With one of the biggest games in the football program’s history on tap Saturday night, unbeaten Northwestern will be getting a huge boost both offensively and on special teams with the return of a single player.
After initially suffering the injury early on in summer camp, running back Venric Mark played sparingly in the opener and has missed the past three games with a leg injury. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald confirmed to ESPN.com that, as expected, the senior will return and play in the home game against Ohio State this weekend.
The player himself said he’s “ready to go” and “itching to get back on the field,” adding that he’s excited his return comes against one of the top teams in the country.
“Every time they step on that field, they’re ready to play,” Mark said of Ohio State, winners of a nation’s best 17 straight games. “We know that. We’re also ready to play. We have a lot of confidence right now. They’re coming into our house, and we definitely expect to defend our house.”
Last season, Mark led the Wildcats with 1,366 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns (tied with quarterback Kain Colter). He also averaged 18.7 yards per punt return; he was one return shy of officially finishing second in the country in that category.
Mark, who returned to practice last week with an eye on playing No. 4 OSU, is expected to again handle punt returns this weekend.
With Mark sidelined, junior Treyvon Green leads NU in rushing (404 yards) and rushing touchdowns (five). Green is expected to slide back into his backup role, although he’ll certainly receive his share of work as Mark eases back into action.