DiNardo: NU enters tough stretch

Northwestern earned an important yet easy victory over the Indiana Hoosiers, moving the team's record to 5-0 on the season. Former Wildcat standout Jack DiNardo recaps the victory and looks ahead to the tough stretch of games.

Saturday's 44-29 victory over Indiana puts Northwestern at 5-0 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten play. The rout came from an offensive explosion by the Wildcats resulting in a school-record 704 yards of total offense.

While Northwestern's offense put up big numbers in the season-opener against Syracuse, and was able to score 38 points against South Dakota in week 4, this offense going into Indiana had yet to hit its stride. Saturday against Indiana, however, it seemed there was little Northwestern could do that would not result in huge chunks of yards.

The biggest change evident in Saturday's game was at the quarterback position, where Trevor Siemian started for the first time and Kain Colter played the entire game at either wide receiver orquarterback. This use of both quarterbacks, often on the field at the same time resulted in Siemian throwing for 308 yards and Colter rushing for 164 yards, four touchdowns, and an additional 131 yards receiving.

One of the biggest advantages a spread offense has over a more traditional pro-style attack is the amount of different looks it can give an opposing defense by using different formations and moving players around in these formations. When you add the ability to have two proven quarterbacks on the field at the same time like NU did Saturday, it makes it nearly impossible for defenses to adjust on the fly.

While Northwestern will face far better defenses than Indiana's the rest of the season, these defenses will be forced to prepare all week for a countless number of formations and schemes that NU is capable of using with both Siemian and Colter.

Every second of practice time used by defenses to prepare for exotic schemes -- like NU's -- is time taken away from practicing fundamentals such as tackling and getting off blocks. And while no Big Ten champion has ever been crowned after beating up on a young Indiana team week one of conference play, offensive coordinator Mick McCall deserves much credit for finding a way to get both of his quarterbacks on the field, creating a unique challenge for Big Ten defensive coordinators to stop the rest of the season.

Saturday's victory is the first of eight conference tests NU will face in their quest for a Legends Division title.

With much work still to be done, especially on defensive, where a young secondary without the injured Ibraheim Campbell was exposed during much of Saturday's third quarter, NU will look for play makers to take control of the struggling unit. Campbell, NU's standout sophomore safety left the game in the second quarter and did not return after suffering what appeared to be a left shoulder injury.

Hopefully Campbell will return soon, as this will be a crucial week of preparation for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats as they look to take down an improving Pen State team on the road in State College.

Jack DiNardo was a standout defensive tackle with Northwestern's winningest-ever senior class. He graduated with a degree in political science and is now pursuing a master's degree in liberal arts. Each Sunday following a Northwestern game, DiNardo will offer a column sharing his perspective.


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