ReMarkable

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Minnesota

The news was seemingly so low on the radar that it kind of elicited a “huh” from me earlier this year. Pat Fitzgerald announced they were switching Venric Mark, our stellar return man, from wide receiver to running back. I don’t know about you, but at the time I was thinking Venric would be third string material, perhaps a speed wrinkle in a Kain Colter option attack. Mike Trumpy, albeit recovering from knee surgery, along with Treyvon Green were for sure in front of him at least in my own mental depth chart. Plus, I had visions of the highly touted incoming freshman Malin Jones and redshirt Jordan Perkins still circling in my head.

Who knew that ten games later, this would prove to be the single biggest off-season coaching decision not only in 2012, but possibly in the past several years? I shudder to think where this team would be if not for Venric.  Fitz laments fans’ penchant for citing stats, but the second biggest stat ‘Cats fans have held up as a criticism (behind the bowl losing streak) has been the streak of not having a 1,000-yard rusher. Fitz dismissed this as child’s play, as he claimed to not care how many yards any of his backs got as long as we win. It’s hard to disagree with that, yet, Tyrell Sutton’s exactly 1,000 yard rushing effort in 2006 seemed to get more distant every day as proof of the productivity of the spread offense and NU’s ability to churn out 1,000-yard RB after 1,000-yard RB.  Was it the system? Was it our ability to mine overlooked talent? Was it a sign of change from the Randy Walker era to the Fitz era? Who knew? It just felt very much like we didn’t have a go-to guy who you could count on to get that first down when you needed it ever since Tyrell got dinged up in 2007 and 2008.

Mark’s first game at RB, the opener at Syracuse, saw his ground game (84 yards on 14 carries) overshadowed by his ridiculous punt return exploits – 134 yards on two returns including a TD.  It was a harbinger of just how valuable Venric would be and seemingly, despite his WOW factor, how unheralded he would remain as his gaudy stats as a do-everything kind of guy seem to overshadow just how prolific a RB he has become. Ten games through the season and Venric sits alone atop the B1G in all-purpose yardage per game with 191 ypg, and is sixth in the entire FBS.  To give you context, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah is next in the B1G with 158 ypg and resurgent potential Heisman candidate Montee Ball is fourth in the B1G with 129 ypg. However, when you break it down to a per play basis, Venric crushes these competitors, averaging 8.1 yard per time he touches the rock. Think about that for a minute. Venric has touched the ball 237 times this season and he averages 8.1 yards per touch (for comparison, Ameer Abdullah averages 6.8, Le’Veon Bell 4.6 ypt and Montee Ball 5.1 ypt).  The 96-yard KOR he had for a TD that called back on a horrible call would obviously have spiked these numbers even more. However, I don’t need to tell you that all-purpose yardage as a category is highly overlooked by media and isn’t the glory and glamour stat that is rushing yardage and rushing TDs. Oh yeah, by the way, he leads the NATION in punt return average with a Lee Gissendanner-esque (21.6 ypg) (If you don’t know who Lee is, ask a fellow LTP reader for help).

I feel that there are only a couple of offensive individual stats that get any weight by sportswriters. Rushing yards, Passing yards and TDs.  Everything else seems to pale in comparison.  So, the timing of this post is very intentional for a couple of reasons. I can’t bear to read the comments section these days as the in-fighting has started and the overall bad taste in our mouths as fans has inspired me to do what I do when the going gets rough – accentuate the positive. Second, this weekend’s match-up with Sparty pits Venric Mark, the B1G’s 4th leading rusher (118.1 ypg) against the B1G rushing leader, Le’Veon Bell (124.9 ypg).  Bell is #9 in the entire country while Venric is just five slots behind at #14 in the nation. Click here to see the national leaderboard in the sexiest of sexy stats for RBs. Mark is just .15 ypg behind the injured Denard Robinson, whose stats stay propped as he sits out against the meat of the Big Ten schedule. Montee Ball is well within reach with a 122 ypg clip, but the irony of ironies, Northwestern and Michigan State’s respective run defenses should give the star RBs all they can handle this week.

By now you know that Venric thankfully erased one of those “only diehard fans talk about the streak” streaks by eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark in week nine.  Mark has 1,181 total rushing yards and 10 TDs with two games to go. In one year he is well on his way to leaving his permanent “mark” in the NU record book in all sorts of categories, yet, to me, the place that doesn’t show up in any stat sheet is what has impressed me most about Venric.

At least 2-3 times per week Venric will get stacked up for no gain by a legion of the opposing team’s defensive line and linebackers. It’s one of those deals where the ref blows his whistle 10 times, yet the pile keeps pushing. Venric almost never goes down, his legs churning. Usually, one opponent goes right up to the line of personal misconduct and shoves Venric one last time. Mark, all 5-7, 175 pounds of him, goes after the 300-pounder, tippy toes to get up to eye level and starts talking smack. I love this. The kid plays angry and right on the edge of losing it.  It is a trait that is needed by our team of seemingly Mr. Nice Guys.  The same guy who confidently admits he watches Mary Poppins all summer long and uses Miley Cyrus to channel positive vibes as the ball is in the air on punt returns is out there looking to punish opponents. How can you bottle this and spread it around the team? Venric has it. Kain has it. Tyler Scott has it. But who doesn’t?

I’ve been torn this season. I feel the rising tide of criticism is a good thing for Northwestern. The CEO of our team has put expectations out there that this program should be held accountable to win championships. A surprising 7-3 record in a year when we thought it was a rebuild has fans up in arms, just like a “real” big time program. All three very winnable games that have slipped through our hands have been pinned on the coaching staff – and rightly so. The program bar has been raised and an anemic conference offerred Northwestern a season to remember, which now, regardless of what happens will be, but perhaps not for the reasons you’d like. However, regardless of what happens from here on out, Venric Mark would be a Heisman candidate for 2013 on any other program in the B1G of equal 2012 record.  He deserves it and as I venture in to the negative, expectations for teams named NU other than 1996 have never been met when we expect them to be good.

For now, I’m worried about Venric. He looked pained when he came out injured the second time in the Michigan game, in OT, and I finally learned from yesterday’s press conference that Fitz very much expects Venric to play.  Michigan State will be ready – they boast the nation’s 20th best rush defense with 113.4 ypg given up, and for the second straight week, we face the team ranked #7 in overall defense (we knocked Michigan down a few pegs with our stats last week).  Meanwhile, Northwestern gives up only 122 ypg – two below Le’Veon’s average. You’d like to think the rushing leader in this game will a)be on the winning team and b)help salvage their team’s respective season. When you consider Michigan State’s offense and what overall percentage Le’Veon Bell represents and do the same for Venric Mark, this is a game that features one of the more compelling individual head-to-head storylines we’ll have all season long. Personally, assuming Venric is healthy, I can’t wait for it. Consider just a FEW of the alltime NU best categories that Venric has done damage in just part of one season at RB:

NU CAREER ALL-PURPOSE YARDS

Player                                           Rush Rec. Int. PR KR Yds.

1. Damien Anderson (1998-01) 4,485 502 0 0 284 5,271

2. Tyrell Sutton (2005-08) 3,886 1,244 0 0 8 5,138

3. Darnell Autry (1994-96) 3,793 447 0 0 369 4,609

4. Jason Wright (2000-03) 2,625 577 0 0 828 4,030

5. Ricky Edwards (1979-83) 1,369 1,056 0 0 1,499 3,924

6. Venric Mark (2010-present) 1,343 147 0 524 1,820 3,834

7. Noah Herron (2001-04) 2,524 781 0 0 231 3,536

NU SINGLE-SEASON RUSHING YARDS

Player                                                       Rushing Yds.

1. Damien Anderson (2000)…………………2,063

2. Darnell Autry (1995)………………..1,785

3. Tyrell Sutton (2005)……………….1,474

4. Darnell Autry (1996)…………………………1,452

5. Jason Wright (2003)…………………1,388

 6. Noah Herron (2004)………………………….1,381

7. Bob Christian (1989)…………………………1,291

8. Mike Adamle (1970)………………………….1,255

9. Jason Wright (2002)………………………….1,234

10. Venric Mark (2012)…………………..1,181

NU SINGLE-SEASON ALL-PURPOSE YARDS

Player                     Year Rush Rec. Int. PR KR Total

1. Damien Anderson 2000 2,063 132 0 0 0 2,195

2. Darnell Autry 1995 1,785 168 0 0 70 2,023

3. Jason Wright 2002 1,234 266 0 0 513 2,013

4. Venric Mark 2012 1,176 100 0 281 355 1,912

When you consider that bowl game stats count, Venric has three games left and will very likely become just the third NU player to eclipse 1500 rushing yards in a season and will also top the list for single season all-purpose yards, possibly by Saturday.  It’s been nearly the entire season without a dedicated post to just how incredible Venric has been. He’s blown me away with his ability between the tackles, and of course, you tip your cap to an O-line that has been exemplary in terms of rush blocking.  How many huge holes have we seen – Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa – where it was nothing but daylight. One of the many things that keeps me going in a positive direction is the fact we’ve got Venric back next year – along with almost everyone else sans the left side of our OL – and that is reason enough to expect more, expect victory and expect a championship. I’m trying to be big picture perspective here, but when you combine Venric’s on-field stats with the eye test (speed, cutting ability, power for his size) have we ever had an athlete quite like him in our history? It will be remarkable to see what he can do if he stays healthy this year and next as he has a chance to rewrite the NU record book, but more importantly will us to a potential season unlike any other this century.

Quote of the Week

From Teddy Greenstein’s article today on NU:

I enjoy watching Northwestern, but I have to say this: Nobody can cough up a lead like the Wildcats. – ESPN CFB host, Rece Davis – Saturday, November 10.

 

THIS IS THE YEAR….IN HOOPS

Here I am again, back and suckered in to once again believing THIS is the year NU finally goes dancing. The ‘Cats open up the season tonight against Texas Southern (7pm ct, BTN) at home and a familiar face – former Indiana head coach Mike Davis.  We’ll cover the hoops team all year long as you’ve come to expect. It just takes a bit to transition mentally, especially when you’re playing the directional university portion of the schedule. I’m personally excited to see Tre Demps along with the eight other new faces, especially the bigs. I’m already bracing myself for outrage if we get outrebounded.

Fitz Flack

Teddy Greenstein’s potpourri of coverage on NU football today is must read stuff. In particular, Fitz admitted to being a knucklehead on the sideline after mocking celebration when the ‘Cats got a call on the late hit to Trevor Siemian. If there is a stat kept for late hits received on a per play basis, Trevor has to lead the nation.

VanHoose Factor

I believe Nick VanHoose will be the single most valuable player on the ‘Cats from here on out, as his presence really impacts the productivity of our secondary and is enough to change an opponent’s gameplan, which for now is “throw at #22 whenever he is on the field”.  Fitz is optimistic about his chances to play, but far from a sure thing for Saturday. Get well quickly #23, we need you!

 

  • David

    I didn’t think Venric could be an every down..between the tackles back….I was completely wrong.

    • cebpd

      well…I mean NU doesn’t really “run between the tackles” like a UW or MSU. But yes, your general sentiment i agree 100%

  • NUARANINETYFIVE

    Earlier, I had called out for a shake up at the coordinator level. After reading all the recent posts from ‘inches away’ on, I have come to a few conclusions. One–Northwestern DOES need a special teams coach. Get one. People have been calling for a ‘special advisor’ for Fitz as well. So, I will repeat my call for returning Gary Barnett to our sidelines. A missing element to Fitz squads compared to Barnett’s is that ‘element of surprise’. As fans, we all remember anticipating what trick play was going to be called during the ’95 and ’96 seasons. The success of these plays was instrumental in ‘level the playing field’ in terms of talent. A few of those in the 4th quarter of games this year really could have swung the momentum. In addition, like the Cubs and the Blackhawks have done, Barnett could be an ambassador as well as a special teams coach and serve the entire athletic community as the ‘go to’ guy to discuss ‘winning’ without evidence and how to change losing cultures to winnning cultures. Heck…sounds like a great course at Kellogg. Why not sign him up? Secondly, Venric Mark serves as THE example of how to make a 3-4 star recruit into a 5 star player. He should be the model for our our program moving forward on developing ‘championship caliber’ players. Finally, I do think the coaching staff has made significant strides in the ‘adjustment’ area and though I am extremely dissappointed in fact that we are ’3 plays’ away from being undefeated…I do see a team that is physically on par with the ‘big boys’ of the conference. We have an opportunity to move ahead of Michigan State and Penn State in the conference pecking order over the next couple of years. If we are seen by recruits as have a realistic shot of making it to the Big 10 championship game…or dare I say…vying for the National Championship…we can also ‘bump up’ our recruiting ’4 star’ caliber. So my final point is this. Win the next three games and I believe this season is as significant as ’96 or 2000 and puts this team in the conversation for big ten championship in ’13. Go Cats!!

    • Doug

      If you want to bring is Barnett as a special teams coach/advisor, then what position coach are you going to get rid of, and who is going to cover that position group?

      • http://twitter.com/NotSE1851 NotSoutheastern

        can’t bring Barnett back, would a) undermine Fitz and b) this guy tried to get a girl sexually harassed off his Colorado team. Can’t be bringing him back

        • NUARANINETYFIVE

          ‘This guy’ was probably one of a few people in the country to pull off the turnaround at NU. Did he make some profoundly stupid mistakes at Colorado…especially from a PR standpoint. Yes. Yet, Fitz had him at his side a few seasons back and Gary deserves the opportunity to contribute. I do not see him undermining Fitz and I also see him as the only person (if hired) on the staff who understands what it means to win a National title. Gary is one ‘mea culpa’ press conference from putting to rest the scandal at Colorado. In addition, if your looking to raise 100′s of millions for a new east side section at Ryan…Gary has the ability to open up the checkbooks. Currently, it is my understanding that Fitz is taking care of special teams…so Gary would be an addition to the staff without having to get rid of anyone.

          • Henry in CT

            I sort of agree on Barnett. What he did at NU is so remarkable that it almost defies comparison and it would pay to look back and see just how he did it. Maybe it would put to rest all the fears and misconceptions that seem to come up whenever his name is mentioned. When Fitz was hired he was correctly viewed as NU’s best hope for the future but getting to the next level to where (say) Wisconsin is will be difficult. I think if Barnett is available NU should use him in any way we can. How about as special assistant to Fitz (assuming that would be agreeable)? Gary is (I believe) 66 and has been out of football for years and probably no longer has head coaching aspirations so why at least talk to him about having him try to help us get to Pasadena again? I have serious reservations that we will ever get their again otherwise.

          • NUARANINETYFIVE

            Agreed. For all those fans and alums who are too young to understand the significance of Gary’s accomplishments here…I think an honest appraisal would lead many to believe that if willing, Gary should be welcomed with open arms. I always knew there were only two programs he would leave NU for…Missouri (his alma mater) and Colorado. He guided the ‘Cats through the most consequential seven seasons since Ara Paraseghian. In addition, an honest appraisal of the situation he left at Colorado would conclude that big mistakes were made…but all are forgivable. America loves a comeback…I think Gary could add some spice both to our play calling and to the ‘buzz’ around the program. I think it would be serendipitous to give Coach Barnett another chance at a place that everyone told him…’don’t take the job’. We all have benefited from the risk he took and the belief he brought to Wildcat nation. Let’s return the favor. Bring back Barnett for ’13.

          • Watching and (Mostly) Waiting

            Disagree on Barnett. Several reasons:
            * His incredible ability was to inspire players. In his late 40′s, he still had the mojo. In his late 60′s, uh, doubtful.
            * He approached NU players about joining him even before he took the CO job. No way we can rehire him at NU; he screwed the pooch.
            * In later years, became a constant distraction, demonstrating a high need for attention. UCLA? Notre Dame? Other schools won’t be calling this time, but show me Barnett can be content with a back-row role.
            * His “need to be monitored”, as somebody put it, places the character of the program, which is huge with Fitz and his recruiting, squarely into question. Other coaches will pooh-pooh Fitz’s emphasis on character with our recruits, if we have Barnett in tow. What price glory?

          • NUARANINETYFIVE

            Agree to disagree. Your points remind me of how obvious it was to all others why NOT to take the job in ’91 as Barnett did. As his players understood, Gary had the right to entertain the multitude offers coming in. Could he have handled things a bit differently. Sure. I have one phrase for all of Gary’s past. “Flush it”. I think Barnett is at a very different (and humble) place right now. As for as ‘screwed the pooch’….if turning around the worst college football program at the time into a winner and passing along a job to Walker that was worth taking…then yours and my definition of ‘screwing’ are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

          • Henry in CT

            Nobody is saying hire Barnett as a head coach…just give him a chance. We don’t need him to run things, just to help with recruiting and game coaching. We need him to be part of the brain trust. And BTW Gary did it the way McCartney did it at Colorado (and won an NC), he went after prospects that had obvious talent but nobody wanted. Kustok is a prime example. Maybe special teams coach is an easy way to bring Gary in. If it works out, fine. If it doesn’t, fine also.

          • Doug

            Um…perhaps you are not aware — there are NCAA rules about how many coaches you can have. Every team, including NU, has the maximum number (this is one of the things Michigan got in trouble for a few years ago). Therefore, you cannot just hire him and create a role for him.

          • NUARANINETYFIVE

            Where is Al Capone when you need him. Too Bad.

        • DT

          Strong, inaccurate statement and indictment to say, “this guy tried to get a girl sexually harrassed off his Colorado team”… He might have been guilty of some less than prudent statements after Hnida’s claim of verbal and sexual abuse per some of the males on the team, but nothing I’ve ever seen or heard had Gary encouraging that… He might have run a program that needed supervision and accountability on and off the field seemingly, BUT… What he did say, was the woman in question was “a lousy kicker” and took some heat because “she was a girl”… While not PC, probably statements of fact related to football at The Division One level, where the NCAA only sanctions Men’s Football at that…

          Net/net, Barnett is a solid football coach and while he has some shortcomings of character, (ala emailing players at NU about taking the Colorado gig…) nothing he has done should be prohibitive of his pursuing his profession in a role he is qualified… Unlike some here banging the drum for his return to NU, I don’t think that is a fit for him or NU.. If anything, should Fitz flounder further, he should be terminated (won’t happen nonetheless…) and the whole “Purple To Pasadena” link put in the historical perspective it deserves… Long time since Barnett, Vandy and good ole #51 worked that magic…Fabulous experience that it was…

      • cebpd

        Heffner. Put Superbacks and RB’s in the same group, have Macpherson cover both groups.

        • Doug

          Yeah, so here’s my 2 cents on this: I really really want Fitz to have someone with some experience in his ear on game days. Given the coaching restrictions in NCAA (no consultants ala Tressel in the pros), and our current coaching situation, I would like to see a new OC. Keep McCall and have him be only QB coach (call them co-coordinators if needed). Bring in someone crusty but proven to be adept at in-game decisions. And to make room, the combination of running backs and superbacks sounds good to me. That person you bring in cannot be Barnett though. For all the reasons above. It would be nice to see Barnett closer to the program though.

          Oh, and for what its worth, my understanding (no source) is that pretty much the only thing Jo Pa did in the last few years was make those critical in-game decisions because he had so much damn experience with it.

          Oh, and finally, credit where it is due — I have ripped the NU coaches for not adjusting at halftime for 2+ years, and this year has not been perfect, at all, but it has been a big improvement (glaring exception the PSU game). Good on ya McCall and Hank.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      Barnett and Pat are still good friends and communicate regularly. Whether official or unofficial, the mentor/mentee relationship is there, but I could see a guy like Gary being very comfortable as the special teams coach. He’d also be a sick recruiter. Can you imagine him talking about Fitz in the home?

      • NUARANINETYFIVE

        Gary’s abilities from recruiting to coaching to fundraising would be a great fit for NU at this stage in the program’s growth. Not being the highest point of escalation could ‘free’ Barnett to leverage his considerable talent and experience. I see a real win-win. Hey LTP–how about formulating a job description. I would be happy to pitch it with you to Fitz and Phillips over a fireside chat…same as Barnett did converting a bunch of ‘non-believers’ in the winter of ’92.

  • http://twitter.com/NotSE1851 NotSoutheastern

    We at NotSoutheastern love Dan Persa, still think he’s one of the best players we’ll ever see in purple and white. But Venric Mark and Kain Colter are by far and away our favorite players since Anderson and Autry. These guys are warriors who play like they weigh 50 lbs more than they actually do. I’m really glad you pointed attitude Venric’s attitude, because that’s what really sticks out to me. We haven’t had a player with that much fire since I don’t know when. Ever maybe?

  • http://twitter.com/NotSE1851 NotSoutheastern

    Also, I noticed that Tom Dienhart had Le’Veon Bell as a Doak Walker finalist, and not Mark. Well I have this to say to Tom Dienhart: If venric mark rushed 96 more (would equal Bell’s carries) times and only got 1 yard on each of those touches, he’d still have more yards than Bell. Bell’s numbers are skewed by how many touches he’s had. His 4.4 ypc is very low for a top running back. He’s great, and defenses can key in on him because of Maxwell, but Mark has been outstanding on a different level and deserves the award more than Bell.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      it’s crazy. Take away the program names and look at the respective RBs..one on a 7-3 team, one on a 5-5 team…Venric is better in YPC by a landslide..the ypg is essentially a draw at only 5 yards between the two. Throw in the all-purpose factor of Venric and he’s getting majorly undervalued nationally.

  • Henry in CT

    I thought and said last year that in spite of durability questions Mark should be used at running back simply because we had nobody else. That option pitch doesn’t work with Trumpy. Without Mark we simply had no running game but with him complimenting Colter our running game is even good enough to get by without a passing game against most of the B1G. However, now as with Persa we face the same sort of problem which is over reliance on one person. Take Mark out and it all falls apart. Without Mark, Colter is much less effective and if this is ever going to be the case we had better go back to Siemian. And BTW we couldn’t have even been in the position we were in at the end of the Michigan game without Siemian. The point that never seems to be brought up is that Siemiam has the skills and we still don’t know what he is capable of. For these last two games if Colter and Mark are at full strength we can let Siemian sit but if this is not the case I would like to see Siemian finish out the season.

    • Henry in CT

      I should also mention that the first time I saw Mark I thought of Sutton. Both athletic explosive runners but overlooked because of size and questions about durability. And I thought earlier this year that he was everything we had hoped for but we had better use him sparingly because otherwise he would likely never make it through the season. I still think that Mark is not an every down RB but we have used him enough to where we could be 10-0. And with a little more depth we would be 10-0.

  • Watching and (Mostly) Waiting

    One of the best posts (if not the best) of the season, LTP! Not only for giving much-deserved props to “Mark 5″, but for the comments about the season, the attitude of the fan base, etc. You captured it. As frustrated as I’ve been by the losses (not losing 3 games, but HOW we’ve lost them), I’ve never for a moment turned on Fitz. He has upgraded our program in every way–talent, image, wins–and will continue to do so. Have a brother-in-law who’s a big Tennessee fan, who forwarded me a post from their blog this morning where the faithful have started a “Get Fitz at all costs” buzz….”If it takes $5M, Fitzgerald’s worth it!” says one orange die-hard. I blame Fitz and the staff for not understanding how to finish teams off, and for whatever funk seems to possess our team (outplayed in last 20 minutes of ALL SIX B10 games). But we are frustrated because we are improving; the bar is being raised. Feel good about that, and recognize the asset we have. Other schools do. And in the search for something positive, I do have to say–our play in the last 20 minutes at the Big House was more competitive than any B10 game that preceded it. That is, until the last 30 seconds and OT, where we clearly collapsed. So as maddening as it was (and I screamed louder than anybody), maybe we’re learning how to play late against quality teams. Just not there yet…

    • Jimgocats93

      Agreed!
      PSU = disaster
      NUL = competitive a paly away from saving it
      MI = come back to lead with a fluke play to steal it (crushed in OT)
      This is progress. And we are talking improving to undefeated not improving to 500.

      Gocatsgo!~

  • cebpd

    Venric has a different attitude than EVERYONE on the team, Colter and Scott included.

    And you know what? It takes recruiting guys that aren’t valedictorians and team captains. It takes recruiting guys that will punch you in the face if you look at them the wrong way. Venric has it, from what I have seen, NO ONE else on the team does.

    • http://twitter.com/NotSE1851 NotSoutheastern

      i would argue kain has attitude, just a different attitude. not a get in your face attitude, but a I won’t stop attitude

      • cebpd

        we need players that are gonna win a fist fight, not a little engine that could

        • David

          Venric is awesome…so much passion and talent in such a small package. What is even better is that he was an exceptional student as well…to qualify at NU. We need more guys like Mark and Colter as well. We don’t need players who can’t handle the academic challenges of NU. We don’t need guys who are have such an edge..that they get in fights at parties and end up in the police blotter. Fitz’s classes are getting better every season. No need to substantially loosen requirements…just continue to build the right way.

          • cebpd

            If you don’t think NU doesn’t loosen academic standards for FBALL players, esp. talented ones, you are kidding yourself. sure its not to the level of the SEC, but most wouldn’t get in without FBALL. Not only that, but it’s not like FBALL players take hard courses. COmm majors, psych, education, etc. while some take science, most switch after a year. guys like pat ward are exceptions.

  • Mark

    Great column LTP and hope you’re well on the road to recovery. I too sold Mark short. (Even though I was at the ’10 game against Wisconsin when he was about the only highlight.) I lived in Texas for almost 10 years so I should have realized Mark would be a tough guy. He also played in a very good program. I don’t think his position is uncommon – even the great teams if they lose one or two key players are much weaker. Look at MSU this year – the loss of Cousins/Cunningham/Martin has proven devastating. But Mark’s toughness is something to behold – I love it when he is waiting for his blockers to get him set up but when he realizes there’s no hole to find he accelerates into defenders and, as you pointed out, refuses to go down even when the whole defense shows up. I still think Trumpy can play a big role for the Cats as he has shown speed and the ability to find creases to run into. Looking forward to going to East Lansing on Saturday. Go Cats!

  • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

    A great post in the making – special teams coach. Looking at the top programs and how they run their special teams vs NU.

  • cece

    Venric Mark, oh how we love watching you play football. your speed, the moves through traffic and your sunny leadership. you are a bright spirit and a great player. and snappy with the glasses. thanks for coming to NU.

  • Jimgocats93

    I believe we will win in Lansing. Why? Because our secondary, though vastly improved, is still the weakest link and MSU is missing the services of Cousins a great deal. Plus we showed we can move the ball against top defenses. Plus I think our guys are really angry with tons of pride to play for.

    Last year when everyone was screaming, I kept saying we are just a few DB’s away from 8-4. Well here we are 7- 3 soon to be 8-4 maybe 9-3 with those few more DB’s. These kids are fighting, growing and very, very, close. (get well Nick)

    Imagine how boring this blog would be if we were undefeated?

    • DT

      Jimgo– Any word from George Allen or Al Capone on those career opportunties you mentioned?

      One of your best comments ever the other day, brother… Firing on Monday Morning… Damn impressive..

      GoCatsGo!

      • Jimgocats93

        @DT,

        I obviously have no future as a satirist or comedian if you thought for a second I was serious. It was about mocking the sky is falling crowd – or the ones like you DT who come out of the woodwork to criticize. These Cats are on the threshold – but no worry they won’t go undefeated often, so you will have your opportunity to talk about spitting the bit almost annually.

        Question for you: as a matter of physics, at what point does an 8 on 4 prevent (which on the previous possession created an interception) become a 1 on 1 isolation coverage? Let’s take 4 Michigan receivers and 4 Northwestern linebackers, 2 safetys, and 2 corners – put them in a 50 yard by 50 yard lab at Argon and see what the odds are of 1 on 1 “isolation” coverage happening.

        A fluke play! Our cardiac Cats have had many over the years go their way – but not Saturday. And yes they were out of gas for OT. But these Cats are going places which is hard for the old school fans to believe.

        Gocatgo!

        • DT

          I beg to differ, Jimgo… You have a tremendous future as a satirist and comedian… Not sure what would happen at Argon, but sure looked like Mr. Roundtree was isolated 1-1 at The Big House…Let me ask you a question of physics… How many NU players were in the end zone of Victory Right in Minny? How many Gophers? I’d say the odds of Roundtree against Jones was much better than that for instance one on one… A fluke? I’d say just how Hoke and Company drew it up and truth be known, they were probably shocked to see Jones out on that island… Tired in OT? Not sure what to say about that… George Allen never had that probblem by the way!
          Anyway, keep the faith, blind as it may be to some extent in certain games… Let’s hope Fitz improves that 1-5 record against Sparty this weekend..

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      Fitz commented that this was the best practice of the year. Also read from Chris Emma asked Venric how he was feeling and if he’d play and Mark’s repsonse was “it’s a given I’m playing”. Also, BTN The Journey will feature Venric in this week’s episode (premiere on Wed). I feel good about our chances at MSU b/c I think this TEAM has character and is pissed. They’re out to prove the world we don’t know what we’re talking about and the like. Also, I’ve watched MSU 3-4 times and man, they simply cannot throw the ball. I’m amazed they’re not 12th in passing as it is painful to watch them try and go to the air other than their TE, DIon Sims, who is a beast.

  • Wildcats99

    For all you Fitz bashers out there, take a chill pill and read/watch this:
    http://www.footballscoop.com/news/8000-inside-scoop-pat-fitzgerald

    • David

      In the comment section at the end of this article Wildcat players Dad comments on the program. What a testimonial for this program. I am Damn Proud to have this group of guys represent my school. Wildcat99 thanks for sharing the link.

    • byebyefitz95

      Nice link. I still think he is young and can’t coach with a huge lead over a good team. Sorry.

  • Jimgocats93

    Brandon Williams Punt????

    I know its on to MSU, but I do have one question about the end of the Michigan game. Williams has been an outstanding punter, but on this occasion he was asked to kick the ball out of bounds and failed. My recollection is this is not the first time he has had this problem though the others I believe were just before the half. Why are we asking a right footed kicker to kick to the right sideline? Would he not have a better chance kicking across his body to the left sideline?
    Any kickers or soccer players out there that can answer?

  • Matt

    Could not agree more with NUARANINETYFIVE and Henry in Ct: Let´s get Barnett back in some capacity. We need him to help Fitz quit making those second half game losing gaffes.

    And bless you, LTP, for your courage here, to call a spade a spade, with your flat out statement:

    ¨All three very winnable games [PSU, NEB, and MI] that have slipped through our hands have been pinned on the coaching staff – and rightly so.¨

    And, Indeed, what NUARANINETYFIVE suggests is a means to stop this malarkey, which has been endemic through out Fitz´s almost seven years. It´s a way to keep Fitz on board with all his good points and stop the bleeding of third and fourth quarter collapses.

    Finally, LTP, we hope that infection is all healed up, and by now, all your back problems are behind you. What bad luck you´ve had. How about updating us. We´re all quite concerned about you.

    And BTW, gang, how supporting this LTP blog site with some contributions. I, for one, have chipped in to help keep this site going and help our wonderful good guy host with costs.

  • PBRCat

    I had forgotten how gaudy Damien Anderson’s numbers were in 2000.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Minnesota1000
Purdue1000
Iowa1000
Nebraska1000
Illinois1000
Northwestern0100
Wisconsin0100

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Rutgers1000
Penn State1000
Michigan1000
Michigan State1000
Ohio State1000
Indiana1000
Maryland1000