Back-up QB Kafka runs all over Minnesota

ItâÄôs hard to quantify how fast Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka is; he canâÄôt remember the last time he ran a 40-yard dash. His coach and teammates donâÄôt have a number either; wide receiver Jeremy Ebert just puts it this way: âÄúHeâÄôs fast enough.âÄù Still, quantification has to be possible. Maybe time isnâÄôt the best way to measure his speed; letâÄôs try something different. How fast is Kafka? 217 yards fast. Kafka ran past, around and through MinnesotaâÄôs defense all day Saturday. His cutbacks turned blown up run plays into big gains; his scrambles turned possible sacks into big gains; and of course the plays that went how they were supposed to turned into big gains. âÄúThey didnâÄôt do much other than the quarterback running the football,âÄù Gophers head coach Tim Brewster said after the game, in regards to the WildcatsâÄô offense. Well, thatâÄôs not entirely true. Kafka completed 12 passes in 16 attempts for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns, too . But Brewster was right about one thing; NorthwesternâÄôs offense was all about Kafka. The Wildcats gained 363 yards from scrimmage SaturdayâÄîKafka accounted for 360 of them. This is probably as good a time as any to point out that Kafka was NorthwesternâÄôs backup before this week. Not like it matters; he sure didnâÄôt play like one. Plus, itâÄôs not the first time heâÄôs started a game for the Wildcats. As a redshirt freshman in 2006, Kafka started the first four games of the season before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six weeks . It was just enough time for C.J. Bacher to win the starting job. Kafka was relegated to backup duties for all of 2007 and to this point in 2008, until Bacher suffered a hamstring injury of his own last week against Indiana. It was still bothering him in the middle of the week, so Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald made the call Wednesday night to start Kafka. âÄúWe felt like, going into this game, especially with the things we saw from Minnesota, that Mike would give us the best opportunity to be successful,âÄù Fitzgerald said. He added about KafkaâÄôs wait for another start: âÄúAs a competitor, you never want to learn patience; itâÄôs the worst word in the world for a competitorâĦI think it shows great maturity on MikeâÄôs part to be patient.âÄù It was over two years coming, but clearly Kafka was ready to seize his opportunity. âÄúYouâÄôve got to approach every day consistently as if you were the starter,âÄù Kafka said. He must, because though KafkaâÄôs performance impressed plenty of people, his teammates were not included in that group. âÄúHe does it every week in practice so it doesnâÄôt really impress us too much,âÄù Ebert joked. Ebert does concede this, however: âÄú(Kafka) really stepped up today.âÄù Now the question arises: will this game earn Kafka another start? Fitzgerald said after the game that Bacher was available but not one hundred percent; the senior will almost surely be back to health next week for Ohio State, but after what he did to Minnesota, perhaps Kafka will get an opportunity to do the same to the Buckeyes. If he does, itâÄôll be interesting to see how many yards fast he is against them.