Two quarterbacks, two styles: No problem for Northwestern


Two quarterbacks, two styles: No problem for Northwestern

Compare the statistics between Northwestern quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, and it's hard to tell who's the starter and who's the backup.

Both players played in all 12 games and have similar passing numbers. Colter was 92-of-134 for 796 yards, 8 TDs and 2 interceptions, an efficiency rating of 135.2 this season. Siemian's numbers read 116-of-197 (58.9 percent) for 1,192 yards, 6 TDs and 2 picks, good for an efficiency mark of 117.7.

While the numbers between the two are fairly even, the one lopsided category between the two is the number of quarterback starts. That's where Colter holds a 10-2 edge this season and that alone spells the biggest difference between the two.

Colter has 10 starts at quarterback and one as a wide receiver. Siemian wears the fireman's hat, coming in at times to revitalize a stagnant offense, including several rescues which helped secure a Northwestern win. When Siemian did get an opportunity to start a game, he made the most of it. He opened at quarterback against Indiana and proceeded to throw for a career-best 308 yards on 22-of-32 passing.

Ironically, Siemian's favorite receiver that day? Colter, who had nine receptions for 131 yards.

If you get the picture that Colter is versatile, you've nailed it. His rushing totals confirm that. He carried the ball 158 times, good for 820 yards and 12 scores with an average gain of 5.2 yards per carry. Starting tailback Venric Mark is the only Wildcat player with better numbers toting the ball as Mark averaged just over six yards a carry en route to a 1,300-yard season.

It's obvious either Colter or Siemian could be a full-time starter for most teams. Yet neither has a problem with his current role for the Wildcats. Colter says he doesn't think about the fact that sooner or later, Siemian will be coming into the game as his replacement.

"If you think about him coming in to replace you, you can't really focus on anything else," said Colter, a true junior who's played in all 25 NU games the past two seasons. "You push that to the back of your mind and focus on the plays and going out there and doing your best. If you're out there doing your best and you throw a pick or fumble, so be it. You don't think about that, you just try to do your best.

"If they need Trevor in the game and that gives us the best possibility to win, then they'll do that. Whenever we're out on the field, I want to see Trev do his best and he wants me to do my best. There's no conflict or anything between us. When we do run the two-quarterback system, it's to help the team win, that's why it works so well."

Even when he is replaced by Siemian, it doesn't necessarily mean that Colter is coming out of the game. In the two games that Siemian started - Indiana and Penn State - Colter saw plenty of action as a receiver and in backing up Siemian. He had a career best of nine receptions for 131 yards against the Hoosiers, and still found time to rush for 161 yards in 14 carries from the quarterback spot while scoring a school record-tying four rushing touchdowns.

"I don't mind going in at wide receiver," the Denver native said. "If I'm going to have a chance to play at the next level, it probably won't be at quarterback, so any chance I get to go out there and showcase my abilities, I'm going to take advantage of it.

"I love playing quarterback, I've been playing it my whole life, but wherever the team needs me I'm going to go out there and play."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has instituted the two-look system at quarterback and it's worked out well for the Wildcats offense. NU averaged 397.8 yards per game and scored at better than a 30-point clip per outing.

"We believe we've got two young men that we can win with," the Wildcats coach said. "We watch a lot of NFL teams that don't have one. We're very fortunate to have two.

"Cain is a very dynamic athlete who does a lot of things very, very well. He's a terrific leader, has had a great, great season.

"We've put Trevor in some tough situations and he's handled them incredibly well this season. He's had a great finish for the year and has a really, really bright future. These are two guys who we feel strongly about, that we feel we can win with and do things at a very high level. That's why we're here. We've rode their coat-tails, and obviously they're going to need to play well against Mississippi State."

Siemian's only two starts this year showed that he is worthy of being a full-time starter. He was a combined 43-of-68 (63.3 percent), good for 443 yards with one touchdown and an interception in games against Indiana and Penn State. Six times this season he's had double-digit pass completions. Five times he's passed for over 115 yards.

Siemian is more the pro-style passer at 6-3, 210 pounds compared to Colter's 6-foot, 190-pound frame that enables him to escape danger much easier than Siemian. The latter makes it clear, he'd like to start. But he's a "team player", someone who's more concerned about helping the Wildcats gain a win than complaining about not starting.

"I'm just thankful for the opportunity to come in and move the offense when I get my chance," said Siemian, an Orlando native. "That's my job to be a leader on this team. I want to be the starter, but it doesn't matter what I think. I'm just a player, my job isn't to coach. I'm just glad to be here and contribute when I can to help us win.

"Kain and I have a good relationship. It's been good for both of us to get on the field. Obviously our styles are a little different, but we're both out there trying to help each other."

Two quarterbacks, two styles, two unselfish players. It's proven to be a winning combination for Northwestern this season and could be the factor that helps the Wildcats to their first bowl game win in 64 years.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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