Defense Ready to Step Up
Oct. 25, 2013
"We can learn what some themes or elements from the spread offense that hurt or threaten some of the schemes we run," said senior linebacker James Morris. "If we were hurt by certain plays or formations (against Ohio State), you can anticipate that Northwestern is going to try to exploit that or get to those looks directly."
The offenses are going to be similar with the spread-you-out, get in space approach. The major difference will be at the quarterback position, where Northwestern employs a two-quarterback system.
The involved parties -- Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian -- are vastly different, yet both effective. Through six games, Colter ranks fifth (154.2) and Siemian eighth (131.8) in the Big Ten Conference in passing efficiency in 2013.
Siemian is the hurler, completing 98-of-168 attempts for 1,313 yards and seven touchdowns. Colter is Mr. Dynamic, completing 43-of-52 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while rushing 53 times for 263 yards and four scores. He also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass against the Buckeyes.
"Colter is certainly in an elite category in terms of his quickness and agility and because of that, he's able to make a lot of plays and that presents a lot of challenges for us," said Morris. "For us to have a chance to win, we need to coral him, make sure we have sound pursuit angles and tackle well."
Last season, the Hawkeye defense couldn't contain the Wildcat rushing attack. Northwestern piled up 349 yards on the ground. Colter had 171 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns, while running back Venric Mark, who is expected to miss Saturday's matchup, had 162 yards on 16 carries.
Morris says last year was last year, and he's looking forward to a second go-round.
"We're very much a different team this year," said Morris. "I am excited to see how we match up against them this year."
Even though the defense has given up more than 900 yards of total offense the past two contests, the Hawkeyes' confidence isn't wavering.
"We're OK. We've had stretches where we've played good football and stretches where things didn't go as well as we needed them to," said senior safety Tanner Miller. "There are things we need to clean up."
Morris says the unit believes that there is potential for growth, and that's the focus heading into the final five games of the regular season.
"Everybody on this team believes that if we continue to improve, play hard and come closer together as a team, we believe there is a lot left for us to achieve," he said. "It is continuing to stay improvement-driven, and put play-after-play-after-play together.
"We know if we do that or if we're making strides in that direction, the results are going to take care of themselves."
Saturday's game is slated to begin at 11:01 a.m. (CT) inside Kinnick Stadium. Tickets are available at 1-800-IA-HAWKS or online at www.hawkeyesports.com.