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Northwestern’s quarterback quandary continues in loss to Minnesota

The Wildcats started the season with Hunter Johnson, then turned to Ryan Hilinski. In their 41-14 loss Saturday, they replaced Hilinski with Andrew Marty.

Minnesota running back Mar’Keise Irving tries to elude Northwestern defensive back Bryce Jackson Saturday in Evanston.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Northwestern’s search for a quarterback continues. The problem is, coach Pat Fitzgerald is just about out of options.

He started the season with Hunter Johnson and replaced him with Ryan Hilinski. In the Wildcats’ 41-14 loss to Minnesota on Saturday in Evanston, Fitzgerald replaced Hilinski with Andrew Marty.

After Hilinski went 1-for-6 for five yards, Marty completed 10 of 16 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. But Northwestern (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) already had dug itself too deep of a hole.

“We have to help [Marty] a little bit more,” Fitzgerald said. “We had more drops in the second half than we had in a long time. I thought he gave us a spark, and that was encouraging. So who is going to be our quarterback for next week? We will work through that.”

Running back Mar’Keise Irving ran for two touchdowns and a career-high 110 yards and Justin Walley scooped up a fumble and ran 25 yards for a score for Minnesota (6-2, 4-1). Irving, a freshman who played at Hillcrest, broke off a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for a 33-7 lead. Ky Thomas added 106 yards on 21 carries.

Already thin at running back with season-ending injuries to Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts, the Gophers’ Bryce Williams suffered a lower leg injury, putting pressure on Irving and Thomas, a redshirt freshman. Williams’ status is unknown.

“Everybody knows we’re going to run the football,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “I don’t think that is a secret. I don’t think we’re catching anyone off guard by that.”

Fleck even experimented with linebacker Derik LeCaptain at running back. He had a 24-yard run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.