Football: Colter excels in changing role

Rafi Letzter/Daily senior staffer

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter scores one of four rushing touchdowns during Saturday's game against Indiana. Colter finished the game with 161 yards rushing.

Rohan Nadkarni, Assistant Sports Editor

Kain Colter started at quarterback for Northwestern for the first four weeks of the season. In the Wildcats’ Big Ten opener Saturday, Colter opted for another achievement: leading the team in rushing and receiving.

After trading off snaps at quarterback with Trevor Siemian for most of the season, Colter morphed into a do-it-all player against Indiana, lining up in the slot and behind center, knifing his way through the Hoosier defense.

The junior finished the game with 14 carries for 161 yards, nine catches for 131 yards and two yards passing on three attempts. Colter scored four touchdowns, all of which came on the ground.

As a whole, the offense put on one of the greatest displays in school history. The 704 yards of total offense gained now stands as the single-game record for the program. The Cats dominated time of possession, converted 10 of 17 third downs and scored all seven times they reached the red zone.

“This is something we’ve been preparing for,” Colter said of his new role on offense. “We just went out there and executed. Everybody did a great job today.”

Colter practiced at wide receiver multiple times in the past two weeks. The plan came from what coach Pat Fitzgerald described as a way to “get the best 11 on the field” for every play.

On the ground, Colter did most of his damage via the read-option play with Venric Mark. The two formed a dynamic backfield, and Indiana defenders struggled containing Colter when he kept the ball for himself.

In the receiving game, Colter turned into Siemian’s favorite target, with the two often connecting on third down to move the chains.

However, the number of hits that Colter takes could emerge as a problem in his new role, with the junior consistently fighting for more yards as opposed to avoiding contact at the end of plays.

“He’s not going to slide so I’m not going to keep fighting him on it,” Fitzgerald said. “He believes he can score on every play. That’s not a bad quality.”

Colter admitted he is concerned about the hits that he receives in the open field.

“You’re going to be sore (after the game) no matter what. It’s just part of football,” Colter said. “I definitely need to try to take care of my body. (I) probably have to be a little bit more careful in certain situations.”

Colter’s new role also means much less time as a passer, a job that he performed capably through the first four weeks of the season.

After calling Colter “our starting quarterback” during Big Ten Media Days in July, and then denying a quarterback controversy after the first week, Fitzgerald limited Colter to only three pass attempts against Indiana.

But Fitzgerald still holds that Colter can and will throw the ball.

“It was more of the flow of the game,” Fitzgerald said of the quarterback rotation. “We believe in Kain as a thrower. Trust me on that.”

Fitzgerald explained that the coaching staff made the decision on when and how to use Colter before the game. For the future, Colter said he envisions continuing his role as a player who lines up all over the field.

For now, NU appears to be enjoying their star athlete, with Colter making his case for one of the biggest game-changers in the Big Ten.

“Kain is Kain. He’s unbelievable,” Fitzgerald said. “He is the most dynamic young man, I think, in this conference. We are just getting started.”

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