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Northwestern focusing on the past only to fix the future

SATURDAY

MAINE AT
NO. 18 NORTHWESTERN

The facts: 2:30 p.m., BTN, 1000-AM.

The records: Maine 3-0, NU 3-0.

The line: Northwestern by 28.

Updated: October 22, 2013 6:12AM



Win or lose, Northwestern has a 24-hour rule with any game: Review it for one day, then forget about it.

But heading into Saturday’s home game against Maine, the Wildcats have found a clever way to manipulate that rule.

Last week against Western Michigan, they were a heavy favorite but came out playing lackadaisically. They played significantly better in the second half of an eventual 38-17 win. But the point was made to coach Pat Fitzgerald: Clean up those mistakes in the final game before the start of Big Ten play.

Instead of focusing on the Western Michigan game specifically, NU has pulled mistakes from that game to set the agenda in this past week of practices.

‘‘Execution early by our offense,’’ Fitzgerald said earlier this week of where NU’s focus will be. ‘‘Four drives across the 50 without any points, like I said after the [Western Michigan] game, is unacceptable. A lot of self-inflicted wounds.’’

Fitzgerald wasn’t just referring to turnovers and penalties. He has said the execution of responsibilities on each play needs to improve, particularly in the red zone. NU has scored on all 16 of its trips to the red zone, but Fitzgerald says a lack of execution has prevented some of those scores from being touchdowns.

On the plus side, NU hasn’t committed a turnover inside the 20-yard line.

‘‘The offensive line has done a heck of a job controlling the line of scrimmage, and that makes it a heck of a lot easier when you can run the ball down there and then open up the pass,’’ quarterback Trevor Siemian said. ‘‘It just stretches out the defense that much more.’’

Note: NU running back Venric Mark (lower-body injury) was again listed as questionable on the injury report. Since playing in the season opener at Cal, he has been classified as day-to-day but hasn’t been a full participant in practice or played in a game.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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