When I asked coach Pat Fitzgerald earlier this week if senior running back Venric Mark was closer to completing his rehabilitation on the lower body ailment that's kept him sidelined since the season-opener at Cal, he smiled, then responded with one word: "yeah." Moments later, Kevin followed up (after prefacing his question by saying, "you're probably not going to answer this") by asking Fitzgerald whether Mark would play if Northwestern was facing a Big Ten opponent Saturday. "You're right, I'm not going to answer it," Fitzgerald said.
And so we move into week 4 with about as much knowledge of Mark's injury and recovery timetable -- day-to-day -- as we did the Monday after the Cal game. Mark is listed as questionable for this Saturday, but don't expect to see him on the field. After holding Mark out this long, and with an ostensibly beatable opponent rolling through this weekend, it doesn't really make much sense to rush the senior back into action right before a two-week layoff leading into arguably the biggest game (at least symbolically) of Northwestern's season -- October 5, against Ohio State. We should see Mark running at full speed the week before the OSU game, if not next week.
The Prater injury is concerning, should it linger into the Big Ten season, but not having a backup linebacker -- one listed with an "or" next to senior Timmy Vernon behind Damien Proby -- against Maine is less a problem than a footnote.