Northwestern Wildcats looking for sustained success

BY MATT CABEL | AUGUST 29, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Northwestern Wildcats are entering 2013 on the heels of one of the team’s most successful seasons in recent memory.

But head coach Pat Fitzgerald isn’t looking for his team’s victory in last year’s Gator Bowl — the program’s first bowl win in 63 years — to be a fluke. He wants bowl victories and championships to become the norm.

Sustained success is something that Fitzgerald, himself a graduate of Chicago’s Big Ten school, expects from his program. He said that his team is not satisfied with “just going to bowl games anymore. That’s not acceptable.”

“Human nature, especially in America’s instant gratification society, is that you get complacent when you have success,” Fitzgerald said.

Kain Colter also said something that might make defenses around the country start gasping for breath already.

“We’re faster than we were last year,” he said.

The team enters this season ranked 22nd after the conclusion of last year’s 10-3 season and with numerous returning playmakers.  But Fitzgerald doesn’t care about the “sex appeal” of preseason rankings, because teams change.

While this is true, especially in college football, two of Fitzgerald’s greatest weapons will be back for the 2013 season. Kain Colter, who has lined up at quarterback, running back, and receiver — just to name a few positions — will return, along with running back Venric Mark.

Mark rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 and is predicted to be one of the top running backs in the Big Ten. While Mark was flattered to learn of such a prediction, he had a simple message for reporters at Big Ten Media day in late July.

“I don’t believe in predictions, I believe in production,” he said.

Colter threw for 872 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, completing 101 of his 149 passing attempts for a 67.8 percent completion rate. He also rushed for 894 yards and ran the ball for 12 touchdowns. He’s looking to improve his passing game.

“It’s my last go-around, so I’m just going to try to give it my all,” Colter said. “[I want to] make more plays than I’ve ever made and help the team more than I’ve ever had.”

Should the ’Cats live up to expectations, they’ll have success with most of their schedule, especially in games against Syracuse, Western Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Their strength will have to be proven against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and both Michigan schools.

“… We are who we are,” Fitzgerald said. “You tell me the day, I’ll tell you exactly what we’re doing. We’re not trying to be cute, we’re not trying to be this team that’s doing something new and overly great, we’re trying to coach our guys to be the best that they possibly can be. We’re continually challenging them to tell them that they possibly can be, while continually telling them that we can be better.”

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