Football: Northwestern clocks record day to hold on against Indiana
September 29, 2012
Saturday's game against Indiana was another lesson for Northwestern that no lead is ever safe.
The Wildcats took a 27-0 advantage with 11 minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but with 14 minutes and 6 seconds left in the game, the Hoosiers had pulled within eight points. The 29-10 scoring run put many fans at the edge of their seats before NU pulled away to win 44-29.
“Our guys came out of the gate and played really well to start the football game,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We needed to go out and control the second half and obviously we failed at that miserably.”
The defensive breakdown was vastly different from the one NU had against Syracuse four weeks ago. Against the Orange, the Cats struggled with heat and fatigue and were not in position to stop the big plays. Against the Hoosiers, the secondary was in shape enough to stop the big pass plays but just did not execute.
“We were on top of every play,” linebacker Damien Proby said. “There was a jump ball and they made a better play than we did. There’s no comparison of the two (games). We were there every time.”
The most notable example of this came late in the fourth quarter after NU took a 15-point lead. Hoosier quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw a deep pass down the left sideline with receiver Cody Latimer going one-on-one with senior cornerback Quinn Evans. The ball was thrown short, but Latimer went over Evans to make the circus grab and give Indiana a desirable field position inside the NU 15-yard line.
Indiana repeated this pattern several times over the course of the game, with defensive backs organizing to break up passes but never fully executing. Fitzgerald said the players need to have more faith in themselves that they can prevent big plays from happening.
“We’re in great position. We’ve just got to have the confidence and trust in ourselves to go make that play,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got confidence in the guys.”
The Hoosiers gashed the Cats on the ground as well in the second half. Indiana ran for 103 yards on 13 carries in the second half, which allowed the Hoosiers to open up the passing game. Fitzgerald said the defensive line did a poor job in plugging the gaps, but Proby said the Hoosiers found ways to exploit the NU defensive looks.
“They just caught us in a few packages,” Proby said. “They have a very up tempo offense and they just caught us in some things where we weren’t where we should have been in certain situations.”
Proby was one of a couple of players who had career days for NU on Saturday. Junior quarterback Kain Colter set five career records against the Hoosiers, and sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian set a career mark in passing yards in his first start. As an offensive unit, the Cats set a record for most yards in a game with 704 yards, 30 more than the previous record set in 2005.
The running game once again propelled the NU offense. Junior tailback Venric Mark and Colter both went over the century mark in rushing, the first time two NU players did so in the same game since 2003. All five Cats’ touchdowns came on the ground, including four from Colter, who used the option game to score.
Colter also made a large difference in the passing game as a receiver. He only had three pass attempts, but he caught nine passes for 131 yards. Six of those catches went for first downs, and Colter was targeted on many third-down throws.
"(Colter) did a good job shaking loose and beating his guy,” Siemian said. “If he’s getting loose, I’m going to get him the ball.”