At halftime of Saturday’s Northwestern-Boston College game, it appeared the Wildcats had a raging quarterback controversy.
If nothing else, NU’s quarterback rotation was unpredictable. Kain Colter started as usual and played the first two series. Then backup Trevor Siemian played behind center for the next three drives in the first half.
The results were similar — plenty of long drives and no touchdowns. In fact, Northwestern crossed the 500-yard barrier in total offense early in the fourth quarter, but hadn’t yet crossed the goal line.
By the time this one was over, though, everything turned out fine for Northwestern. Kicker Jeff Budzien tied a school record by booting 5 field goals and Mike Trumpy added a late touchdown run to give the Wildcats a 22-13 victory at Ryan Field.
Colter played the entire second half and after the game, coach Pat Fitzgerald could make a strong argument that nothing was fretful about the quarterback spot.
“When you look at their stat lines, what were they, (a combined) 30-for-40? That’s pretty good,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got 1A and 1B, and both those guys have proved they can move our offense. I think we have a good situation there.”
The running back spot offers no controversy, but did use a successful rotation. Starter Venric Mark left the game in the second half with an unspecified injury and Trumpy stepped in to rush for 106 yards on 16 carries. His 27-yard touchdown run with 1:37 left iced the win.
It was quite a return for Trumpy (Wheaton North), who suffered a torn ACL last year in an Oct. 1 game at Illinois. His return to game action had been gradual. In the first two contests, Trumpy had 8 carries for 5 yards and caught 1 pass.
“He was maybe a little rusty early in camp,” Fitzgerald said. “He needed to get that (knee) twisted back up again in order to give the old exhale, ‘I’m fine. I feel a little differently, but I’m back.’ That happened maybe the end of the first week or second week of training camp.
“I think since then, he’s gained more and more confidence. I’m proud of the way he’s come back, proud of the way he’s fought through this thing. Hopefully, he can get stronger as the year goes on.”
Mark is listed at 5-feet-8, 180 pounds, so it seems inevitable that he’ll get knocked around at times. He took several hard hits before leaving the game and the Wildcats were purposely vague in calling it a “lower body injury.” Mark was seen walking gingerly on the sideline and riding an exercise bike. He finished with 77 yards on 18 carries.
The story of the game was simple enough — Northwestern dominated in total yardage 560-316, but had trouble putting points on the board.
The Wildcats’ first six drives covered at least 50 yards, but they stalled inside the Boston College 20-yard line five times, which is why they clung to a 15-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
“It is frustrating for us,” center Brandon Vitabile said. “We were thinking we were moving the ball at will. Then we’d get to the red zone and hit a brick wall.”
Boston College had the ball twice in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. The second drive started on its own 1-yard line, though, and Northwestern’s defense forced a three-and-out, setting up Trumpy’s touchdown run.
Fitzgerald said he used Colter in the second half because he thought the Wildcats could control the line of scrimmage and he wanted to commit to the run.
“I’m not in the business of keeping people happy,” Fitzgerald said of his quarterbacks. “I’m in the business of winning football games and doing it whatever way we can.”
• Earlier in the day, Northwestern announced plans to rebuild its recreational and athletic facilities on campus. The student recreation building and natatorium will be renovated, but the focal point is a new indoor football facility with two glass walls overlooking Lake Michigan.
An outdoor practice field will be added in the area south of the lacrosse and soccer stadium, which means all the football training facilities will be on campus, instead of a few miles away at Ryan Field. Fitzgerald pushed for this project and was over-the-top in his enthusiasm on Saturday.
“Specific for our football program, this is a game-changer,” he said. “I think raises the bar as far as expectations for ourselves. I don’t care where anybody else puts their facility, they won’t be putting it on the shores of Lake Michigan like we will.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.