Northwestern aiming high again - New York News

Northwestern aiming high again

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EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- All Northwestern can see is the potential. Limits are out of sight.
   The Wildcats are talking big as another season approaches and insisting this could be the year they finally win a bowl game, maybe a Big Ten championship.
   "I know it's been, what, 300-plus years since our last one?" quarterback Trevor Siemian said.
   Well, not quite. It just seems that way.
   It has been more than six decades since Northwestern won a bowl game, and the current players were in elementary school when the 2000 team captured a share of the conference title, the most recent one for the program.
   That's something the Wildcats hope to change this year.
   They're coming in with a big chip on their shoulder after a disappointing 6-7 season that began with a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Dan Persa and ended with their fourth bowl loss in as many seasons. That put Northwestern's postseason record at 1-9, the lone win coming when the 1948 team beat California in the Rose Bowl.
   "We're proud to have gone to four straight bowl games, but that's not the destination for our program," coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "You walk in to our team room to my right in our dressing room would be our goals. The first one is to consistently prepare. The second is to win our division. The third is to win the Big Ten championship. The fourth is to win our bowl game."
   Whether Northwestern reaches those goals could hinge on the arm and legs of quarterback Kain Colter. One of the Big Ten's most versatile players, he steps in as the No. 1 quarterback now that Persa is gone, and the Wildcats are hoping he can build on a promising sophomore season.
   He shared some of the load at quarterback with Persa still recovering after rupturing an Achilles tendon the previous season and saw time at receiver. The result was this. He threw for 673 yards, ran for 654 and caught 43 passes for 466 yards.
   Now, all eyes are on Colter.
   Fitzgerald said he's "extremely confident" in him and pointed out he has more experience than Mike Kafka and Persa did going into their junior seasons.
   "He's a very dynamic quarterback," the coach said.
   And if Colter stumbles, Fitzgerald believes they have another viable option in Siemian.
   Whoever lines up behind center figures to have plenty of targets even if the Wildcats lost their top two receivers from last season in Jeremy Ebert (1,060 yards) and Drake Dunsmore (522 yards). Demetrius Fields leads a balanced group that includes Southern California transfer Kyle Prater, a Chicago-area product who got a waiver from the NCAA and will not have to sit out this year.
   "I think everyone knows what direction we're trying to take this thing," Siemian said. "We're trying to be Big Ten champs and go to the Rose Bowl. Last year, (there was) maybe a little uncertainty with Dan and how his Achilles was coming and if and when he was going to be able to start the opener and a couple games after that. I think this year, we have a really confident team."
   Already, Northwestern has endured one huge scare. Last week, running back Treyvon Green was taken from the practice field in an ambulance after a hit to the chest. A few hours later, teammates learned he should be ready for the opener at Syracuse on Sept. 1.
   Green is expected to play a big role after he appeared in all 13 games and ran for 362 yards as a true freshman last season.
   The Wildcats, meanwhile, are eyeing something big. Now, it's up to them to deliver.
   "We have a big chip on our shoulder just because we want that Big Ten championship," running back Venric Mark said. "That's all that we want. You can always say that, but it's about action. What are you doing to achieve that goal? ... This is best that I've ever seen this team come together, chemistry-wise. It's the best I've ever seen this team practice together, and we're moving fast."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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