Venric Mark Transfer Improves Husker’s Chances in Evanston
Nebraska's first three outings against Northwestern as a member of the Big Ten have all been close games. Two went in the Huskers favor, and one for the Wildcats. Running back Venric Mark was a factor in the first two games of the series but injuries kept him out a year ago. Arguably the best returning player for Northwestern up until he announced his intent to transfer, Mark's absence has to hurt the chances of a Wildcat victory in October.
While not as pronounced as the 2012 game, Mark still had an impact in the initial game in the recent series. Mark had three tackles covering kicks for special teams. That included a tackle of Kenny Bell on a kickoff return at the Husker 21, and a tackle of Ameer Abdullah on a punt for no gain. He also had a first down carry for positive yards on Northwestern's initial touchdown drive and his 41-yard kickoff return set up the second Wildcat touchdown. He had a 23-yard return out to the 34 yard line that set up Northwestern's winning touchdown as well. For a player that was overshadowed by quarterback/receiver/rushing threat Kain Colter, Mark still contributed substantially.
Mark helped Northwestern substantially in the field position battle as he returned two punts into Husker territory in the first quarter, the second of which set up the first Wildcat touchdown. Mark had a critical 7-yard run on third and five on Northwestern's second touchdown drive. Then he exploded with an 80-yard touchdown run. He set up that run with another to get his team out of the shadow of its own end zone. He also carried the ball for positive yards on the Wildcats' final touchdown drive which nearly put the game out of reach. Take Mark out of the game and it may have been a much easier day for the Huskers.
Nebraska needed an improbable Hail Mary play to beat Northwestern a year ago without Venric Mark. You'd imagine his presence might have made the difference for the Wildcats that day. Running Treyvon Green had a monster game contributing 162 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. He also contributed as the starting running back for the 'Cats in 2011. The presence of Kain Colter played a role as well, a dual-threat weapon who rushed for 86 yards in addition to passing for 45 in the most recent game.
With Colter and Mark gone, Green looks like the only rushing threat for the team. Christian Jones, the top receiver for the Wildcats in 2013 will miss the season with an injury. Rashad Lawrence, the team's third most productive wideout was lost to graduation. That leaves the school with a stationary quarterback with few true weapons around him. The team brings back a lot of experience on the offensive line along with most of their defense, though.
Facing the 'Cats at night for their Homecoming game may not be easy, but taking Mark out of the mix can only help the Huskers' chances. The early line was already in Nebraska's favor. Chances are that it will creep further in that direction, especially after the Northwestern's trips to Penn State and Minnesota, sandwiched around a home stand against Wisconsin.