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Northwestern looking to end recent run of subpar Octobers

Northwestern's KaColter makes catch behind Indiana's Greg Heban during an NCAA college football game EvanstIll. Saturday Sept. 29 2012. (AP

Northwestern's Kain Colter makes catch behind Indiana's Greg Heban during an NCAA college football game in Evanston, Ill. on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

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Updated: November 3, 2012 6:20AM

If the last few seasons offer any indication, Northwestern football players might not have to wait for Halloween to be spooked.

As soon as the clock struck midnight Sunday, no one would have blamed the Wildcats for being haunted by demons of past seasons as they took their 5-0 record into October.

NU has gone 7-10 in October in the last four seasons, ruining what have been solid starts to those seasons. The Wildcats were 13-3 in August and September of those seasons.

The October follies were never more apparent than they were last season, when NU went 1-4 in the month. That spurred discussion among the coaching staff all offseason, including a two-hour conversation about the subject at the coaches’ retreat.

It was after that discussion that the Wildcats’ coaches decided on a heavy-handed approach.

‘‘We’re taking the approach of no excuse,’’ coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I’m going to be really demanding on them this month, and I’m not going to tolerate the past.

‘‘The NCAA only gives you 20 hours that we [coaches] can work with them. They’ve got to be able to overcome that and be professional in their approach.’’

NU is on the quarter system academically, which means classes traditionally start in the middle or late part of September. That gives the players a convenient excuse for any fall-off in their performance on the field after the first few games.

But the scholastic calendar and the rigorous academic demands of the university aren’t going to serve as justification for any fall-off this season.

‘‘It’s our job as the older guys to make sure the younger guys are coming along faster,’’ senior linebacker David Nwabuisi said. ‘‘Once school starts, make sure they’re getting to class, but make sure they understand that football is still a commitment, too, and see that you spend just as much time in the film room and the weight room once school starts as you were before.’’

What that means for the Wildcats is managing their time better.

Fitzgerald said he isn’t worried about his players’ performance in the classroom slipping; his only concern is about their ability to
be more efficient with their

Previously, the players could choose when they fulfilled their football commitments. Now, they no longer have that luxury.

‘‘There’s always a time for football,’’ junior running back Venric Mark said. ‘‘But there’s also a time for school. Coming into this month, you have to make sure you prepare yourself to come in early sometimes, or you might have to lose a little bit of sleep and come in late to watch the film.’’

Then again, thinking about last October might keep the Wildcats up at night anyway.

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