by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)
Snippet of the Day: When Looks Are Deceiving
Senior guard Brian Mulroe said Monday that he's the type of guy you want to go into battle with. Junior quarterback Kain Colter said that he never backs down from a challenge.
Venric Mark is not your typical power back. He stands just 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs only 180 pounds. In build, he resembles Oregon's LaMichael James a lot more than he does Jerome Bettis or Brandon Jacobs. Yet, Mark talks like a power back. He speaks fondly of running between the tackles and bouncing off would-be tacklers.
However improbable Mark's rushing philosophy might be, his teammates have embraced it.
"That's Venric," Colter said. "He fears nothing. He's always trying to pick a fight. He talks like he's 240 pounds when he's 150 pounds."
Already, Mark has taken his game to Happy Valley, with decent success, and to the Carrier Dome and TCF Bank Stadium with far greater success. He has averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry wherever he has gone, including 5.5 yards per carry at Beaver Stadium. Certainly, he has yet to face off against one of the Big Ten's elite rush defenses, but his performance against Penn State bodes well. And all of this is particularly impressive when you consider that the Wildcats have yet to establish the pass this season. They still rank last in the Big Ten with just 180.1 passing yards per game. You'd figure if the Wildcats can air it out a few times successfully, Mark will have all the holes he needs in future games. In addition to his favorite play, Mark has also been deadly on the option, where Colter has found him many a time for big gains.
Stat of the Day: In Rarefied Air
Venric Mark now ranks fourth in the country and first in the Big Ten with 184.6 all-purpose yards per game. It's worth noting that we'll have a matchup of No. 4 versus No. 5 on Saturday, when Ameer Abdullah enters Ryan Field. Abdullah has 514 rushing yards this season as well as 214 punt return yards and 270 kick return yards. Mark might as well be first, given that Dri Archer of Kent State and Antonio Edwards of Western Kentucky play far more nominal competition. Third-place Tavon Austin of West Virginia is a beneficiary of Geno Smith and the Mountaineers' extraordinary offensive success.
Whether or not he'll be able to maintain his current pace is debatable. Minnesota and Indiana don't exactly boast the best rush defenses in the conference. Northwestern's non-conference opponents haven't exactly moved onto greater things either. Boston College, for example, is giving up a rather despicable 249.3 rushing yards per game this season. Vanderbilt is last in the SEC with 203.5 rushing yards surrendered per game. And the Wildcats still have games against Michigan State, which boasts the conference's best rushing defense at 91.3 rushing yards per game surrendered, and Iowa remaining. That being said, Mark has found ways to cope in the past. Against Penn State, one of the league's better defenses, Mark saved his best for a punt, which he returned 75 yards for a touchdown.