Football: Venric Mark out for the season, more Northwestern injury news

Alex Putterman and John Paschall

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Senior running back Venric Mark’s injury saga finally concluded Monday.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald announced at his weekly news conference that the star tailback would not “be returning to participation this season,” due to an ankle fracture he suffered early during the Oct. 12 Wisconsin game.

“We’re disappointed for him, first and foremost,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not that the injury has gotten worse. It just hasn’t gotten any better.”

Earlier in the season, Fitzgerald said Mark would be eligible to apply at the end of the year for a medical hardship waiver. If the NCAA approves Mark’s request, he could choose to play another season in Evanston.

Mark led the Cats in rushing last year with 1,366 yards and was named an All-American as a punt returner by the Football Writers Association of America.

The senior entered this season bothered by a lower-body injury that limited him in the season opener against California and kept him off the field in NU’s next three games. Mark returned against Ohio State on Oct. 5 and totaled more than 100 yards of total offense but left the following week’s game in Madison during the first quarter. He has hasn’t returned to the field since.

NCAA rules state that to qualify for a hardship waiver, a player must suffer an “incapacitating injury or illness” before the second half of the season, having participated in no more than three of his team’s contests. Mark qualifies under all criteria and is therefore likely to have his waiver granted.

Fitzgerald said the running back has maintained an impressive attitude throughout the ordeal.

“He worked diligently to have a great year, and things have happened to him that have been out of his control,” Fitzgerald said. “What’s been in his control has been his attitude, and he’s been amazing. He’s been terrific on game day. He’s been terrific every day at practice that he’s out there encouraging guys and coaching them up.”

More injury notes from Monday’s news conference:

Mark was far from the only NU player with injury issues. Last week, Fitzgerald named more than a dozen players who would be limited or unable to play if the Cats had a game scheduled last Saturday. After the bye week, the coach provided updates on his battered personnel.

NU’s situation at tailback continues to be a circus, as Fitzgerald reported running back Stephen Buckley is also out for the season. The redshirt freshman was carted off the field in the first half against Nebraska on Nov. 2 with an apparent left knee injury. Fitzgerald said Buckley had successful surgery Thursday and will be out “approximately nine months.”

Defensive end Dean Lowry was not listed on the team’s official depth chart, and Fitzgerald categorized the sophomore as “day-to-day.”

Otherwise, the injury news was strictly positive. Junior wide receiver Tony Jones and senior defensive end Tyler Scott will likely practice Wednesday, Fitzgerald said.

Everyone else who had been previously banged up — including defensive starters sophomore cornerback Nick VanHoose and junior linebacker Collin Ellis — were what Fitzgerald called “full-gos” at Monday morning’s walk-through.

Mark and Buckley’s serious injuries aside, the week off immensely helped NU’s depth chart. In terms of using the bye week to get the players healthy, Fitzgerald said “mission accomplished.”

Twitter: @AlexPutt02

Twitter: @John_Paschall