Kain Colter was such the focus of the offense against Indiana that sometimes it appeared that quarterback Trevor Siemian was locking onto his slot receiver from the moment he left the huddle.
Colter went on to rush for 161 yards on 14 attempts while also catching nine passes for 131 yards in a win over the Hoosiers.
The opposite was true in Saturday's loss at Penn State. Colter appeared invisible for long stretches while picking up 24 yards on five carries and catching three passes for 17 yards.
Was it great defense by Penn State? Did Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall not call Colter's number frequently enough or did the Northwestern staff, thinking that Penn State would focus their defense on stopping Colter, decide to use him a decoy and get the ball to other playmakers?
That's what I asked coach Pat Fitzgerald. Here is his answer: "There were some things there that we didn't hit," he said. "There were some things there when we were going to go to him and they had good coverage on him. When we ran our base stuff we typically run with him we had some success. We've got to continue to have some balance there, spread the ball out to all our playmakers. If we do that we'll continue to have success. I thought we rallied back and settled down and moved the ball pretty well. We just needed a drive there in the fourth quarter and we didn't put it together. Then our offense didn't get back on the field again until [there was 2:37 left.]"
Colter threw for 135, 42, 144 and 46 yards in the first four games. He completed 1-of-3 passes against Indiana for two yards and did not attempt a pass Saturday, which means the Northwestern offense is becoming predictable. Opponents know to expect the run when Colter is in the game and the pass when Siemian is behind center.
"Absolutely," Fitzgerald said when asked if wanted to continue to use Colter as a passer.
The Wildcats threw for just 135 yards Saturday, which makes it difficult to win regardless of how effective their running game might be. Siemian completed 21-of-36 passes with a touchdown. His longest completion was 16 yards.
"We had more drops than we had in previous weeks," Fitzgerald said. "When we had some guys open we missed them and then we had some protection issues and there were some calls we'd like to have back. There were a collection of things we can do better. To say it's on Trevor, or it's on Kain or it's on the receivers or the O-line or the superbacks or our offensive staff, it's more a collection of things we can fix."