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Hawkeyes to challenge Northwestern’s multi-threat offense

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | OCTOBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The challenge is obvious — Kain Colter is talented and dangerous. And with the Hawkeyes coming off a heartbreaking, and somewhat embarrassing loss, the mobile quarterback-reciever combination Colter presents is Northwestern’s biggest threat.

Colter has passed for 437 yards (70 percent efficiency) and rushed for 518. And he’s caught 16 passes for 169 yards. The junior alone accounts for almost 30 percet of the Northwestern offense.
The Hawkeyes know just how good he is.

“[Colter] is a weapon for them. I believe that every team has a weapon, and you’ve just got to make sure, during your game plan, that you stop the weapon,” Hawkeye linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “You’ve got to game-plan against them.”

Kirksey said the team’s preparation during the week — watching film, memorizing plays, and studying techniques of the Wildcat offense — will be crucial to the Hawkeyes’ defensive performance.

Iowa’s defense disintegrated against Penn State last week: The Hawkeyes allowed 5 touchdowns and 504 yards of total offense to the Nittany Lions. Even if the Hawks had been able to put together a functional offense, the defense let too much fall through the cracks.

Part of the defense’s preparation, however, is to move on. Hawkeye defensive back Tanner Miller said he expects to see some of the same offensive strategy this week, the line won’t make the same mistakes again.

“It’s out there; [Northwestern] has seen what [Penn State] did to us,” Miller said. “That’s what teams do, they check out the film, and try to find our weaknesses, and exploit them any way they can. We’re ready to see some of that stuff again, and that’s totally expected.”

The Hawkeyes haven’t seen a quarterback like Colter yet this year, however, and certainly haven’t seen an opponent with two talented quarterbacksk, both of whom will see the field.

Colter shares his position with Trevor Siemian, a sophomore who has thrown 95-of-162 and sailed the ball into the end zone for 4 touchdowns this season. Having Siemian in their back pocket allows the Wildcats to move Colter out as a receiver and put the most talent possible on the field.

“It’s an extra element to the game, something you’ve got to be conscious of,” linebacker Dominic Alvis said. “[Northwestern] is gifted with athletes.”

The Wildcats’ running game also poses a threat to the Iowa defense — tailback Venric Mark has averaged 113.8 yards per game this season.

And the Hawkeyes haven’t seen much of Mark as a tailback, except what they’ve watched on film. The junior was only credited with 1 carry for 1 yard in last season’s Wildcat-Hawkeye matchup.

Mark’s kick returning, however, lets the Hawkeyes know just how dangerous the up-and-coming back can be.

“[Mark] is a talented guy,” Iowa lineman Steve Bigach said. “And having been in the special-team room for a couple of years, I’ve been watching him in the return game as well. He’s just extremely explosive — definitely a challenge for us defensively.”

The Northwestern offense is full of threats — Colter as a passer, runner, and receiver, Siemian as a fresh and rested QB off the bench, and Mark as a speedy and elusive runner.

But the Hawkeyes are aware, and that’s the first step toward performing better this week.

“They move Colter all over the place at any of the receiver spots and in the backfield. He’s a big running threat as well,” Miller said. “So we’ve got to be prepared for everything. And Venric Mark, they can put him anywhere. They’ve got a lot of different threats, and that’s what we’ve got to be ready for.”


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