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NU football not awed by spotlight game against Nebraska

Nebraskquarterback Taylor Martinez (3) is tackled by Northwestern's QuentWilliams (88) during first half an NCAA college football game Lincoln Neb.

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) is tackled by Northwestern's Quentin Williams (88) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

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Updated: November 20, 2012 11:02AM

Northwestern returns to the
national spotlight Saturday on ABC (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7), already bowl-
eligible as it hosts Nebraska a year after upsetting the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Neb.

But the bright lights aren’t blinding the Wildcats.

‘‘I don’t know if we’re in the
national spotlight quite yet,’’ linebacker David Nwabuisi said. ‘‘Either
way, it’s just another week. It’s a big game because we’re in the same division [in the Big Ten], and every game matters from now on. We’re just trying to get the win.

‘‘I’m sure they have some extra
motivation. But at the end of the day it’s football, and last year doesn’t matter anymore. We’ll be just as ‘up’ as they are. It’s a big game for both of us.’’

Sold-out Ryan Field will feature plenty of red in the stands, with
Nebraska (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) bringing a large contingent of supporters. But the audience also will include several bowl representatives as the judging phase begins for NU (6-1, 2-1).

For now, the opportunity to win the conference is as much a carrot for the Wildcats as postseason play.

‘‘We have to take it a game at a time because a season can unravel if guys start losing their focus,’’ Nwabuisi said. ‘‘At the same time, we have in mind that this could be a very special season if we take it week by week and play the way we’re capable of playing.’’

NU’s challenge is formidable,
especially with the Cornhuskers coming off a bye week and a 63-38 loss to Ohio State in their last game.

Taylor Martinez leads Nebraska as a dual-threat quarterback. Martinez, a junior, already has 7,172
career offensive yards, making him only the second player in school history with more than 7,000 (Eric Couch had 7,915).

‘‘He’s a heck of a quarterback,’’ Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I thought a year ago he was throwing it pretty well. He presents a challenge every time he touches the ball.’’

And the Cornhuskers complement Martinez with a wealth of other talent.

‘‘Their talent is outstanding and as good as we’ll see in the league,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘Nebraska has weapons everywhere, so it’s a different challenge than last week [at Minnesota].

‘‘When you watch them on video, they do a terrific job up front of controlling the line of scrimmage. Their linebacking corps is very
active, and they do a great job in their man-to-man coverage concepts to really lock you down and put great stress and strain on you to throw the football.

‘‘Like most teams we play, I don’t think they change a lot from their identity. They just make little tweaks in how they’re going to stop us. They’re very fast and very physical.’’

Nebraska is accustomed to
national attention and playing in front of big crowds, but Fitzgerald sees the other side of that equation.

‘‘We’re going to be playing 11 of their guys, so [the hype] doesn’t matter,’’ he said. ‘‘We have a great fan base here. It’s going to be terrific, a great environment, and our guys are excited about it.

‘‘Our students have been terrific, and we appreciate their support. Be early. Be loud and fully fired up to go.’’

NOTE: Road construction in Evanston will add to congestion near Ryan Field. Because Central Street is torn up west of the stadium, school officials are advising fans to use Dempster as an east-west alternative.

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