EVANSTON-If Saturday's 28-17 win over Iowa proved anything, it's that Kain Colter is Northwestern's quarterback.
After a season of rotating quarterbacks, the Wildcats handed the keys to Colter for Saturday's Homecoming game against Iowa, and junior signal caller drove them to what looked to be an easy win before two fourth-quarter Hawkeye scores made the stretch run a bit tenuous.
There was no flip-flopping of QBs in this contest, as sometime backup and sometime starter Trevor Siemian played just a few snaps in the second quarter.
Colter restarted the engine on Northwestern's read-option attack and the Wildcats ran the Hawkeyes out of the building. The Wildcats' suddenly turbocharged offense rushed for 349 yards, including 166 and three TDs for Colter and 162 for Venric Mark, who in the process became the first back since Tyrell Sutton in 2006 to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
In short, Northwestern's offense looked more like the machine that ground up South Dakota and Indiana in September, rather than the clunker that putt-putted through two losses in three games in October.
If there was any doubt as to whether No. 2 should be No. 1, he erased them with a 47-yard touchdown strikes to Christian Jones in the third quarter. He dropped back for a rare pass-- he was just 6 of 9 for 80 yards on the day -- and hit Jones, running along the right hash marks, in stride, just over the outstretched hands of the safety. Jones took it home for a commanding 28-3 with 1:23 left in the period.
That play, of course, was made possible by the threat of the run that gouged the Hawkeyes all day. That's what happens when you average 7.1 yards per carry.
Northwestern ran the ball 10 times on its game-opening, 11-play touchdown drive, which culminated with Colter scoring on a five-yard run. On the Wildcats' third possession, pinned back at the 1-yard line, Colter handed the ball off to Mark, who took it 72 yards before Micah Hyde dragged him down from behind at the Iowa 27. Six runs later, Colter found the end zone from two yards out.
A Tyris Jones blocked punt on Iowa's first drive of the third quarter set up Northwestern and the Iowa 4, and Colter again ran it on the following play.
Colter was far from perfect. He badly overthrown pass to an open Tony Jones was picked off by B.J. Lowery in the first quarter. A bad snap at the Iowa 3 -- although not Colter's fault -- robbed the Wildcats of the score that could have put the Hawkeyes away for good in the third quarter.
Overall, though, Northwestern's offense found the rhythm it had been lacking, and the quarterback it had been looking for -- just in time for a bye week and road games at Michigan State and Michigan.