Kain Colter's arm, legs powers Dan Persa-less Northwestern past E. Illinois

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Kain Colter delivered again while filling in for star Dan Persa, running for a career-high 109 yards with three touchdowns and throwing for 104 more to lead Northwestern to a 42-21 victory over Eastern Illinois on Saturday.

With Persa in uniform but still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Colter came through with another impressive performance after leading the Wildcats to a 24-17 win at Boston College in the opener.

The sophomore wound up with more than 100 yards rushing for the second time in his career. He took a big hit to the right shoulder from Nick Beard on an 8-yard TD run early in the third quarter but came back in after sitting out one series.

When he wasn't running by the Panthers (1-1), he completed 10 of 13 passes without an interception to lead Northwestern (2-0) to an easy win over an FCS opponent.

Bryce McNaul had an interception on the game's first possession, setting up Colter's first TD run, and the Wildcats never really looked back.

They racked up 437 yards in all and 320 on the ground while running away with this one.

Northwestern paid tribute to the 9/11 attacks by painting the big "N" at midfield and on its helmets red, white and blue instead of the usual purple. Flight crews from United and American airlines were on hand, as were members of the Evanston police and fire departments, and a large flag was unfurled on the field before a moment of silence.

Once the game started, it didn't take long for Northwestern to take the lead.

McNaul picked off the Panthers' Jimmy Garoppolo on the game's fourth play from scrimmage, setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by Colter. Back-to-back fumbled snaps by Garoppolo on the next possession stalled a drive to the Wildcats 26, and Northwestern responded by going 65 yards the other way, with Jacob Schmidt running it in from the 1.

Just like that, Northwestern was up 14-0 and on its way.

The only glitch came midway through the second quarter, when Jeff Budzien missed a 45-yard field goal, and Garoppolo connected with a wide open Kenny Whittaker on a 72-yard touchdown that briefly made it a seven-point game. Colter responded with a 4-yard touchdown run, and Treyvon Green made it 28-7 when he ran it in from the 2 with 31 seconds left in the half.

Garoppolo threw for 209 yards, but those early mistakes helped set the tone as Eastern Illinois fell to 0-6 against Big Ten teams -- all in the last six years.

Colter simply tore through the Panthers after throwing for 197 yards and running for 71 with a TD against Boston College.

Persa's return, meanwhile, remains up in the air, with Northwestern visiting Army next week and Illinois after a bye for its Big Ten opener.

Touted by the school as a Heisman candidate, he hasn't played since he threw the winning touchdown against Iowa last November. He crumbled to the ground as he turned to run to his celebrating teammates and the Wildcats dropped their final three games to finish 7-6.