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Northwestern’s Austin Carr is amazing

Austin Carr, Northwestern Wildcats

Even when defenses know the ball is headed his way, Big Ten leading receiver Austin Carr finds a way to get open and is simply amazing.

Austin Carr lined up in the slot, as he does so often. An odd place to line up if you are the Big Ten’s leading receiver.

The former walk on at Northwestern is the unassuming leading receiver in the Big Ten. It is hard to spot him on the line for that reason — both his positioning among wide receivers and his 6-foot-1, 200-pound stature. Carr lets his play do the talking time and time again.

As he lined up in the slot, a linebacker lined up across from him. And that was game over.

A linebacker cannot cover Carr.

Carr put a hesitation move on him before streaking toward the end zone. Clayton Thorson lofted the ball to Carr, catching it in stride, stumbling only on that pesky five-yard line before diving into the end zone.

It was one of seven receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in Northwestern’s 24-14 win over Indiana at Ryan Field on Saturday. And it was seemingly a ho-hum, ordinary day for Carr.

This is the reason Pat Fitzgerald jokingly seriously said he would vote the senior wide receiver for President.

Carr has gone from walk on to star wide receiver. Maybe one of the most productive and best receivers in Northwestern history.

For a team that has famously struggled passing the ball the past two seasons, Carr’s dominance over opposing secondaries has emerged as the key reason for Northwestern’s offensive renaissance. They can run and pass with the best of them — with the top rusher and receiver int he conference.

But Carr seems to be on another plane.

Carr has scored a touchdown in six consecutive games for the Wildcats. He was the first Wildcat to score a touchdown in five straight games since Teddy Johnson in 2000. He has entered some elite company and is quickly putting himself in a category all his own.

Carr has 50 catches for 620 yards this season. Just past the midpoint of the season, he could become Northwestern’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2011 and just the fifth to do so in program history.

At this point, even with the emergence of Flynn Nagel as a burner on the edge along with Solomon Vault and Andrew Scanlan as a the bigger bruiser among the wide receivers, Carr is still the player defenses have to pay the most attention to. Yet, time and time again, he is left in single coverage to do what he will with the opposing defenses.

And Carr keeps burning them.

Late in Northwestern’s win over Michigan State last week, Big Ten Network analyst Matt Millen was predicting Northwestern would turn to Austin Carr on a fourth down play. He was desperately telling the audience Michigan State needed to have two men on him.

Thorson deposited the ball to Carr in the corner of the end zone on a corner route for a touchdown and the final nail in the Spartans’ coffin.

There were plenty of third down throws Northwestern converted by Thorson turning to his safety valve. Carr just finds a way to get open despite how apparent it is he will be their target.

As much as Northwestern’s offense has seemingly awoken in the last few weeks, it is still relatively simple. That was displayed in Northwestern’s struggles to get much of anything going in the second half. The Wildcats failed to score in the second half.

The Wildcats have added more bubble screens and passes to the perimeter in their offense since the bye week.

Carr though is still the guy underneath. Still the guy running the out routes that Thorson has suddenly become proficient at throwing.

And even with Carr at the top of the charts in the Big Ten, he finds a way to wriggle free.

Carr’s dominance over secondaries in the Big Ten has helped Northwestern survive the slow start to the season. The Wildcats are at 4-3 and seem to have a clear path to bowl eligibility — even with Ohio State looming next week.

Whenever the Wildcats need him, Carr seems to be there. Even when the defense knows it is coming.

Philip Rossman-Reich is a Northwestern alumnus and former contributor Lake The Posts. He also writes for Orlando Magic Daily and The Step Back.

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