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EVANSTON, Ill., -- When Kain Colter lined up in the shotgun, he surveyed Iowa's defense and saw where he wanted to go.
He had multiple reads on multiple plays. He kept the Hawkeyes guessing and when they guessed correctly, he just beat them during the Wildcats' 28-17 victory Saturday at Ryan Field.
"We're running the ball well and that's a key to victory," said Colter, who finished with 166 rushing yards and three TDs. "When you can dominate the line of scrimmage and control the clock, that's always a good thing."
That's the thing, Colter and the Cats didn't dominate the line of scrimmage. When Iowa's defense works, it's because it plays a physical game of react. Time and time again Saturday, Colter turned those reactions against the Hawkeyes.
Unblocked defensive end crashed down on the line of scrimmage? Colter took the ball outside or pitched to running back Venric Mark. Outside linebacker cuts off the outside? Colter cut it up inside against the grain, where Northwestern created enough interference for a clean lane.
Invariably, the Cats had a block when they needed it, but mostly, Colter pushed the right buttons and froze Iowa's defense.
"A lot of their yards didn't come between the tackles," linebacker James Morris said. "They came out on the edge when the play started to break down.
"That's what they wanted to do. They wanted to make it a chess match. They want to slow you down and make you wrong. They were able to do that today."
Colter was a chess piece against a checkers board, rushing for 166 yards and three TDs. That's the most yards a QB has rushed for against the Hawkeyes since Indiana's Antwaan Randle El went for 187 yards in 2000. The Hoosiers went for 433 rushing yards against Iowa that day. The 349 Northwestern put up is the most since then.
Mark finished with 163 yards on 16 carries (10.1 yards a carry). He nearly broke free for a 99-yard TD run in the second quarter, but got caught from behind by cornerback Micah Hyde.
It was the first time Iowa allowed a pair of 150-yard rushers since Marion Barber (167) and Laurence Maroney (156) did it for Minnesota in an Iowa victory in 2004.
Iowa played a lot of base personnel, but later in the game also mixed in some dime, trading linebackers for defensive backs in an attempt to counteract NU's speed.
"There are a lot of things that go into it, I guess," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said when asked if base was the best way to go against Colter and Northwestern. "I don't know if I can say yes or no on that one. At times, it is yes."
In the end, it didn't matter what Iowa did.
"What do we want to do? We want to keep them between the tackles, we want to make it a slugfest where it's a battle of wills," Morris said. "In order for us to do that, we have to stop what they do. We didn't do that."
The Cats ran from the slugfest and ran away with the game.