor Siemian threw an interception in the 4th quarter. The fans actually rallied and made noise, sensing the severity of the situation. The defense delivered and held, which then led to the dagger drive by Kain Colter and the ‘Cats. Colter ran an option play for 17 yards. Venric followed suit with an 8-yard push the pile run. Then, Colter dazzled his way around a host of Hoosiers for a game-winning TD, but wait, flag. Holding on Kyle Prater. Uh-oh. Those crazy things are happening again, I thought. Have no fear, Colter was determined. Kain picked up the first down with a 4-yard gain. Then, it was a dose of Trumpy, Mark, Trumpy to move the chains. It’s 2nd and 10 at Indiana’s 22 with just over 5 minutes remaining. Colter fakes a handoff, darts between a pair of defenders and -boom – there he goes for his FOURTH TD of the day..game over and fans were high fiving with their jaws dropped. The guy was simply unstoppable and led us to a 5-0 start for Fitz’s third time in five seasons. NU will be ranked today thanks to several Top 25 losses, but more importantly we are 1-0 in the Big Ten and are trying to do something we haven’t done since 1962, the last time we were ranked #1 in the country, and that is, start 6-0. On with the breakdown.
Kain Colter – Who did you think we’d start with? Kain was electrifying and he threw a mere 3 passes, including a pick. The platooning QB put up 161 rushing yards on 14 carries (11.5 ypc) with 4 TDs. He hauled in a game-high 9 receptions for a game-high 131 yards including an amazing clutch diving grab for a key third down conversion. Colter had 292 all-purpose yards, but it felt like 500. His ability to run for 15-yards on the option and then line-up at WR and haul in a pass on consecutive plays was just unreal. Fans were on the edge of their seats saying “where’s Kain now?”. He was a lock for national player of the week, until I heard about West Virginia’s Geno Smith who threw for over 600 yards and had more TD passes (8) than incompletions in a 70-63 win over Baylor. Congrats Kain, you are the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week without a doubt to me.
Pat Fitzgerald/Mick McCall Gameplan – Bravo. Even if we hadn’t put up a school record 704 yards of total offense, they’d be getting the “Great” label on this day. Clearly Fitz & offensive coordinator Mick McCall had been holding THIS approach to the QB position close to the vest – and it worked. Until now, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian would platoon series, but in the B1G home opener, platooned the QB position by rotating at an alarming rate within each series. The maxim of “keep Colter on the field at all times” was in full effect and it worked brilliantly. Trevor and Kain were clicking as batterymates as Kain had a ton of pop in his wide receiver routes. This was the kind of offense we had all hoped for, and we all know about the couple of mistakes that should’ve made this a 50+ point outburst. Great job gentlemen.
Jeff Budzien – The lockdown Lou Groza Award winner if the season ended today added another hattrick of FGs to his resume. Budzien drilled kicks of 44 yds, 34 yds, and 29 yds to improve to 11-11 on the season as well as keep his perfect career PAT streak alive.
Damien Proby – The ‘Cats LB had a stellar day with a team-leading 14 tackles and a few bell-ringing hits. Proby was swarming, along with Chi Chi, and the LB unit was a key reason NU put up a shutout for two and a half quarters, before things went off the rails.
Nate Sudfield and IU receivers – It’s rare that we include opponents in this, but you have to tip your hat to IU 3rd string QB Nate Sudfield who was so clearly better than Cam Coffman on this day. Sudfield changed the game and put up 157 of the 266 yards primarily on a handful of deep bombs. The Hoosiers had four different deep ball amazing catches that were extremely well defended by the ‘Cats. Cody Latimer’s circus catch reaching over Quinn Evans was just one of those four and when you see plays like that you sometimes have to just tip the cap and say “great play”. This IU offense is going to get Kevin Wilson a couple of B1G wins this season.
The OL – They dominated the Hoosiers opening up gaping holes for the cadre of ‘Cats RBs and protected Trevor Siemian very well in the pocket. This group is improving significantly from week to week and they were the unsung heroes of the day.
Trevor Siemian – We got what we wanted. Prolonged stretches of Trevor Siemian getting to throw downfield. Siemian threw for an impressive 22/32, 308 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT with several impressive deep balls to the likes of Tony Jones and Christian Jones, both of whom hauled in bombs from Trevor on beautifully thrown strikes at coincidentally the almost exact same spot on the field (20-ish yard line on northwest side of field). Trevor and Kain were a money combination all day. The only downside was that Trevor forced 2-3 balls that he shouldn’t have and nearly had 2-3 INTs. On the flipside, his scramble on third down to find Demetrius Fields, who dropped a gimme TD, kept him off the TD board for the day and was not his fault. If there is a category for “very good”, this is where Trevor would fit for his performance.
The NU RBs – Venric Mark/Mike Trumpy – Northwestern posted 394 rushing yards. Think about that for a second. That’s insane. As a team we had 58 carries for 394 yards, a whopping 6.8 ypc. Those are high school juggernaut numbers. Video game numbers. Overshadowed by Kain’s eye-popping performance was oh, just a 139-yard day on 29 carries for Venric Mark (4.8 ypc). Mark scored the only non-Kain TD of the day and had several where he was tripped up by the last guy separating him from paydirt. He was fantastic and proved he could carry the bulk of the load and grind out big plays along with his laser beam moves through large holes. However, Mark fumbled in a key situation after trying to turn a great run in to a SportsCenter highlight as he tried to drag an 8-man Hoosier pile and they stripped him. Mark also struggled a bit in his judgment on punt returns and he botched a kickoff return that he fumbled out of bounds.
The Joneses – Christian Jones was his usual steady self on the deep ball including one amazing catch down the sideline. Christian left the game with an injury, but Fitz wouldn’t give much of a report on Christian or Ibraheim, saying that both had positive responses about their injury. Tony Jones also hauled in a head-turner on one of his two nice catches on the day.
Meanwhile, Mike Trumpy had another stellar 4th quarter and put up 89 yards on just 14 carries (6.2 ypc), with most of the damage coming in crunch time in the second half. Trumpy is going to be a key part of how far this team goes as he can bulldoze with the best of them.
Third Down Defense – Despite the Hoosiers second half onslaught, Northwestern was stout on third down all day long. NU held Indiana to just 5-of-15 on third down conversions (3-5 in 2nd half), while Northwestern upped its 13th ranked average (53%) by going 10-of-17.
Deonte Gibson – I haven’t seem one guy get held more in the same game in quite some time. He actually got one flag as he was about to sack Coffman and he got blatantly pulled down from behind. He was the only ‘Cat consistently closing in on the IU QBs as Northwestern’s pass rush continues to fail when it comes to registering pressure.
Kickoff Coverage – We were brutal. It’s too easy to point to a fumbled return that goes for 96-yards like Indiana did, but that was just the exclamation point on a day when IU’s return team manhandled us. The Hoosiers returned 6 kickoffs for 219 yards, regularly spotting their starting position between the 30 and 40 yard line. Lots to clean-up here.
Ibraheim Campbell – The ‘Cats star safety delivered a crushing hit early in the second quarter that at first appeared to spring a fumble, but was ruled an incompletion. He appeared to be pointing to the base of his neck when he was being attended to, but no word on the injury and severity of it at this point. Campbell did not return and the combination of Hunter Bates, Jared Carpenter and Traveon Henry rotated in in his place.
Jugular Gene – Obviously up 27-0 Northwestern played poorly in stretches and Indiana played well to mount an all-to-scary comeback. The ‘Cats seemed on the verge of crushing Indiana’s soul when Stephen Houston and Sudfield stoked the fire. The ‘Cats had some trouble on their defensive contain and Kevin Wilson and crew exploited it with a few reverse fields. Good teams win this game when they face adversity. Great teams put teams like this away.
Kyle Prater’s Hold – It turned out not to matter as we scored on this drive anyway, but Prater’s hold was unnecessary as Kain Colter had blitzed five yards past him when Kyle made it way too easy for the refs to throw the laundry. Overall, the ‘Cats played a very clean game with very few penalties. This one could’ve really hurt.
Game Stats To Stew On
- NU had 704 yards of total offense, a school record – 394 rushing, 310 passing
- Leading receivers – Colter 9 rec/131 yds, C. Jones 4 rec/68 yds, Lawrence 4 rec/52 yds, T Jones 2 rec/42 yds
- Leading rushers – Colter 14 car/161 yds, 4 TD, Mark 29 car/131 yds 1 TD, Trumpy 14 car/89 yds
- First downs – NU 36, IU 16
- NU – 3 Turnovers!
- Redzone – 7/7 – 4 TDs, 3 FGs
- TOP – NU 36:14, IU 23:46
- IU total offense – 425 yds – 266 passing, 159 rushing