Northwestern Finds Exciting New Playmaker in Disappointing Bowl Loss

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In the inaugural Ticket City Bowl, Northwestern lost the game, but found a new weapon on offense. In his first real extended action, freshman QB Kain Colter played multiple positions in a New Year’s Day bowl game.

“Coming in I was a little nervous, but that first play: we scripted it out, and once I got that under my belt I felt okay,” Colter said after the game.

“We did a great job of getting them some different looks keeping ‘em off guard. I played some quarterback, some running back, some receiver, motioned out,” he said.

By Paul M. Banks

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Colter finished with 18 carries for 105 yards, and 2 TDs, 3-6 passing for 38 yards, 1 reception for 32 yards, accumulating almost 200 all-purpose yards.

Yesterday, he was on the field with first-string quarterback Evan Watkins quite a bit, so expect Colter to get plenty of playing time once original starting QB Dan Persa returns healthy from his Achilles injury.

Colter can even faster than Persa- making him a good fit for what NU likes to do in their spread-option. He fits that perfect skill set NU looks for in their QBs (see C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka, Persa)

Colter originally committed to Stanford but lost his opportunity there when he blew out his throwing shoulder during his senior year.

“After I threw out my shoulder, our relationship between that kinda fell apart, but I’m glad that I came here,” he said of the Stanford situation.

Colter will be a big part of next year’s team, as will next years class of seniors. Pat Fitzgerald displayed some of his trademark intensity in the post-bowl game press conference. He emphasized a certain point about his program by raising his voice significantly. Therefore, I will type in all caps the portion of the quote spoken with an elevated tone of voice. I hope this further conveys the message.

“As I look at our junior class it’s one of the more successful in our program, starters across the board who have played multiple years AND ITS TIME THAT THEY STEP UP AND IF WE WANT TO WIN THESE KIND OF FOOTBALL GAMES AND WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS THAT CLASS HAS GOT TO STEP UP, THEY GOT TO START MAKING MORE PLAYS AND THEY GOT TO START LEADING, AND THEY GOT TO BE THE CATALYST FOR US TO BE WHERE WE WANT TO GO. AND I CHALLENGED THEM AT THE START OF BOWL PREP, A LOT OF GUYS MADE PLAYS LIKE JORDAN DID and if we want to go where we want to go it’s their time now, it’s their senior year,” he said.

Yes, this will indeed be a very talented and important group. Returning starters on the offensive side of the ball in the current junior class include QB Dan Persa, Ben Burkett, Al Netter, Jeremy Ebert (the Big Ten’s leader in receiving yardage) and Drake Dunsmore (who has NFL potential).

On the other side, 2011 senior-to-be starters include Bryce McNall, Jordan Mabin, Brian Peters, and Vince Browne (possibly the team’s leading NFL Draft prospect).

So leading them back to another bowl (and hopefully a win this time) starts with their MVP Dan Persa, right?

“Dan’s pretty good, you saw him play all year, I’m looking forward to getting him back, I really challenged that whole group at the beginning of bowl prep, and I thought we responded pretty well today. Obviously we gotta play and coach better, but we came here to fight and just didn’t find a way to win,” Fitzgerald said.

The defense gave up a whopping 54.3 ppg over their last three games when they were sans Persa. With his absence, the offense suffered slightly, as you would expect, but ironically it was the defense that utterly collapsed. Perhaps the team just lost their swagger? The overall unit suffered a crisis of confidence without their leader? Maybe the drop in offensive effectiveness, and no longer consuming clock made a difference as the defense spent much more time on the field and fatigued?

“The off-season, that’s where people step up in leadership roles. Dan (Persa)’s a great leader and so is Al (Netter, OL) and they were elected captains this past year, so it’s on everyone as a group,” said junior (and now senior) CB Jordan Mabin after the game.

The offseason, and the drive for 2011 starts now.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular weekly segment on chicagolandsportsradio.com

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