Despite the loss, Northwestern can take a lot of positives out of the game against Ohio State. Perhaps the biggest one is Venric Mark, who seemed completely unhindered by a lower body injury suffered earlier this year.
The senior had played in only one game before Saturday night and had only 11 carries for 36 yards. Against the Buckeyes, he nearly doubled that number with 61 yards on the ground, and the versatile running back also added 43 yards in the air on four catches.
“It’s great to have him back,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I thought that he gave us a big boost and he’s just going to continue to get stronger as the season goes on.”
Mark made his presence known in a big way in the second quarter. Ohio State had just kicked a field goal to bring them within one point of the Wildcats. Northwestern needed an answering drive, which started with a rush by Mark and two Siemian passes to Rashad Lawrence that moved the Cats to their own 47 yard line. On the next play, Siemian went with a pass to the sideline, which Mark caught and brought a couple yards down the field before seemingly being stopped by Ohio State cornerback Corey Brown. But Mark, at 5’8” and 175 pounds, bowled over the 6’1”, 203 pound Brown and rushed to the Ohio State 12 yard line. Northwestern eventually kicked a field goal to regain the four-point lead.
“We all know Venric may be smaller in stature but he plays big, and we know that and we see that in practice…it wasn’t a surprise to us,” linebacker Damien Proby said. “It was something like, ‘Alright there’s the ‘V’ that we know, that we like to see back on the field.”
One of Mark’s quarterbacks, Kain Colter, was happy to see the playmaker back to his old self.
“I went over and told him he looked like he was 220 pounds,” Colter said.
Mark’s speed gives NU more versatility in the offense, especially with Colter at quarterback when the two can run the option, which they did for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“Having ‘five’ back definitely makes a difference, especially in special teams and just being on the edge,” Colter said. “He definitely had something to prove this game. He had fresh legs, hasn’t played in five weeks, but I was happy for him, happy for his performance and hopefully he can build on it.”