When Venric Mark suffered an injury during overtime of Saturday's game, Brandon Vitabile was one of the first to the tailback's aide. He had intended to offer a hand to hoist him up, but shied away upon realizing he was hurt.
Mark, who has accounted for 1,176 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns this season, is expected to play against Michigan State. That is certainly positive news for Northwestern.
"We're positive about it," sophomore center Brandon Vitabile said. "I know what [observers] know; you see out there how much of a fighter [Mark] is and how much he wants to be out there, he loves it and we love having him out there."
Mark tallied 104 rushing yards against Michigan before exiting the game in overtime. The junior from Houston has battled several injuries this season, but has yet to miss a start as a result.
The news on starting cornerback Nick VanHoose remains a bit different. The redshirt freshman has missed two games since injuring his shoulder against Nebraska.
VanHoose was close to playing against Michigan, following a week of limited activity in practice, but was held out by the coaching staff. He will be evaluated throughout the week before a decision is made for the Michigan State game.
"He was close last week, but we made the decision that was right for him," Fitzgerald said of VanHoose. "We'll see how he progresses this week. I've got to see some things in practice. More importantly, he needs to see some things in practice. He's grinding at it."
NU will need to be patient with its two key players as they recover from injury. If either is unable to play against the Spartans, it will be next man up for the Wildcats.
"We know whoever's going to carry the flag is going to do a great job," said Vitabile.
Northwestern returns to the practice field on Tuesday to prepare for its next contest.