Sidebar: Bacher, Peterman get NU offense rolling

Matt Forman

As the second quarter began against Purdue, Northwestern was looking for answers.

During the five preceding quarters, the Wildcats struggled offensively, scoring just 20 points. When NU needed a big play, it looked to Mr. Do-It-All, senior wide receiver Eric Peterman.

“He’s probably the biggest threat we have on offense,” senior running back Tyrell Sutton said. “Being a former quarterback, he understands the game, he understands every single position. He can run, he can throw, he can catch. It’s huge having a player like that on our side of the ball.”

Facing a second-and-9 just inside Purdue territory, senior quarterback C.J. Bachér dropped back, avoided a blitz and found Peterman coming back to the center of the field on a screen. Peterman caught the pass, spun away from safety Dwight McLean, side-stepped a defender and took the ball 45 yards for the touchdown.

Peterman’s 45-yard reception gave the Cats a 7-6 lead they did not relinquish. It was also Bachér’s longest touchdown pass of 2008. Before Saturday, Bachér’s longest was a 16-yarder to Jeremy Ebert in the season-opener against Syracuse.

But Peterman wasn’t finished. Just five plays later, offensive coordinator Mick McCall called his number on a gadget play.

Sutton took a handoff from Bachér off the left side and flipped it back to Peterman, who reversed field all the way to the right and found a streaking Sidney Stewart for a 30-yard touchdown.

“It was a lot of fun,” Peterman said. “Going back to the glory days as I was a high school quarterback. It was a great call at a great time.”

The touchdown pass was Peterman’s second attempt this season. The former star at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill., is now 2-for-2 on the season for 55 yards and a touchdown, pushing his quarterback rating to 496. His other pass was a 25-yard completion that nearly went for a touchdown to Bachér in a win over Duke.

Don’t expect coach Pat Fitzgerald to make a quarterback change anytime soon, however. Peterman’s high-arcing throw wobbled in the air before Stewart ran underneath it. Fitzgerald said it seemed like the ball was in the air forever.

“I wanted to give him time to adjust to it,” Peterman said with a chuckle. “He was wide open.”Sutton, who led NU with 158 all-purpose yards in the game and now leads the team with 961 for the season, saw Peterman steal the show Saturday.

“The first thing I said to him when he came to the sideline was ‘Are you going to run for one next? You’ve done everything else,'” Sutton said. “You might as well go into the backfield and play running back for a play.'”

Peterman does have one rushing attempt this season, a 15-yard gain against Iowa on an end-around.

But it was his multiple contributions against Purdue that helped the offense score 24 second-quarter points and get the unit back on track.

“This offense always has quick-strike potential,” Bachér said. “I think we really started to click in the second quarter and carried it over.”

The fast-hitting attack scored 17 points in a matter of four minutes, and Peterman ended the day with 55 yards receiving on four receptions.

Peterman’s versatility impressed his coach.

“He is a very dynamic player,” Fitzgerald said.

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