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updated: 9/22/2012 8:59 PM

Northwestern cruises, eyes future in Big 10

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  • Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammates Saturday during the first half against South Dakota.

    Northwestern running back Venric Mark (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammates Saturday during the first half against South Dakota.
    associated press


During a very slow-moving blowout in Evanston, a window to the outside world was available on the televisions in the Ryan Field press box.

The pictures told the same tale -- from top to bottom, the Big Ten is thoroughly unimpressive this season.
Iowa lost to Central Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State struggled to put away inferior opponents, while Wisconsin might have trouble winning the WAC.

So what does this mean for Northwestern, which improved to 4-0 with a routine 38-7 victory over South Dakota on Saturday?

NU coach Pat Fitzgerald admitted he's paid very little attention to the rest of the Big Ten. So he turned to a philosophical question when asked about the state of the Wildcats.

"Are we going to really get after it (next week in practice), really prepare the way championships teams do and the way mature teams do?" Fitzgerald said. "Or are we going to be fat and sassy because we won a couple games out of conference?"

Queried on the same topic, quarterback Kain Colter went in the opposite direction of fat and sassy, reflecting on the team's training with Navy Seals this summer.

"A lot of it has to do with expectations," he said. "We expected to be 4-0 and every operation the Navy Seals go into, they expect to be victorious. We can't get too high, can't get too low. We have to stay even keel.

"I think that was the biggest lesson they taught us. Those guys are the best at what they do and when they complete a mission successfully, they're not go jumping for joy or giving high-fives. That's what they expect out of themselves."

The Wildcats open the conference schedule Saturday at home against Indiana, then visit Penn State and Minnesota. So a 7-0 record for Northwestern heading into their Oct. 20 home game against Nebraska is not out of the question. The toughest part of the schedule comes in November with back-to-back road games against Michigan and Michigan State.

"We expected to win those games and show the entire nation what Northwestern football will bring to the table this season," Colter added. "We expect to win games, expect to win the conference."
One of the few subplots in this game was Northwestern trying to keep its quarterbacks healthy. Colter left briefly with a wrist injury after being hit hard on a scramble.

"My left wrist is actually a little banged up after Syracuse," Colter said. "I don't think it was the hit at all. I think I landed on it weird."

A few players later, passing specialist Trevor Siemian was drilled in the backfield by former Maine South quarterback Charlie Goro, and was slow to get back to his feet. Both of the NU quarterbacks returned to action and looked fine.

The Wildcats had a 100-yard rusher for the third-straight week. Venric Mark did the honors for the second time, running for 117 yards on 16 carries.
Mike Trumpy, who gained 106 yards while filling in for an injured Mark against Boston College, spent most of the past week nursing an injury, but did get 4 carries Saturday.
"We were going to rest him, then we just wanted to give him a couple reps this week just to kind of keep some things going," Fitzgerald said.

Northwestern's best highlight in this game was probably a 61-yard punt by Brandon Williams that rolled to a dead stop on South Dakota's 1-yard line.
The visiting Coyotes (1-2), an FCS opponent, brought several players from the Chicago suburbs.

Barrington native Terrance Terry had 5 catches for 66 yards. Kenny Greer (Barrington) started at defensive tackle and linebacker Kyle Guziec (Loyola) had 6 tackles.

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