A bit of Cole lights up Huskies

Scott Duncan

In last week’s 38-14 win against Ohio, Northwestern coach Randy Walker chose the safe route for NU’s punt returns. He opted to play defense, leaving junior cornerback and punt returner Marquice Cole without any blockers.

On Saturday, with the Wildcats trailing Northern Illinois 14-10 in the second quarter, Walker called a wall right, and let Cole try to utilize blockers and his 4.2 40-yard speed.

Cole seized the opportunity and returned the punt 81 yards for a touchdown.

“He’s pretty electric back there on punt returns,” Walker said. “Last week we were in punt safe a whole bunch which means we weren’t blocking anybody, we were just playing defense. “We got him some blocks this week, and he took it to the house.”

Cole’s touchdown return gave the Cats a 17-14 lead, which NU never gave up in the 38-37 victory over the Huskies.

“We worked on the wall all week,” Cole said. “We had wall right called and when he kicked it, he actually kicked it to the right. So when I caught it, I just looked up and it was set up. I didn’t do anything, it was all blocking. I just ran a little bit.”

To go along with the touchdown, Cole had an interception in the first quarter and equaled a career high in tackles with eight.

And on the deciding two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, Cole was covering the Huskies’ intended receiver Sam Hurd, when the ball fell incomplete.

“I was wondering, ‘What is he doing?’ I didn’t know if he was trying some sort of trick play,” Cole said about Hurd slipping on the final play. “And then I was trying to see if they were going to call (pass) interference for it. I didn’t do anything, but I was just wondering if they were going to call it.”

This was the type of game Walker expected from Cole last season. But the corner suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a preseason scrimmage in 2004.

Cole missed all 12 games but fought back to become a leader in the young NU secondary in 2005.

Last week against Ohio, in his first game back from the injury, Cole had eight tackles and 53 yards on four punt returns.

And this week in his second game, he took another step forward to becoming the player that Walker believes he can be.

“I know I’ve said this at least once before,” Walker said. “We believe