Oct. 21, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern University head football coach Pat Fitzgerald said Monday at his weekly news conference that running back Venric Mark is out for Saturday’s game at the University of Iowa, and quarterback/wide receiver Kain Colter is day-to-day.
“We anticipate Venric being out this week, so that’s the way we’ll start the week,” Fitzgerald said. “Kain, from right now to start the week, is day-to-day and we’ll see how that progresses.”
Last season when Northwestern defeated the Hawkeyes 28-17 in Evanston, Ill., Colter rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns and Mark rushed for 162 yards on 16 carries. Colter also completed 6-of-9 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
When asked how long Mark would be out of action, Fitzgerald said: “He’s out. Really, I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you that.”
In three games, Mark has rushed for 97 yards on 31 attempts; Colter has rushed for 263 yards and four touchdowns, and passed for 396 yards and three scores. The leading ground-gainer for Northwestern is junior Treyvon Green (463 yards, 6.2 average, five touchdowns); Trevor Siemian is the top passer with an average of 187.6 yards per game.
It took Fitzgerald more than 13 minutes of his 15-minute news conference to address Iowa. That came in response to a question about Siemian having four passes batted down Oct. 19 during a 20-17 loss at home to Minnesota.
“We have to do a better job up front getting guys’ hands down,” Fitzgerald said. “Iowa is going to do a good job of that, too. You watch them, we have been going against each other for a long time, they do a great job, especially in the quick game of recognizing the three-step drop, reading the quarterback’s eyes and getting their hands up. They do a terrific job of that — up front their defensive line is outstanding. Their front seven is as salty as there is in the conference. They do a great job, we’re going to need to have a great job up front by the offensive line and finding windows where we can throw the football if we do throw the quick game.”
“It’s a great environment, great fans right there on top of you year in and year out. Arguably some of the most supportive fans in college football and it’s a very tough environment to play in. You have to handle your business from a standpoint of pre-snap and then you have to be able to go out and execute in that kind of environment so it will be a great challenge.”
Both Iowa and Northwestern enter Saturday’s game with overall records of 4-3. The Hawkeyes are 1-2 in the Big Ten, Northwestern is 0-3. Iowa is 2-2 at Kinnick Stadium this season and defeated the Wildcats 41-31 the last time the teams met in Iowa City in 2011. Northwestern had won the previous three times in Kinnick Stadium.
“It’s a great environment, great fans right there on top of you year in and year out,” Fitzgerald said. “Arguably some of the most supportive fans in college football and it’s a very tough environment to play in. You have to handle your business from a standpoint of pre-snap and then you have to be able to go out and execute in that kind of environment so it will be a great challenge.”
Northwestern senior defensive lineman Will Hampton had this take on the upcoming game against the Hawkeyes.
“Iowa’s offense hasn’t changed much in the past couple years, it’s a lot of zone,” he said. “If we attack and read our keys, we should have some success. But Iowa is a great team, they’re going to be at home, they’re going to be ready to play. Like every year, it’s going to be a tough game.”
Fitzgerald spent most of the news conference talking about his team. That included praise for the defense, “I love the effort level our guys are playing with right now,” but he mentioned that losses against Wisconsin and Minnesota were “because of us.”
“Last two weeks we beat ourselves,” Fitzgerald said. “The only way we’re going to get out of it is to fight and scratch our way out of it and I believe those guys will do that. I believe there is great character in that room, I think there is a group of guys who have been very successful and I think there is a hunger for them to improve.”
He added that when the Wildcat offense played with a sense of urgency, it moved the ball well. Then he referenced a play that did not succeed, because two of the 11 players missed a blocking assignment.
“That’s when a Picasso looks like puke,” Fitzgerald said. “Those are the types of things we have to fix.”
Northwestern began the season 4-0, but has dropped three games in a row: 40-30 against Ohio State, 35-6 at Wisconsin, and last weekend against Minnesota.
“If I have to coach effort for any guys then they are not going to play,” Fitzgerald said. “We talk about playing the Wildcat way here and when you don’t do that at a consistent level, then I’m not going to play them.”
Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT). It is ANF Day in Kinnick Stadium.
“For a couple weeks now we’ve been pretty ugly and we have to get it fixed. I know the guys are going to work at it to get it done,” Fitzgerald said. “Unfortunately we’re playing against a great defense, so we’re not going to get any breaks.”