An unplanned South Carolina quarterback trifecta attacked Vanderbilt last week.
Fortunately — and unfortunately for the Commodores — only one Gamecocks signal-caller, Connor Shaw, delivered most of the damage. The Commodores might not be so lucky this week.
Northwestern presents a double threat with versatile and mobile Kain Colter and pocket passer Trevor Siemian. Vanderbilt could see both when they visit the Wildcats on Saturday in Evanston, Ill., (7 p.m., Big Ten Network).
“I think it does create a challenge,” coach James Franklin said. “A lot of times when people play multiple quarterbacks they are still similar and those two guys are not. I do think that is going to cause some challenges.”
Colter, a 6-foot junior, practiced on Tuesday and is expected to play against the Commodores (0-1) after bruising his ribs against Syracuse in a 42-41 win last weekend. He actually pulled himself out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Before leaving, he propelled the Wildcats (1-0) to a 22-point lead. He tossed two touchdown passes and ran for another.
Northwestern isn’t afraid to tap into all of Colter’s talents as he was the team’s top returner in passing, rushing and receiving.
“We’re facing another mobile quarterback who can get out of the pocket and make plays with his feet, if need be,” safety Javon Marshall said. “They have similar offenses [to South Carolina] with zone reads, schemes and options. So I think we have kind of the same challenge this week, just a different person.”
Sieman, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, entered with more than two minutes left and orchestrated a 10-play, 75-yard drive. He capped it off with a nine-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 44 seconds left. He finished with 78 yards on 8-of-11 passing, with 63 yards on six completions on the final drive.
“He is more of a prototypical passer. He is a better athlete than you think, though,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “He had a big scramble that got a key first down on the play before they scored the [game-winning] touchdown. He came in and did an outstanding job. They are a well-oiled machine on offense.”
Last week, the running quarterback did more harm to the Commodores than a pocket passer.
Shaw had just 67 yards passing but picked up 92 yards on 14 carries and exploited a couple lapses.
“That is our Achilles heel right now,” Shoop said. “The plays that a year ago that maybe would have been a 4-, 5-, 8-yard gain now are a 10- or 15-yard gain and we just got to do better on that.”
The linebacker corps, a mixed bag of youth and experience, drew a lot of attention during preseason camp and the first game was no different.
Chase Garnham, playing in his first game at middle linebacker, was second on the team with nine tackles. Franklin said he thought Karl Butler played well but said Archibald Barnes, who also plays on special teams, battled fatigue.
Vanderbilt’s shallow linebacker depth will be tested again — and this time could be seeing double.
“We’ve got two good quarterbacks to deal with,” Barnes said. “Every week, week in and week out, we face good running backs, we face good quarterbacks and these guys are to not be underestimated at all.”
• Severe weather and lightning chased the Commodores inside and across the street to Memorial Gymnasium on Wednesday night.
The last hour was spent in sneakers with half the team on the main gymnasium floor — with the basketball videoboard lowered onto the court for repairs — half the team in a practice gym and the kickers and the punters in the southeast lobby.
“That’s why next year when we have the indoor [facility] it’s really going to help us because it’s not really about the rain. It’s about the lightning,” Franklin said. “Northwestern, they’re in a 50-yard indoor [facility] ... so whether they have bad weather or not, they were able to get a practice in. But I thought our coaches and players did a really good job of maximizing the situation and making the best of it.”
ª Last year, the Commodores went undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 1999. With those four wins they were more than halfway to bowl eligibility (six wins).
“It is such a tough schedule in season against our SEC opponents, you’ve got to get some wins under your belt,” quarterback Jordan Rodgers said. “Any mediocre, average team in the SEC is going to win some, lose some and you’re not going to get all of your wins out of the SEC. So you need some from a couple other places.”
• Running back Jerron Seymour wore a bandage on his right knee Wednesday. The sophomore did not dress last week against South Carolina and was not listed on the depth chart for Saturday’s game. He was third on the team in rushing last year with 268 yards.
Franklin said he would tell the team who would be traveling to Chicago by Thursday afternoon.