EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — As nice as a 4-0 start is, Venric Mark realizes this is no time to get giddy. His teammates won't argue, either.
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, and that's exactly what it was. The Wildcats (4-0) 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.
"We still have a long way to go," Mark said.
They're off to a good start, though.
The only real scare in this one 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 landed on his left wrist, which has been bothering him since the opener against Syracuse, and spent most of the first quarter on the sideline. But Colter came back and 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 against Boston College in a game that coach Pat Fitzgerald said left him "a little banged up."
Northwestern wanted to limit the touches for Trumpy and Mark. But with Mark making the most of his 16 carries, the Wildcats wound up with 277 yards on the ground and 408 overall.
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.
"The mentality our team likes to take is that it's a clean slate for us now," Williams said. "While we did go 4-0 in nonconference, it doesn't mean much if we don't do well in conference. ... We're in a great place right now, but we have a long way to go and we're going to work toward that."
South Dakota coach Joe Glenn basically said the same thing about his team, that the Coyotes (1-2) have a long way to go. He used words like "pathetic" to describe their play and was particularly peeved at center Tim Ross for botching snaps. Put simply, he didn't hold back.