Northwestern offense isn’t handling the pressure
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter November 15, 2013 10:48PM
“When [teams] bring a lot of pressure, you’re not going to have time to sit back there and let your receivers get downfield,” Kain Colter said. | AP
The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN, 720-AM.
The records: Northwestern 4-5, 0-5 Big Ten; Michigan 6-3, 2-3.
The line: Northwestern by 3.
Updated: December 17, 2013 6:11AM
Kain Colter can’t talk about it without flashing a nervous grin. Maybe he knows relentless pressure has ailed Northwestern’s offense.
Colter, like coach Pat Fitzgerald, wants to protect the team’s offensive lineman.
But that’s getting more difficult as each loss magnifies the problems up front. Northwestern has allowed a Big Ten-worst 33 sacks. That has limited what a talented group of receivers can do in the deep passing game.
“When [teams] bring a lot of pressure, you’re not going to have time to sit back there and let your receivers get downfield,” Colter said. “Of course, we do probably need to throw the ball up and let the receivers go out there and make plays.”
Fitzgerald often says, “Stats are for losing.” Well, this one certainly is. It’s why the Wildcats haven’t won a conference game.
For those still in Fitzgerald’s camp who want to dismiss the Wildcats’ sack total, consider this: Sacks kill drives.
Even in games in which Northwestern’s offense otherwise has rolled, pressure has been a problem. It has made for difficult third-down situations.
Colter and fellow quarterback Trevor Siemian are checking down to shorter routes because of the pressure. The worst-case scenarios is a turnover.
A missed block in the third quarter of Northwestern’s heartbreaking loss to Nebraska two weeks ago caused Siemian to throw a pick-six to Huskers defensive end Avery Moss that tied the score at 21.
Of course, Fitzgerald has a more universal outlook when it comes to the offense’s struggles.
“We’ve been in third-down situations that aren’t very good,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got to be more efficient on third down. So to do that, we’ve got to be better on first and second down.
“It’s not one thing that’s been the issue. That’s been part of the problem. It’s been breakdowns independently.”