Northwestern's Venric Mark leads the nation in punt returns. Mississippi State is No. 1 in punt return defense, which should make for an interesting storyline when the two teams meet in the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.
That will be a great matchup," Mark said after Northwestern practiced at Jacksonville University on Friday. "We have a pretty good [punt-return] team. I'm confident in my abilities. I trust my teammates. They have accounted for a lot of my success. It will be a good matchup."
Mississippi State has allowed 12 returns this season for a total of eight yards and a 0.67 yards-per-game average.
"With what the Bulldogs do schematically, they're going to make you adjust to formations and be prepared for fakes out of every set and every rep," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "You have to be sound there. Then if you get the ball to be fielded. They're going to directional kick and they do a good job of keeping the ball away from the return men, so a lot of the yards have come post landing and getting a positive roll and things of that nature.
"They've done an excellent job with that team. Hopefully we'll get some stops so we can get some punt returns."