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Northwestern quarterback duo keeps errors to a minimum

Quarterback KaColter (2) says his running ability helps keep him away from “boneheaded things.” | Sun-Times

Quarterback Kain Colter (2) says his running ability helps keep him away from “boneheaded things.” | Sun-Times

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Updated: December 24, 2012 7:13AM

Playing two quarterbacks is rarely as productive as it has been for Northwestern, and it has almost as much to do with what Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian haven’t done as anything they have accomplished. The Wildcats’ two-armed approach has been a success in part because of a stunning lack of negative plays.

Northwestern quarterbacks have been sacked three times while attempting 178 passes in the last six games. Their 15 sacks allowed overall rank second-best in the Big Ten.

Colter and Siemian also have not thrown an interception in nine of 11 games. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall’s pupils have thrown three interceptions. Only seven FBS programs can make that claim.

“The quarterbacks understand what we’re doing,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “They have great rapport with Mick. When a call comes in, they know what he’s thinking and why we’re doing it based on what we’re seeing and the game plan and film study. They play the concept, they get off it if it’s not there and then we’re running or getting rid of it.

“Sometimes, that position tries to do too much. That’s when you get in trouble. They take what the defense gives them and have to do that again Saturday. It’s a very talented defense we’re playing.”

Illinois’ defense was supposed to be a strength, but it has been another in a long list of weaknesses. Logic says the Illini (2-9, 0-7 Big Ten) will need to create turnovers to upset the Wildcats (8-3, 4-3) in the regular-season finale Saturday at Ryan Field. That hasn’t been easy for Northwestern opponents. The Wildcats rank 15th in the nation with a plus-11 turnover margin.

Northwestern has been more of a running team than in the past, and that cuts down on sacks and interceptions. Colter’s run-first mentality also has kept the sack total down, as has the performance of an offensive line that entered the season with question marks at right guard and tackle.

“A lot of that has to do with my legs,” Colter said. “If I can’t make that throw with my arm, I won’t force it. I’m going to run and try to get the first down. If I wasn’t able to run like I do, I would probably do some boneheaded things throwing the ball. To me, running is my fall-back plan. There’s no need to force it. I just try to get as much as I can with my feet.”

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