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    Wildcats Halt Commodores 23-13 at Ryan Field

    Venric Mark had 24 carries for a career-best 123 yards Saturday in NU's 23-13 win vs. Vanderbilt.

    Venric Mark had 24 carries for a career-best 123 yards Saturday in NU's 23-13 win vs. Vanderbilt.

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    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Ryan Field)
    Score: Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 13
    Records: NU (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Vanderbilt (0-2, 0-0 SEC)
    Next NU Event: Saturday, Sept. 15 vs. Boston College • 2:30 p.m. CT • Evanston, Ill.
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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern outscored Vanderbilt 20-3 in the second half to earn its second victory of the season with the 23-13 win Saturday night in the 2012 home opener at Ryan Field. Tied at 13-13 with 5:21 left, the Wildcats capitalized on a 18-yard field goal to take the 16-13 lead, forced a Vanderbilt fumble deep in its own territory with 1:47 left and put the finishing touches on the game with a 29-yard touchdown run by Kain Colter with 1:24 to play, giving NU the 23-13 victory.

    With the win, Northwestern improves to 2-0 on the year while Vanderbilt drops to 0-2.

    Junior running back Venric Mark spearheaded the NU offense out of the backfield with 24 carries for a career-best 123 yards and found the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

    Quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter both contributed for Northwestern as Siemian finished 10-for-16 for 91 yards while Colter was 7-of-15 for 42 yards. Colter was NU's second leading rusher Saturday as his 29-yard touchdown run with 1:24 remaining was the longest run of the day for either team.

    Vanderbilt Game Highlights

    The Northwestern defense forced two fumbles, recovering two, including one in the closing minutes of the game. Trailing 16-13, Vanderbilt began its drive at its own 28-yard line and on the first play, quarterback Jordan Rodgers was sacked by Tyler Scott, forcing the fumble that was recovered by Dean Lowry. Scott finished the game with six tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Chi Chi Ariguzo led the NU defense with 10 tackles, along with a sack and a team-best three TFLs.

    Vanderbilt went to the air to sustain a drive into NU territory on its first possession, which it kept alive by converting a fourth-and-9 opportunity down to the Wildcats' 22-yard line. On the next play, Jordan Rodgers delivered a touchdown pass down the seam to Jordan Matthews, putting the visitors ahead, 7-0.

    Northwestern also put points on the board on its opening possession, with 26 rushing yards by Colter on four attempts fueling a 10-play drive that culminated with a 40-yard field goal by Jeff Budzien, his first of the season.

    Late in the first quarter, a 53-yard punt by Brandon Williams pinned the Commodores on their own 5, but a pair of long rushes by Rodgers put Vanderbilt across midfield. Vanderbilt went on to convert a 32-yard field goal try to regain a one-touchdown lead on the Wildcats, 10-3.

    Both teams traded three-and-outs in the middle of the second quarter, but Vanderbilt drove its way into NU territory in the closing minutes of the first half and kept the drive alive with a successful fourth-and-1 rush by Rodgers. But with the Commodores entering the red zone, another Rodgers carry ended with NU senior Quentin Williams punching the ball free on Rodgers' way to the ground. Senior LB David Nwabuisi fell on the loose ball, keeping Vandy's lead at seven going into the halftime locker room.

    Northwestern found the offensive rhythm it had lacked in the first half on its opening drive of the second, with Colter completing 5-of-6 passes to move NU into field goal range. Budzien was true on his second attempt of the evening, this time from 37 yards to cut Northwestern's deficit to four.

    But both defenses dug in after that, sending the game into the decisive fourth quarter with the visitors still clinging to a four-point lead. Siemian began the quarter under center and immediately slung the ball out to Mark, who eluded several tackles and came within a step out of bounds of taking it the distance. A late hit against Vanderbilt moved the ball near the midfield and Northwestern marched down the field, ending the 11-play, 86-yard drive with Mark's 7-yard touchdown scamper to take its first lead of the game at 13-10.

    Vanderbilt evened things up on its next drive, capping a nine-play 60-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal by Carey Spear.

    On NU's next possession, the Wildcats drove all the way to the Vanderbilt 2-yard line, facing fourth-and-1 with about two minutes remaining. Electing for the field goal, Budzien put the Wildcats back on top 16-13.

    Northwestern's defense quickly stopped Vanderbilt's last chance to go back on top as Scott forced a Rodgers fumble, giving the Wildcats the ball back at the Vanderbilt 20-yard line. With Colter back under center, NU had two negative rushes before he broke out for the 29-yard touchdown run sealing the game for the Wildcats.

    Vanderbilt had one last opportunity with 1:24 remaining but Rodgers threw four incomplete passes, turning the ball over on downs and ending the game in favor of the 'Cats.

    Northwestern continues its four-game homestand on Saturday, Sept. 15, when it hosts ACC foe Boston College at 2:30 p.m. CT. Season, single-game and group tickets are available by calling 888-GO-PURPLE.

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