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Northwestern has to get over Husker heartbreak

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at northwestern

The facts: 11 a.m., ESPN2, 720-AM.

Updated: November 28, 2012 6:14AM

Northwestern could defy logic Saturday and let Nebraska beat it for a second consecutive week.

Obviously, the Cornhuskers won’t return to Ryan Field for a rematch of the Wildcats’ heartbreaking 29-28 loss.

But allowing the emotion after the Nebraska loss to linger could affect the Wildcats when they host Iowa in their homecoming game.

“[The coaching staff says] don’t let Nebraska beat you twice,’’ junior running back Mike Trumpy said.

‘‘We lost to them this past week and can’t let that game affect the way we prepare or think against Iowa — flush it, move on, grow from the loss and learn.”

After starting the season 5-0, the Wildcats have stumbled in October, a traditionally tough month for the program. The Wildcats have gone 1-2 in October.

But a win Saturday might salvage what could be a special season for Northwestern.

A victory heading into next week’s bye would leave the possibility that Northwestern could play in the Big Ten championship game.

“We’re getting ready for a real physical game,” left tackle Patrick Ward said.

“Iowa, they’re going to play the way they always have. It’s a real smash-mouth football team.

‘‘This is a huge game for us. It’s important to get back on track, and we get the bye next week, so we want to have that momentum going into the bye, as well. And I think that this game will really set the tone for how the rest of the season will go.”

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has held short of completely criticizing his team’s play over the last month.

He has noted the need for major improvement but disregards any notion that the recent skid makes this a bad time to be facing the Hawkeyes.

As he has said since the start of training camp, Fitzgerald expects the Wildcats to look like a veteran team by season’s end.

He knows, though, that a young team losing games like it did last week is part of the growth process.

“We’re a young ballclub,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re getting older as the year goes along. I think we’re starting to progress in some areas.

‘‘Some areas, obviously, we can still clean some things up. But it’s going to be a great football game.

“We’re a physical ballclub, and if we’ll fight and if we can coach them up a little better, we can make a couple more plays. I think we have a chance to have a special season. We started the month with no excuses, and we’re going to finish it that way.”

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