Colter leads Northwestern past Indiana, 44-29Indiana's Nick Stoner, top, is tackled by Northwestern's Nick VanHoose (23) on a punt return in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Kain Colter ran for 161 yards and four touchdowns, and Northwestern set a school record with 704 yards of total offense in a 44-29 victory over Indiana on Saturday in both teams' Big Ten Conference opener.
Colter also finished with 131 yards receiving. Trevor Siemian threw for 308 yards, and Venric Mark ran for 138 and a touchdown on a day when the Wildcats (5-0) had to hang on after they appeared to be on their way to an easy win.
They led 27-0 lead early in the third quarter before things got interesting.
Indiana (2-2) got with 37-29 when D'Angelo Roberts scored on a 2-yard run and Kofi Hughes ran it in on a reverse for the two-point conversion. Colter helped to ice the game when he scored on a 22-yard run to make it 44-29 with just over 5 minutes left. The Hoosiers then drove to the Northwestern 4, but the Wildcats stopped them there and ran out the clock.
Northwestern is now 5-0 for the third time in five years, a good start for a team that finished fifth in the Legends division a year ago. Now, the question is: Can the Wildcats keep it up?
They looked good building that big lead before things got tense down the stretch.
Colter attempted just three passes and got intercepted once while Siemian handled most of the quarterback duties. But he was a huge contributor in the run and passing games, carrying 14 times and finishing with nine receptions.
Mark wound up over 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games. Siemian completed 22 of 32 passes with an interception, and Northwestern came out on top after pounding South Dakota following narrow victories over Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College.
Indiana simply couldn't overcome the big deficit.
Cameron Coffman started at quarterback and threw for 109 yards with an interception after suffering a hip pointer in a loss to Ball State two weeks earlier. Nate Sudfeld came on in the third quarter and provided a spark for the second straight game, going 9 of 16 for 157 yards and a touchdown. But the Hoosiers came up short in the end.
Northwestern got a pair of 8-yard scoring runs by Colter and two field goals by Jeff Budzien en route to a 20-0 halftime lead, and Colter's 15-yarder early in the third made it a 27-point game. The shutout ended when Indiana's Stephen Houston scored on a 20-yard run, and things got really wild when Sudfeld came into the game.
He immediately led Indiana on a 64-yard TD drive after Mark lost a fumble, connecting with Hughes on a 35-yard pass. And after Mark responded with a 1-yard TD run, Tevin Coleman returned the kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, making it 34-21. Another field goal by Budzien made it a 16-point game late in the third, but Indiana injected some more drama into this one.