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Center Brandon Vitabile has direct line to Northwestern’s offensive success

Northwestern sophomore center BrandVitabile has played big role running back Venric Mark’s success. | Scott Boehm~AP

Northwestern sophomore center Brandon Vitabile has played a big role in running back Venric Mark’s success. | Scott Boehm~AP

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:47AM

Junior running back Venric Mark is the player most people associate with Northwestern’s offensive success.

Mark eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards with his 162-yard effort in the Wildcats’ 28-17 victory Saturday over Iowa.

But Mark isn’t the only one who takes pride in the offensive accomplishments. The success of the skill players is directly connected to the offensive line.

“We just know that if they’re having a good day, we’re doing something right,” Wildcats sophomore center Brandon Vitabile said. ‘‘If we’re completing a lot of passes and getting a lot of yards down the field running-wise, we’re having a good day, and that’s all we need.”

Vitabile has benefitted from working with an experienced offensive line that includes seniors Brian Mulroe and Pat Ward anchoring the left side at guard and tackle, respectively.

Playing center in a conference known for producing top-level defensive linemen can be a challenge for an underclassman.

But Vitabile has been a big part of the Wildcats’ success.

“They max out everything they have because of their attitude and their work ethic, but that’s a credit to the way they’ve been raised,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said about his team as a whole. “That’s kind of the little secret, the method to our madness here in what we’re trying to do from a standpoint of who we’re recruiting. It’s no secret we want to recruit captains; it’s no secret we want to recruit winners.”

Of course, Mark and the rest of the skill players make it easy.

The linemen know they don’t need to give Mark much of a hole for him to break a big play.

“The way he runs, he runs so hard and so fast that if you give him a little crease, he’s going to hit it hard, and we love that,” Vitabile said. “We love how energetic he is on the sideline.

“Coaches really emphasized having to run the ball, and we took it upon us that we just have to do our job every play and just play our hardest and only try to control what we can.”

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