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Football: The ever-confusing running back platoon and more from Pat Fitzgerald

Redshirt+freshman+Stephen+Buckley+handles+one+of+his+team-high+17+carries+against+Iowa.+Buckley+ran+for+99+yards+against+the+Hawkeyes+and+moving+forward%2C+seems+to+be+the+favorite+for+playing+time+in+a+crowded+backfield.%0A
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Football: The ever-confusing running back platoon and more from Pat Fitzgerald

Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley handles one of his team-high 17 carries against Iowa. Buckley ran for 99 yards against the Hawkeyes and moving forward, seems to be the favorite for playing time in a crowded backfield.

Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley handles one of his team-high 17 carries against Iowa. Buckley ran for 99 yards against the Hawkeyes and moving forward, seems to be the favorite for playing time in a crowded backfield.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley handles one of his team-high 17 carries against Iowa. Buckley ran for 99 yards against the Hawkeyes and moving forward, seems to be the favorite for playing time in a crowded backfield.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley handles one of his team-high 17 carries against Iowa. Buckley ran for 99 yards against the Hawkeyes and moving forward, seems to be the favorite for playing time in a crowded backfield.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Venric Mark is out, and chaos has filled the void.

With Mark, a senior, having already missed most of the Wildcats’ season with lower body injuries, a trio of backs have assumed the vacated carries, and coach Pat Fitzgerald had something to say about all of them at Monday’s weekly news conference.

A mystery of Saturday’s loss to Iowa was the absence of junior Treyvon Green. After serving as NU’s top back for the team’s first three games, Green’s opportunities began to decline. He has carried the ball only 26 times in the five games since. Saturday, Green didn’t play at all.

Fitzgerald attributed the benching to an ambiguous inability to practice, perhaps due to a previously undisclosed injury.

“He was a little limited last week during practice,” the coach said. “So that limited his role on Saturday.”

Mike Trumpy is the most experienced member of the backfield, having filled many roles during his four years in Evanston. The senior carried 13 times against Iowa but lost two fumbles, including one late in the fourth when the Cats were looking to take a lead.

Still, Fitzgerald said he has some degree of confidence in the veteran.

“We’re not going to lose Michael entirely. He’s going to have a role in our offense,” he said. “We have full confidence that Michael will respond the right way, but putting the ball on the ground is unacceptable. He understands he’s got to earn that trust back to earn the ball.”

Stephen Buckley has posted career highs in rushing yardage in each of NU’s two most recent games. The redshirt freshman ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries against Minnesota on Oct. 19 and followed with 99 yards on 17 against the Hawkeyes.

For the latter performance, Buckley was named the team’s offensive player of the week. Fitzgerald said the running back played “very well,” citing his yards after contact success in Saturday’s game.

“It was pretty apparent on Saturday who the best running back was on the field for us,” Fitzgerald said. “And that was Stephen Buckley.”

Going forward, it seems Buckley will be NU’s go-to back, but, as this season’s playing patterns have shown, that can change quickly and unexpectedly. Fitzgerald did offer one insight into how he chooses who will play going forward.

“Competition will be the deciding factor on who’s going to play,” he said.

More news conference notes:

  • Fitzgerald said it’s his understanding that if Mark does not play for the rest of the season, he will be eligible for a medical redshirt, which appears to be the case under NCAA rules. “I’ve talked to him about all the different variables,” Fitzgerald said.
  • Fitzgerald on senior quarterback Kain Colter playing almost the entire game Saturday: “We just stayed with the hot hand.”
  • Fitzgerald also said he was “very proud of our guys” for achieving the highest graduation rate in the Football Bowl Subdivision. “We do not take that for granted,” he said.
  • Several players also answered questions Monday. Freshman cornerback Matthew Harris said he and redshirt freshman Dwight White have supported each other throughout their ongoing position battle. Harris called the two “buddies” on and off the field.
  • The team will journey to Nebraska this weekend. Last time the Cats visited Lincoln, they upset the No. 10 Cornhuskers 28-25. Fitzgerald and senior linebacker Damien Proby said they were impressed by Nebraska’s fans. “Their fans respect the game a lot, which doesn’t happen all the time in some games that we play,” Proby said.

Email: asputt@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AlexPutt02

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About the Writer
Alex Putterman, Web Editor

Alex is a Medill senior studying journalism. He has written for The Daily’s sports desk since his first quarter at NU. His past positions at The Daily...