Northwestern wrapped up spring practice Saturday with its spring exhibition at Ryan Field. The offense beat the defense 48-36, as points were awarded for first downs, sacks, defensive stops, takeaways, touchdowns, field goals and safeties.
Although 24 players, including several key contributors, missed the game because of injury or coaches' decision, there were a few notable moments.
Let's take a look:
Quotable: "None of those guys are ready today to go out there and be our starter, but they don’t need to be. They'll keep working at it. The good news is we have this guy named Dan [Persa] who is in the mix, and he’s pretty good. I really like our situation at quarterback." -- coach Pat Fitzgerald on his backup quarterbacks
The No. 2 quarterback competition continued as Kain Colter, Evan Watkins and Trevor Siemian split the reps in the scrimmage. Watkins had an efficient performance, completing 7 of 11 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Colter displayed his dual-threat skills with a 28-yard touchdown run and a team-high 42 rush yards, but he completed only 5 of 10 passes. Siemian completed only 5 of 14 passes but had touchdown strikes to C.J. Bryant and Brendan Barber. "It's really hard to say who's further along," Fitzgerald said. "They've all had good days. They’ve all moved the offense. ... They've all done enough to get us beat."
Northwestern lined up in the pistol formation at times Saturday, a look they also displayed at a practice I attended last month. The hope is the pistol will spark a rushing attack that has struggled in recent years. Other teams like Indiana have implemented the pistol to spark the ground game. Top running back Mike Trumpy had only three carries Saturday (14 yards), while Tyris Jones capped a strong spring with six rushes for 30 yards.
Kicker is a question mark following the departure of Stefan Demos, and the Wildcats opened the scrimmage with field goals. Steve Flaherty went 2-for-2, connecting from 38 and 30 yards out, while Jeff Budzien hit from 30 and 33 but missed from 38.
Northwestern's defense recorded three "sacks," five tackles for loss and seven pass breakups Saturday but recorded no takeaways. Defensive tackle Niko Mafuli had a sack and a pass deflection.