Northwestern’s Kain Colter (right), leaving Vanderbilt defenders in his wake, presents multiple problems for the Eagles.
Northwestern’s Kain Colter (right), leaving Vanderbilt defenders in his wake, presents multiple problems for the Eagles.
joe robbins/getty images

EVANSTON, Ill. — This season, keeping track of Northwestern’s Kain Colter has become a simpler task. Last year, Colter alternated between quarterback and wide receiver, passing for six touchdowns and scoring 12 more (nine rushing, three receiving).

As a junior, Colter has stuck to quarterback, leading Northwestern to victories over Syracuse (42-41) and Vanderbilt (23-13).

Colter made his first start at QB in a 24-17 win over Boston College in last season’s opener. The Eagles might not have known whether Colter was coming or going in that game (197 yards passing, 71 yards rushing), but they will have another chance to pin him down in Saturday’s nonconference game.

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“He’s won games single-handed for them in the past,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “He hurt us last year. Nebraska, he just literally took them apart. This year, he’s started two games and they’re 2-0.”

Though Colter has proven capable catching the ball as well as throwing it, he does not aspire to be a one-man team. Colter has split snaps with Trevor Siemian, apparently on his recommendation.

“He’s a real team player, too, that’s one thing about him,” Spaziani said of Colter. “Last game, he said to the coach, put the other kid in, we have a better chance of winning. That says a lot about what kind of kid he is. I guess he felt they had to throw the ball a little bit, and the other guy does throw the ball better, mechanically he’s a little different.”

With Northwestern leading Vanderbilt, 16-13, late in the fourth quarter, Colter, back under center, took off on a 29-yard scoring run to clinch the result.

The Eagles have prepared for two quarterbacks, but, said Spaziani, “They run the same plays. It’s not like they have two different offenses.”

In last season’s meeting, the Eagles had possession deep in Northwestern territory as time ran out. This time, BC (1-1) hopes to have a better answer for Colter and the Wildcats’ no-huddle tactics.

“The hurry-up is a big concern,” Spaziani said. “It was a factor last year. Our guys didn’t understand it. We practiced it but I think they were surprised by the pace.”

BC confronted a similar offense in its season-opening 41-32 loss to Miami.

“We saw it there and we’ve done some different things in practice,” Spaziani said. “We hurry up, for example, but you can see watching practice the toll it takes. It takes more of a toll on the defense than on the offensive guys because of matchups and lot of things.”

BC will attempt to set the tempo with ball control.

“We like to run the ball,” Spaziani said. “It’s always good when you can run the ball but, you know, offenses nowadays, you pass the ball. And some of the passes are running plays, if you will, a lot of passes are glorified sweeps. They spread you out and create different situations.

“We’re no different. We still need to run the ball.”