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Northwestern seeks to reverse downward cycle

Wisconslinebacker Brendan Kelly rushes Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian during first half an NCAA college football game MadisWis. Saturday Oct. 12

Wisconsin linebacker Brendan Kelly rushes Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

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SATURDAY

NORTHWESTERN
AT NEBRASKA

The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN,
720-AM.

The records: NU 4-4, 0-4 Big Ten; Nebraska 5-2, 2-1.

The line: Nebraska by 6 1⁄2.

Updated: December 3, 2013 6:13AM



LINCOLN, Neb. — Northwestern has a rule that it can’t linger on a game — win or lose — more than 24 hours after the final whistle. It seems since the beginning of conference play, though, the Wildcats have had something more along the lines of a one-week rule.

That’s only because each mounting loss has given them something new to dwell on.

It started Oct. 5 with a heart-breaking loss to Ohio State that caused the Wildcats to come out completely flat in an offensively inept game at Wisconsin. That carried over to their home loss to Minnesota in which quarterback Trevor Siemian turned in one of the worst performances of his career. As a result, Northwestern was trying so hard offensively the next week at Iowa that it made stupid penalties that led to its fourth consecutive loss.

And the affect of those penalties?

That could play out Saturday, when Northwestern goes on the road to play Nebraska in one of the most-raucous atmospheres in the country. Before then, it might do the Wildcats some good to sit around a campfire and have a heart-to-heart.

Anything to stop this cycle.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has said he has seen improvement on tape. But even the typically rah-rah Fitzgerald can’t go without mentioning his team’s shortcomings. A winless conference record can do that to even the most upbeat coaches.

“The difference [in winning] is what you do in the moment and we’ve just got to get the guys to play smarter, play more disciplined,” Fitzgerald said. “You can’t fault guys for trying to do their best.”

And their best is good enough, apparent when they were a fourth-and-one conversion away from blemishing the Buckeyes’ perfect record.

As for the task at hand, beating Nebraska would help Northwestern get back to being the team it was Oct. 4 — one that was forward-focused.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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