Gophers preparing for two Northwestern quarterbacks

Samuel Gordon

He’ll drop back and pass. He’ll split out wide and catch passes. He’ll run the option.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter truly is a jack of all trades.

The Wildcats junior captain can beat teams in a variety of ways. In 2011 against the Gophers, Colter primarily played receiver and caught five passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.

In six games this season, he’s thrown for 369 yards and a pair of scores, run for 395 yards and seven scores and caught 12 passes for 148 yards.

On Sept. 29 against Indiana, he had 161 yards rushing and 131 yards receiving.

But after being the Wildcats’ offensive centerpiece in their first five games, Colter faded to the background and only had eight touches during last Saturday’s loss against Penn State.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald admitted he needs to get Colter more involved offensively.

“We’ve got to continue to have some balance there, spread the ball out to all our playmakers,” Fitzgerald told the Chicago Sun Times this week. “If we do that, we’ll continue to have success,’’

If Colter plays more Saturday, the Gophers’ defense will have to be especially aware.

“Anybody who can play two positions at the [Division I] college level is a tremendous athlete,” Minnesota safety Brock Vereen said. “We have to know where [Colter] is at all times.”

When Colter plays receiver, sophomore Trevor Siemian runs the offense at quarterback. Siemian has thrown for a mere 807 yards, two touchdowns and one interception this season. In the loss to Penn State, Northwestern’s first this season, he threw for 135 yards and finished the game with a 99.0 passer efficiency rating, his lowest of the season.

Passing is usually one of Northwestern’s strong suits. Mike Kafka and Dan Persa, the Wildcats quarterbacks who preceded Siemian, were both All-Big Ten selections during their college careers.

Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said the team won’t take the Wildcats’ 95th-ranked passing offense lightly.

“There’s no question when they get into a passing mode and they’ve got to throw the football, you’re going to see [Siemian], and you’re going to see Colter out at wide receiver,” Claeys said.


—This is the 18th time Minnesota has hosted Northwestern for homecoming. The Gophers are 8-7-2 in the team’s previous meetings.

—The Gophers haven’t beaten the Wildcats at home since 2004.

—Minnesota has played 73 players this season, 29 of whom had never previously seen action for the Gophers.

—Northwestern running back/return specialist Venric Mark ranks seventh nationally in all-purpose yards per game with 180.5.

-Dane Mizutani contributed to this report.