The system worked well in the beginning of the season. Colter, along with running back Venric Mark, ran the option well, working quickly and managing the clock. Siemian has proven himself as an efficient passer, orchestrating quick scoring drives against Syracuse and Penn State. Colter can also pass, going 44-65 and 367 yards in the first four weeks. The only problem is that, lately, he hasn’t been throwing.
In the first four games, both Colter and Siemian utilized the passing game. But against Indiana, the offense relied heavily on Siemian’s arm, and Colter found his role in rushing and receiving, only attempting three passes. The trend continued against Penn State. Colter attempted no passes, and for those who don’t remember (or don’t want to), Northwestern lost 39-28. The ‘Cats almost renewed faith in the two-quarterback system last week against Minnesota, when Colter attempted 10 passes, but Saturday’s loss was a huge setback for the offense.
The lack of consistency for Colter has seemed to be a problem in the last few weeks, but he guaranteed that the constant position changes is not the issue.
“It’s tough, but you can’t make excuses,” Colter said after Saturday’s loss. “A bunch of guys are playing different positions and doing things like that.”
After an upset victory against Nebraska last season, the Huskers’ defense was ready for Colter’s explosive run game.
“They were putting nine or eight guys, depending on what our set was, in the box and they always had someone accounting for him,” said Coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald also said Colter had the option to audible, but didn’t “based on the play call and situations.”
Maybe Indiana’s 97th-ranked defense couldn’t figure out Northwestern’s “Siemian-pass-Colter-run” offense, but the talented Penn State and Nebraska defenses definitely did.
"[Nebraska] did a good job today,” Colter said. “Indiana’s defense is a lot different than Nebraska’s defense. We’ve got playmakers all around and they just gotta go out there and make plays, myself included.”
We saw flashes of Colter’s passing talent against Syracuse, where he threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns, but he hasn’t thrown a touchdown since. At this point, seeing Colter attempt any passes would be a step forward from the stagnant offense that has been taking the field for the last few weeks. If the offense didn’t fool Penn State or Nebraska, then it’s likely it won’t fool any opponents moving onward.
The two-quarterback offense was supposed to confuse opponents and make them wonder whether Colter would pass or run. Taking away Colter’s option to pass takes away a huge part of the offense’s mystique.