P.J. Fleck knew his team would need to play hard and believe if they wanted to beat the Northwestern Wildcats. Unfortunately, the "believe" part would be crushed by the strong play of a dynamic player in Wildcat QB Kain Colter.
"Colter's a heck of a player," Fleck said after the game. "If I were still in the NFL, I'd be banging on the table demanding my team draft him in the 1st round. He's that good"
Good wouldn't even begin to describe Colter.
Despite a slow start, in which he threw an awful interception to Justin Currie and was replaced momentarily by the better arm in back-up Trevor Siemian, Colter finished 6-for-7 passing for 40 yards and a TD and tacked on 106 yards rushing on just 15 carries with a TD there.
And Colter had help.
Trayvon Green, stepping in for the injured Venrick Mark, finished with an astounding 158 yards on 20 carries for 2 TDs. Christian and Tony Jones combined for 98 yards on 9 catches for a TD. Mike Trumpy even had 46 yards on 8 carries. The Wildcats just were dominant after a costly Tyler VanTubbergen interception in the 2nd.
On the play in question, Tyler was apparently trying to make a play to Timmy Keith when the ball sailed over Keith's head and into the hands of Ibraheim Campbell. At the time, the Broncos were holding the Wildcats in check in a 3-0 game. Northwestern would go on to score on 6 of their next 7 drives, with a FG to end the 1st half and a early Trumpy fumble in the 3rd being the only deterrents from an all-TD run.
But the Broncos played tough. They did lead twice, 3-0 and 10-7 after a great route by Corey Davis freed himself up for a 75-yd TD after the first Wildcat touchdown. And they held their own most of the game. So credit given where credit is due. TVT, sans interception, made plays all night. He went 16-for-41 for 202 yards and 2 TDs against a decent Wildcat secondary. Davis finished with 5 catches for 119 yards and that touchdown.
But it wasn't enough.
Now the Broncos face a decent Iowa team who nearly ended NIU's chance of running the table this season. This appears to be a better match-up for Western Michigan, having shut down the Michigan State offense earlier this season. Both run similar styles (Iowa's pro-style vs MSU's Maxwell pro-style) so it'll be interesting to see how the Broncos defend against the Hawkeyes.
For now though, the Broncos are 3-0, but with the MAC's struggles yesterday, the schedule suddenly looks less daunting. An 0-8 start or a 4-4 start are all possible now, with "believe" being the key word.