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Kick returner leaves mark on Wildcats’ defense

Venric Mark Jake Mitchell

Venric Mark, Jake Mitchell

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:19AM

Northwestern kick returner Venric Mark never really had gone up against a 6-8 offensive lineman until the Wildcats’ 42-24 loss Saturday to Michigan at
Ryan Field.

Mark played four or five snaps on defense, primarily as a ‘‘spy’’ for NU linebackers trying to contain Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson.

‘‘I’ve never really encountered one who is two times my weight,’’ said Mark, who stands 5-8 and weighs 175 pounds. ‘‘I was told
that if a hole opens up, you don’t just stand there; you do something. It did kinda feel like hitting [a brick wall].’’

Mark didn’t want to take any credit for it, but Robinson did throw two of his three interceptions when Mark was playing defense. Mark also did his part in trying to keep Robinson in the pocket.

Mark, who played cornerback and safety in high school, wasn’t the only Wildcat who played out of position Saturday. Backup quarterback Kain Colter split time with Dan Persa but also saw some action at receiver. He had three catches for 37 yards and earned high praise from coach Pat Fitzgerald.

‘‘I am really proud of Kain and the change in his role to now being a critical member of what we’re trying to accomplish,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘A young man with lesser maturity would be throwing a pity party. He’s the other way around and is having a blast.’’

Sending a message?

Fitzgerald doesn’t want anyone to read too much into it, but the coaching staff didn’t name a defensive player of the week for the Michigan game. Fitzgerald normally recognizes a player on offense and defense every Monday.

Fitzgerald said the staff would have honored defensive end Tyler Scott, who had six solo tackles and one assist, but the coaches thought Scott played well only for 31/2 quarters, not four.

Defensive end Jack DiNardo took the snub personally.

‘‘There are players that had a good quarter or half, but nobody really put it together to earn that,’’ DiNardo said. ‘‘You have to play a complete game, and we didn’t really see that from anyone. That’s never something you want to see.’’

He’s fine

Fitzgerald said he was pleased with how Persa progressed in his second game back since rupturing his right Achilles tendon last season. Persa was 32-for-44 for 331 yards against the Wolverines.

‘‘Dan’s doing great,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I think he’d be the first to tell you he’d like some plays back.’’

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