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Northwestern routs South Dakota behind Venric Mark’s three TDs

Updated: September 22, 2012 5:59PM

A schedule that resulted in Northwestern being the only Big Ten team to begin the season with three consecutive BCS opponents offered a breather Saturday, and the Wildcats took full advantage. They turned in the type of victory that has been rare for a team that has earned the nickname Cardiac Cats.

Running back Venric Mark rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Wildcats (4-0) put a 38-7 thumping on South Dakota (1-2) before 28,641 on Saturday at Ryan Field.

The same Wildcats offense that required 100 plays before scoring a touchdown in the win over Boston College last week scored four touchdowns in its first 31 plays against the Coyotes.

Reserve running backs Tyris Jones and Treyvon Green also scored touchdowns as Northwestern amassed 277 rushing yards while holding South Dakota to 51. It was the first time the Wildcats had rushed for five touchdowns in a game since the 2009 season opener.

The Wildcats led 28-0 at halftime before Green burst off left tackle for 33 yards to put Northwestern up 35-0 with 11:33 left in the third. It was the longest run of the sophomore’s career.

The Coyotes scored their only touchdown on a four-yard bootleg by quarterback Josh Vander Maten about seven minutes later.

The mold was cast early when Mark exploded up the middle for 47 yards on the second play of the game. Mark later scored on a three-yard touchdown run.

South Dakota, meanwhile, was flagged for a false start on its first play. The Coyotes’ first drive consisted of two penalties, two dropped passes and a rush for minus-5 yards. South Dakota had nine penalties for 67 yards in the game.

Quarterback Kain Colter led Northwestern to a game-opening touchdown before leaving with a wrist injury. He later returned and scrambled for 24 yards to highlight a six-play, 57-yard drive capped by a six-yard Mark run that put the Cats up 21-0 with 8:16 left in the second quarter.

Colter scrambled to his right on the Wildcats’ second possession when cornerback Chris Frierson lowered his shoulder and hammered Colter after a 10-yard gain. Colter was replaced by backup Trevor Siemian, who threw a 42-yard pass to Christian Jones to set up Northwestern’s second score.

Third-string quarterback Zack Oliver and his backup, P.J. Carollo, made their debuts in the fourth quarter.

Northwestern made it 28-0 just before halftime when a low snap bounced off the shin of South Dakota quarterback Vander Maten and was recovered by defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt. Mark’s final touchdown run of the half, a four-yarder, gave the Wildcats a four-touchdown lead at the break.

Steve Flaherty added a 34-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter for Northwestern.

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