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Hey, Fitz, Siemian seems like the better fit at QB

Northwestern quarterback KaColter’s forte isn’t throwing ball down field. | Paul Beaty~AP

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s forte isn’t throwing the ball down the field. | Paul Beaty~AP

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Updated: October 17, 2012 6:52AM



This might seem like an odd time to start agitating for a quarterback change at Northwestern.

The Wildcats beat Boston College 22-13 on Saturday to raise their record to 3-0. They have a legitimate chance to start the season 7-0 for the first time since 1936. Starting quarterback Kain Colter completed 16 of 20 passes against the Eagles. Northwestern ran 100 plays, for crying out loud.

So what’s the problem?

I wouldn’t refer to it as a “problem.’’ I’d prefer to refer to it as “potential maximization,’’ which sounds all New Age-y. But if Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wants to squeeze the most out of this season, he should put Trevor Siemian in the starting lineup and move Colter to a position that will put fear in opponents’ hearts. That’s in the backfield, at wide receiver or both.

Fitzgerald was quick to point out that his two quarterbacks were a combined 30-for-40 for 267 yards, but if the idea is to have a quarterback who can throw the ball down the field (it is), Siemian would be the better fit.

At least we’re not talking about bad body language here, a la Jay Cutler. Both kids are leaders, and, outwardly, neither seems to mind taking turns. But the offense has the chance to be more explosive with Siemian under center. Trust me, explosiveness would have been received warmly at Ryan Field.

If you like field goals, you liked this game. It also meant you probably were a kicker’s mother. Jeff Budzien tied a school record with five field goals. Northwestern’s lone touchdown came when it was trying to run out the clock. A 27-yard score by hard-charging Mike Trumpy broke the ice.

The Wildcats have won three games three different ways against three decent BCS teams. They eked out a victory in a high-scoring game against Syracuse. They tightened up their defense against Vanderbilt. And they stopped a good passing offense and leaned on their kicking game against Boston College.

What does it all mean? I’m not quite sure. It certainly means they’re one of the better teams in the Big Ten, which hasn’t looked quite so big in the early going. With upcoming games against South Dakota, Indiana, Penn State and Minnesota, it means the arrow is pointing up for NU. How far up? We might not know until Oct. 20, when Nebraska comes to Evanston.

Making the move to Siemian sooner rather than later would put the Wildcats in a much better position to beat the Cornhuskers next month.

Colter completed 80 percent of his passes and probably isn’t the people’s choice to remain the starting quarterback. In the third quarter, two plays after a 16-yard run, he overthrew a wide-open Christian Jones in the end zone. After marching 94 yards, the Cats settled for a field goal and a 15-10 lead. That’s how it went for Colter and Northwestern.

Is there a quarterback competition?

“We all have competition,’’ Colter said. ‘‘If a guy is doing a lot better than you, he’ll play. The coaches are competitive. They want to win. They’ll put the best 11 players on the field.’’

Fitzgerald had Siemian in the game for three consecutive series in the first half, but Colter played the entire second half. Conventional wisdom says Fitzgerald will have to decide between a running quarterback (Colter) and a throwing quarterback (Siemian), but conventional wisdom (me) might be disappointed. Fitzgerald sounded like a guy who’s content to go this way the entire season.

“I’m not in the business of keeping people happy,’’ he said. “I’m in the business of winning football games and doing it whatever way we can. I would say both guys are happy because we’re winning. I would say going 30-for-40 and the way we didn’t score touchdowns, I think both guys are not satisfied with the way that they played.

“We’re in a good place. We’ve got 1A and 1B [at quarterback], and those two guys can move the ball, move our offense. … I think we’ve got a good situation there.’’

Fitzgerald was gushing about the new athletic complex Northwestern will build in the next few years. It should help recruiting. Nothing brings in players like a special season. That’s what this could be.

Fitzgerald is going to have to ask himself which quarterback can help him win a bowl game this season. There might not be a wrong answer, but there’s a better one.



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