Practice Notes: Setting up QB race

Matt Alviti and defensive ends were among the standouts at Wednesday practice.

— With Kain Colter dressed but inactive and Trevor Siemian relegated to short passes, Matt Alviti shined Wednesday morning. We've been able to see glints of his potential all season long, but he's now been consistently finding his targets, making smarter decisions and showing off some athleticism scrambling.

— One more thing: Alviti has an absolute cannon. The highlight of his practice—and the session on whole—was a perfectly placed 55-yard bomb down the middle of the field that Jordan Perkins caught in the end zone.

— As mentioned before, Siemian was restrained to mostly screens, flats and slants throughout practice Wednesday. Though his 227 passing yards against Michigan State were encouraging, it's hard to overlook his struggles since Ohio State and the limited passing game Pat Fitzgerald and Mick McCall have employed during the seven-game losing streak.

— Colter's status is still up in the air for Illinois—and neither he nor Fitz did anything to clear that up—so the burden of moving the offense along the field will fall squarely on the shoulders of Siemian and presumably Treyvon Green and Mike Trumpy.

— This will also be Siemian's last chance to make a good impression until spring practices start up, and with Alviti's solid practice performances, the starting quarterback spot for 2014 should be far from set in stone.

— Tyler Scott, Dean Lowry, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Max Chapman all put on strong performances Wednesday, while the offensive line had alternating spurts solidity and ineffectiveness. Scott and Lowry were all over Alviti and Oliver as Odenigbo and Chapman were quick and dogged coming off of the line. Scott will be a major loss for Northwestern next season, but there are several promising options including Deonte Gibson to fill that hole.

— While Alviti and Siemian both practiced well, there were several impressive defensive plays made downfield. Collin Ellis channeled some of the long-lost Berkeley magic and picked off a sideline pass for a touchdown. Nick VanHoose almost made an impressive leaping interception of his own, but the ball was just out of his grasp, and swatted away an Alviti zinger over the middle earlier.

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