Venric Mark ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns to lead Northwestern to an easy 38-7 victory over South Dakota on Saturday afternoon.
This one figured to be a breather for the Wildcats (4-0), and that's exactly what it was. They barely broke a sweat against a FCS opponent after tight victories over Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College, building a 28-0 halftime lead with Mark going off for 97 yards and doing all his scoring.
The only real scare for Northwestern came when Kain Colter took a hard hit from South Dakota's Chris Frierson at the end of a 10-yard run rather than slide. He spent most of the first quarter on the sideline with a wrist injury but finished with 46 yards passing and 38 rushing.
Running back Mike Trumpy, meanwhile, sat out the first half and ran for just 10 yards, after going for 106 and a touchdown the previous week from Boston College. But with Mark leading the way, Northwestern had its way in this one.
Trevor Siemian added 72 yards passing. Quentin Williams came up big for the defense with two pass breakups and a sack, and the Wildcats remained unbeaten heading into their Big Ten opener against Indiana.
For South Dakota (1-2), it was just a rough afternoon.
Josh Vander Maten threw for 189 yards, but the Coyotes managed just 51 on the ground and fell to 2-26 against the Big Ten.
Northwestern had no trouble finding the end zone after struggling to get there the previous week despite racking up 560 yards against Boston College. This time, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, and Mark was the one setting the tone.
He broke off a 47-yard run on the game's second play from scrimmage and capped the opening drive by carrying it in from the 4, a good start after he sat out the final quarter the previous week with a lower body injury. And things just got better for Mark and the Wildcats after that.
Tyris Jones scored on a 5-yard run on their next possession after Siemian and Tony Jones connected on a 42-yard gain, and it became a 21-point game midway through the second quarter.
Northwestern started on its 43 after a 17-yard punt by Cole Zwiefelhofer and quickly took advantage. Colter scrambled 24 yards, and Mark finished the drive, crashing through the line for a 6-yard touchdown that made it 21-0.
Things only got worse for South Dakota in the closing minutes of the half.
Vander Maten wasn't ready for the snap, and the ball hit him in the knees. Northwestern took over at the South Dakota 28, and Mark scored on a 4-yard run with 52 seconds left to make it a 28-point game.