Wildcats breeze past South Dakota

Wildcats breeze past South Dakota
September 22, 2012, 11:18 pm
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EVANSTON Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter ripped open a plastic bag and popped some Swedish Fish into his mouth.

After a 38-7 rout of FCS opponent South Dakota on Saturday, Colter was able to enjoy the gummy candy during his postgame interview.

Now comes the hard part.

The Wildcats open Big Ten play next week after going 4-0 in their non-conference schedule.

As we go into Big Ten play, we expect to win games, expect to win the conference, Colter said. Were not going to get too high when we have success.

Northwestern was the only college football team to go 3-0 against BCS teams in beating Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College, but the Wildcats understand a new season begins Saturday against Indiana.

While we did go 4-0 in the non-conference, it doesnt mean much if you dont do well in conference, defensive end Quentin Williams said. Its gratifying to be 4-0. Were in a great place right now, but we have a long way to go and were going to work toward it.

In their non-conference finale, the Wildcats wanted to establish their running game and get younger players on the field. They met their goals Venric Mark rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and Northwestern finished with 277 yards on the ground. Several reserves got playing time, as third-string quarterback Zack Oliver made his first career appearance.

Weve been running the ball really well, Colter said. The offensive line has done a great job opening up some holes. The running backs have been running hard. If its not broke, dont fix it, so were going to keep coming back to that (running game).

If you can dominate the run game, you have a great chance of winning. The running game is working for us, so were going to stick to that.

Mark finished six yards short of his career high for single-game rushing yards, set two weeks ago against Vanderbilt. He rushed for three touchdowns and 97 yards before halftime.

Venric is playing at a very high level right now, coach Pat Fitzgerald said. The way hes been able to run the ball between the tackles hes proven that he can. He has great speed, great vision. The way hes gone about his business the first four weeks has been outstanding. The heavy lifting starts in Big Ten play.

With its running game marching down the field, Northwestern didnt need much of a passing game. The Wildcats five rushing touchdowns were their most since 2009. The three quarterbacks combined to pass 15 times, completing 12 for 131 yards. Northwestern has yet to throw an interception.

Both Colter and backup Trevor Siemian got banged up but OK. Colter came out in the first quarter with a wrist injury. He said he might have landed on the wrist wrong and irritated a previous injury. Siemian went down after getting hit with a blitz late in the first quarter and nearly threw an interception, but he also returned.

A week ago, Northwestern kicked five field goals and scored its lone touchdown on its final play on offense against Boston College. This time, the Wildcats had no trouble finding the end zone, scoring touchdowns during three of their first four drives and commanding a 28-0 halftime lead.

Number one, we ran the ball more efficiently, Fitzgerald said. We were able to control the line of scrimmage, which obviously if you can run the ball, it makes things a lot easier. Number two, we just executed. A week ago, we just werent executing.

Fitzgerald also liked his teams focus against an FCS team. While fellow Big Ten teams struggled against supposedly lesser opponents, as Iowa lost to Central Michigan and Michigan State held on against Eastern Michigan, Northwestern had little trouble Saturday.

Weve gotta get better and keep embracing that through this journey, Fitzgerald said. We got better this week. Now the challenge gets a lot harder.