"I start to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher around this time of year," Fitzgerald told the media after the game. "It's on them, they know that, and some guys are stepping up."
When Fitzgerald left the huddle, true sophomore Kain Colter took charge of inspiring his teammates.
With senior quarterback Dan Persa battling through injuries this season, Colter has become a constant in the Northwestern offense. He has stepped in as quarterback, running back, and wide receiver so far, giving the Wildcats a big boost on the field. However, his greatest role is as a team leader.
When Persa was injured against Penn State, the Wildcat players turned to the sophomore for leadership.
"A bunch of seniors came to Kain and said, ‘we'll follow your lead, let's go,'" Fitzgerald said. "I thought he really stepped up."
Colter has done it all for the Wildcats this season. He started the first three games of the season as quarterback in lieu of Dan Persa. When Persa returned, Colter was asked to become a wide receiver, while also serving as a rushing quarterback.
On the season, Colter has racked up 1,345 total yards (passing, rushing, and receiving) and 11 touchdowns. His motivation to be successful comes from home, with his father, Spencer.
"I talk to my dad every week and we always talk about setting goals," Colter said. "Throughout my whole life, I've been setting goals."
Colter has a new goal to reach for. Now that he is playing a versatile role for the Northwestern offense, Colter hopes to achieve 100 yards passing, rushing, and receiving in one game.
"That's just something I've been striving for," Colter said. "It's in my mind."
Pat Fitzgerald also holds high expectations for his versatile sophomore. He believes Colter can reach great things in his career at Northwestern.
"I don't think I can sing a guy's praises any higher—maybe I have for Kain—but he's very deserving of it," Fitzgerald said of Colter. "You just see that maturation of a special athlete happening right before our eyes."