After a season that could have used a lot more good news, at least January is starting off to an auspicious start for Northwestern. Running back and return man Venric Mark -- who suffered hamstring and ankle injuries last fall -- was granted a fifth year of NCAA eligibility, the school announced on Tuesday. Mark missed nine games this season and totaled just 31 carries after finishing with 1,366 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in 2012.
Northwestern's offense dipped this year, averaging just 26.2 points per game and finishing 52nd in the S&P+ offensive ratings. After opening the season 4-0, the Wildcats dropped a heartbreaker to Ohio State in a week in which they hosted ESPN's College GameDay. They then proceeded to lose six more in a row, including an overtime loss to Iowa (17-10 on Oct. 26), a triple-overtime loss to Michigan (27-19 on Nov. 16) and a last-second loss to Nebraska (27-24 on Nov. 2) after Cornhuskers quarterback Ron Kellogg III completed a Hail Mary as time expired. With Mark back and the page turned on the forgettable finish to 2013, Northwestern can enter the '14 campaign in a slightly better frame of mind.