Northwestern RB Venric Mark Gets Extra Year

Jan 22, 2014 4:59 PM EST

Northwestern caught a huge break Tuesday, even in an expected move, when it learned the Big Ten has approved running back Venric Mark's medical hardship waiver.

Mark, probably the Wildcats' best player, will return in 2014 as the team tries to get back to a bowl game.

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound ball-carrier and kick returner managed 103 total yards of offense against Ohio State in a near upset, his only meaningful game of the season. He carried three times for eight yards the next week against Wisconsin before apparently breaking his ankle and sitting out the final six contests, finishing the season with 36 touches.

Northwestern (5-7) lost seven consecutive games at one point in 2013, including two in overtime and two more by a field goal after entering the season projected as a dark horse contender for a Big Ten title.

An All-American punt returner in 2012, Mark has three career kick return touchdowns and also rushed for 1,366 yards on 6.0 yards per carry as a junior. If he stays healthy for his repeat senior season and the Wildcats can find a way to perform better in close games, all expectations will be for the team to return to a bowl game this coming season.

Mark is 1,000 all-purpose yards behind Damien Anderson for the school's career record.