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Northwestern is buoyed by efficiency in passing game

Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian sets up pass during first half an NCAA football game against Ohio State Saturday Oct.

Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian sets up to pass during the first half of an NCAA football game against Ohio State Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: October 9, 2013 11:12PM



Ask Northwestern for reasons it has been so successful in the passing game, and everyone on the offense seems to defer to one another.

Quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter, who rank first and third, respectively, in pass efficiency in the Big Ten, are throwing the ball. But Colter defers to his receivers.

Having speedsters such as receiver Tony Jones and running back Venric Mark, he said, makes his throws easier.

“Especially when a team isn’t going to play zone and they’re going to play man, you got to trust that one of your guys is going to get open,” Colter said. “It’s not really necessarily like a certain read or there’s a certain weak spot. It’s man-to-man coverage and somebody has to win. Our guys have done a good job of getting open and I’ve just been trying to get those guys the ball.”

Really, it’s all the components of the offense.

Adept decision-making by their quarterbacks — with the exception of Siemian’s interception Saturday against Ohio State — has allowed the Wildcats to be as efficient as the statistics show. Sieman is completing 68.2 percent of his passes, Colter 83. The duo combined to complete 80.6 percent of their passes in a 40-30 loss to Ohio State.

Jones is having a career year. Dan Vitale has emerged as one of the most athletic tight ends — it’s called superback in Northwestern’s offense — in the Big Ten.

The only person who goes largely unheralded is offensive coordinator Mick McCall.

Unlike other offensive coordinators around the country, McCall doesn’t have the same amount of time to call plays because Northwestern runs a no-huddle offense.

Many coordinators script drives while their defense is on the field. But that doesn’t mean making adjustments during a drive isn’t an element of play-calling.

In the second half of Saturday’s game, McCall found success with more intermediate and long routes.

“[The players are] working hard on execution and they’re pushing each other as well,” McCall said. “We have great guys to get the ball to.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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