Nam Y. Huh
Venric Mark will give Northwestern a huge boost this fall.
Murphy’s Law defined Northwestern football last fall.
The Wildcats entered the season riding a five-year postseason streak and brought a solid group back from a team that went 10-3 in 2012.
But Pat Fitzgerald’s group was positively beset by bad luck and close defeats in a 5-7 season.
In a four-game stretch that ran from mid October to mid November, the Wildcats lost by three points against Minnesota, lost in overtime at Iowa, lost in triple overtime to Michigan after the Wolverines kicked a game-tying field goal on the final play of regulation and lost 27-24 at Nebraska when the Cornhuskers pulled off a final-play Hail Mary.
Turn one of those games around, and Northwestern is 6-6 and bowl-eligible. Instead, it was a long, long winter in Evanston.
Two of the Wildcats’ top offensive weapons were sidelined by injuries. Senior quarterback Kain Colter was hobbled all season by injuries, missing two games and parts of others. His passing yards fell from 872 as a junior to 577 as a senior.
Dynamic tailback Venric Mark (who rushed for 1,366 yards in 2012) received a medical redshirt due to an ankle injury and will return this fall for his senior season.
Rising senior Trevor Siemian, who filled in for Colter last fall, will return as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.
Beyond Colter, wideout Rashad Lawrence, middle linebacker Damien Proby and defensive end Tyler Scott are the only major losses.
Northwestern gets Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin at home and does not play Ohio State or Michigan State this fall. The Wildcats are a prime turnaround candidate.