Fitzgerald: Injured Mark returning to practice Tuesday

Northwestern’s new dark-horse candidate is just fine.

Junior running back Venric Mark, who left Saturday’s 22-13 defeat of Boston College in the third quarter, will return to practice Tuesday, coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a news conference Monday.

Mark’s biggest obstacle to getting a full load of carries in Saturday’s match-up with South Dakota will not be the lower body injury that removed him from the Boston College win but his backup, junior running back Mike Trumpy.

Trumpy received most carries after Mark left the game, rushing for 106 yards on 16 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown run, the Wildcats’ lone touchdown of the game. Mark fumbled on his last carry but rushed 18 times for 77 yards. He also caught seven passes for 42 yards.

“We’ve got great competition in the backfield,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got a good situation there. I like the fact that both guys are practicing at a high level, and it’s showing up on the field.”

Mark has excelled in his touches at running back, returning kicks and punts. His 196.67 all-purpose yards per game are seventh most in the Football Bowl Subdivision and first in the Big Ten. The former wide receiver returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown against Syracuse and has had three touchdowns this year, one rushing, one receiving and one returning. He is averaging 94 rushing yards per game.

Trumpy tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Illinois last year, missing the final nine games of the season. He was not cleared for full participation until after spring practices concluded.

“He’s worked his tail off,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s gained a lot of positive muscle mass.”

In other injury news, senior right guard Chuck Porcelli missed Saturday’s game after not appearing on NU’s injury report released Thursday. Porcelli “got a little dinged up” late last week after the injury report was sent out, Fitzgerald said.

The first-year starter was available for the game, but NU started senior Neal Dieters and worked in redshirtfreshman Matt Frazier. Porcelli is “good to go” this week, Fitzgerald said, but like Mark, will have to fight off competition for playing time.

— Colin Becht