The entire season for Northwestern has been underlined by the simple question: who's under center for the Wildcats, Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian? In a homecoming victory against Iowa, the ‘Cats stuck with Colter and ran their way to a win.
Earlier this week, Colter said the team lacked an identity on offense. He shied away from those comments today, but said the ground game is where NU needs to dominate.
"We're running the ball well," he said. "And calling it an identity or whatever, you know maybe that was the wrong word. But we're running the ball well and that's a key to victory. When you can dominate the line of scrimmage, get yards running the ball, take time off the clock, that's huge."
Colter ran the ball 26 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns, his second game this season with at least three rushing scores – he scored four times against Indiana.
Venric Mark joined Colter in dominating from the backfield, picking up 162 yards on just 16 carries.
"When we're blocking at the line of scrimmage and we're blocking on the perimeter and we've got Venric back there and me back there we're tough to stop," Colter said. "And I feel like that's kind of the direction we need to go. And you see that when we're able to do that efficiently we're winning games."
With most of his production coming on the ground game, Colter continued to take a lot of hits in the game. Despite that, he doesn't worry about getting banged up.
"You're gonna take big hits out there, and I feel like my whole life I've never really been a sliding quarterback," he said. "I've bounced back on plays and you know be able to throw. Sometimes you're gonna get dinged up like I did in Syracuse, but if you're able to go you just keep going."
Though he notched most of his yards and scores on the ground, Colter did complete six of his nine passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, though he also threw an interception. The score came on a 47-yard deep pass to Christian Jones.
"It was great," Colter said of passing the ball more. "Especially that passing touchdown we had, that kind of took a little bit off my shoulders just ‘cause you're able to get back to throwing the ball again, that was great."
Pat Fitzgerald said Colter took the majority of snaps over Siemian against Iowa because the coaches felt they could control the line of scrimmage and run the ball effectively.
"As we went back and kind of evaluated some of the things we were doing very well, and some of the things we obviously struggled with … some of the things we have done well have had Kain there at quarterback so we made some decisions to kind of focus on that and for the most part that worked out efficiently today," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald did suggest that he would like to see Colter slide a bit more often, particularly going forward into the November schedule.
"He knows he can't make every play for a touchdown and be able to take some hits off his body in the long run, especially here as we get to the November grind … he's going to need every ounce of everything he's got inside him athletically to help us find a way to win," Fitzgerald said.
But don't read that as Fitzgerald saying he will continue going with Colter at quarterback the way the ‘Cats did today. The NU coach was predictably silent on future plans at the quarterback position.
"I don't know," he said. "I mean the answer is we are going to do everything we can to win. That's the answer, to the question. But I'm not going to tell Brady [Hoke] anything. Might play Zack Oliver against Michigan."
Though Fitzgerald is keeping the plans quiet, it's safe to say it will probably be Colter or Siemian, not Oliver, taking snaps at Michigan in two weeks.