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Expect offense aplenty as Northwestern goes for 6-0 at Penn State

Indianv Northwestern

Indiana v Northwestern

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The facts: 11 a.m., ESPN, 720-AM.

Updated: November 7, 2012 6:10AM

Kain Colter reported to the quarterbacks’ meeting room on Monday with no idea what the week’s game plan might entail. All Northwestern’s all-purpose playmaker knew for sure was that his role would change from week to week. By Tuesday night, he knew what positions he would play and what plays he would run.

“We knew we were going to do this at some point during the season,” Colter said of him playing multiple positions. “It just happens to be now. I still feel I have to focus on quarterback, especially with how things can go. Trevor Siemian can get dinged up in a second and I’m back to being that guy. You  really have to focus at quarterback but at the same time I’m playing a lot of roles right now.”

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien face unique challenges heading into a big game for both programs Saturday. 

No. 24 Northwestern may be 5-0 after winning four straight home games but this will be its toughest test to date. Penn State students are organizing a “white out” at Beaver Stadium to inspire a team that has won three straight after dropping consecutive games to open the season. The Nittany Lions haven’t defeated a ranked opponent at home since 2008.

O’Brien has to anticipate every scenario involving Colter after the junior debuted at receiver in last week’s win over Indiana and caught nine passes for 131 yards. He also rushed for 164 yards and four touchdowns while playing quarterback. He played running back some last season and will likely do so again.

“That’s a guy that you have to understand on every single snap where he is,” O’Brien said. “Here is a guy that they are doing a great job with of putting him in position to make plays. Obviously, he’s a quarterback, but then when they move him to wide receiver, with his skill set, he’s quick. He has good ball skills and is a very bright guy.”

Fitzgerald has his own problems defending Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin and a simplified version of the offense that O’Brien brought with him from the New England Patriots. McGloin threw for 318 yards and was responsible for three touchdowns against Temple last week while leading an offense unlike anything the Wildcats have yet seen. 

“As a whole package this is a different beast,” Fitzgerald said. “They use different personnel groups and different formations out of those personnel groupings with different motion shifts. They move the formation. They bunch the formation. They do a lot of things and they’re doing them better and better each week.” 

Penn State’s offense is so voluminous that players and coaches have been cramming as if for a final exam. Meanwhile, Penn State is preparing for they know not what.

“You really just saw me in the slot at one position and in one personnel group,” Colter said. “We can switch up the personnel group, switch out who we have in the game, where I’m going to lineup, the plays that we run. There are a lot of [places] the coaches can go with that. I don’t really know exactly where it’s going to go.” 

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