Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern
Somebody else needed to give play-calling signals from the sideline because the player who had been doing it all season was finally getting his shot at quarterback.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Marty had spent every game this year giving hand-signs or holding play-cards to inform the players who were actually in the game. He finally got the chance to see what it looked like from the other side in snaps that really mattered.
“It’s been a while since I had to hit a hole and see a MIKE linebacker coming running at me,” Marty said. “It’s been a while since you step back and you got guys in your face and you deliver a throw.”
Even though Marty hadn’t completed a pass before Saturday, he played as well as any Northwestern quarterback has all season. He had 95 yards in the air and 54 on the ground and added three touchdowns in his first extended action of his career. The Wildcats (2-9, 0-8 Big Ten) lost to Minnesota (10-1, 7-1), 38-22, but Marty played well enough to put himself in the long-term picture at quarterback.
“He’s a great young man and young player in our program, just like a lot of guys who are playing right now,” Fitzgerald said. “My hope is he gains confidence through the experience and it’s great fuel and motivation for him as he moves forward in his career.”
A three-star quarterback from Cincinnati, Marty was rated two spots higher than Golden Gophers’ quarterback Tanner Morgan coming out of high school. But Marty redshirted his first year and didn’t see the field at all in 2018, either.
He entered the 2019 season as one of the five quarterbacks in the much-fabled quarterback competition. But when NU left for training camp in Kenosha, coach Pat Fitzgerald told Marty he wasn’t on the same level as senior T.J. Green or sophomore Hunter Johnson. Over the final weeks of summer camp, Marty lost his third string spot to junior Aidan Smith, who took over after Green and Johnson both suffered injuries.
Marty played the first game of his career in October against Ohio State, and he was intercepted on the first pass he ever threw. He played mop-up duty in two games since then, but Marty had only thrown two passes in his entire college career when he took the field Saturday after Johnson got knocked out of the game.
Unlike the Ohio State game, Marty said he was ready for this opportunity against Minnesota.
“The Ohio State week, I probably didn’t do my best job in preparation, preparing to get in that game,” Marty said. “My mentality switched after that because I knew that I needed to have an impact on this team. From there on, I tried to make others around me better and elevate.”
Heading into the game against Minnesota, Marty knew he had a better chance to play. He was listed as the backup on the depth chart for the first time all season, and then Smith suffered a hand injury and didn’t progress during the week. Smith had his right thumb heavily taped and was out Saturday, but Johnson had progressed enough from a right knee injury to start against Minnesota and keep Marty at second string.
Fitzgerald said Johnson started because he was the “most healthy quarterback who had experience,” but Johnson struggled in his first start in two months. He was sacked four times and didn’t complete a pass in four drives, and a brutal sack from defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. took Johnson out of the game.
In Marty’s first full drive, he led the Cats on a 14-play, 69-yard touchdown drive, which was capped off by a nine-yard touchdown throw to sophomore receiver Jace James. Even though James’ jersey was being held by a defensive back, Marty delivered a perfect pass that hit James over his back shoulder.
Marty led NU on two more touchdown drives of 60-or-more yards in the second half, and he became the first quarterback all season to lead the Cats on three touchdown drives that long in a game.
Green –– who was honored on senior day and on the sideline for the first time since he broke his foot in week one at Stanford –– took Marty’s role giving signals.
Once Marty finally got into the game, he gave a jolt to an offense that had nothing going for it before he took the field.
Whatever happens, Marty said he’s prepared to give it his all in practice next week to put himself in a better position to be successful.
“Everything that I do throughout the week is (about) earning that job,” Marty said. “Today’s one game, but I’ve got two years left. I’m just going to continue to build on this and I think the team will continue to build on the slight successes that we’ve had. But we need to get a win next week for these seniors.”