Updated: September 11, 2013 11:01PM
The signature moment of Tony Jones’ game against Syracuse last Saturday came when the redshirt junior receiver hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Siemian in the fourth quarter of the Wildcats’ 48-27 victory.
The play sticks out for Jones because he doesn’t think it would have happened at this time last year.
On that play Saturday, Jones was supposed to run a corner route, but he saw that the Syracuse cornerback on his side of the field was blitzing. That left him one-on-one with the safety, an ideal matchup for someone with Jones’ speed.
So without getting a signal from either the sideline or Siemian, Jones decided to run a go route, knowing it was the heady football play. Luckily, Siemian was thinking the same thing.
A season ago, that type of cohesion wasn’t as prevalent.
“Those type of plays kind of show the chemistry that we built this offseason,” Jones said. “I guess Trevor saw it, I saw it and it just happened. It was crazy.”
All offseason, much of the time without the coaching staff, Northwestern’s receivers and quarterbacks worked to develop that chemistry. But no one has benefitted more than Jones.
On Saturday, Jones had nine catches for 185 yards. He already has 255 yards and two touchdowns on the season after a 2012 campaign in which he put up 335 yards receiving all year.
The coaching staff always knew Jones was capable of playing at what coach Pat Fitzgerald has called “an All-Big Ten level” through two games.
It was his big-play potential that made Jones one of five true freshmen to play in 2010. But during his sophomore year, Jones tore his posterior cruciate ligament shortly after the team returned from training camp in Kenosha, Wis., when he caught a pass and landed awkwardly on his knee.
Jones used a redshirt that year but had a disappointing 2012. This offseason, though, Jones took advantage of being healthy, putting in the requisite work with the quarterbacks this offseason.
“We had high expectations going into last fall, and on some level it didn’t develop the way he and I wanted it to,” wide receivers coach Dennis Springer said.
“He set goals for himself and worked extremely hard in the winter, and it showed itself in the spring.”