Football Sidebar: A day of growing pains for NU’s young quarterback

Jonah L. Rosenblum

Kain Colter makes for a sympathetic loser.

Sitting in a cramped press conference room in the entrails of Michie Stadium, the sophomore quarterback took full responsibility for Northwestern’s 21-14 loss to Army.

“First off, I want to say that I solely take the loss today, ” Colter said. “I 100 percent feel like that was my fault today. I didn’t complete the passes that I needed to complete, just didn’t put points on the board, didn’t help my team out, just had a real bad game.”

It’s a lot of responsibility for anyone to shoulder, particularly a player who has yet to celebrate his 20th birthday.

But it wasn’t just responsibility that Colter had to shoulder Saturday; it was professional humiliation.

After completing 12-of-23 passes for 89 yards, an average of just 3.87 yards per attempt, the sophomore was benched in favor of redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Siemian.

“We just really felt like we’d be changing pace a little bit,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We weren’t having quite the success that we thought we could have throwing the ball, so we made changes to try and get a spark.”

To make matters worse, the quarterback that has been the greatest spark for NU this season had to watch someone else deliver the spark Saturday. When Colter was pulled in the fourth quarter, he watched Siemian come on the field and immediately lead the Wildcats on a long drive downfield, capped off by a 62-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jeremy Ebert.

“It’s a pretty lonely feeling getting benched,” Colter said. “I didn’t play to the expectations and I didn’t help my team, so we put Trevor in there and he did a great job.”

It’s not that Colter’s play was without merit Saturday: He didn’t toss any interceptions, and he did have one spectacular touchdown completion to Ebert. It was just a different Colter than NU fans had grown accustomed to seeing after the first two games of the season.

“It was unlikely,” Ebert said. “A couple of balls that maybe he should have made, he didn’t, but other than that, he’s competing out there.”

Through the first two games of the season, the sophomore quarterback completed all of the necessary passes. Dynamic as a rusher and accurate as a passer, Colter defied predictions that the Cats would sink without senior quarterback Dan Persa, who is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered late last season.

In his first loss, Colter looked very much a young quarterback, making poor decisions out of the pocket and overthrowing several open receivers.

“There are good days in football and bad days in football,” Colter said. “This is just one of those bad days, but playing quarterback you can’t have that and win games.”

Ultimately, no player will have as much to prove as Colter will when NU next takes the field against Illinois on Oct. 1.

“Life is about responding,” Colter said. “I’m going to have to bust my butt to come back and prove that I can play when the team needs me.”

In the meantime, a frustrated young quarterback had to admit that maybe it was better to let someone else take the reins for a little while.

“Hopefully, we can get Dan (Persa) back on the field,” Colter said. “I think today showed that we need him.”

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