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updated: 10/19/2012 5:18 PM

With Nebraska reeling, NU looking for 7th win

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  • A year ago, Northwestern's Kain Colter helped Northwestern slip past Nebraska for a huge road win. Now the Wildcats are looking for their seventh win of the season as they host the Huskers on Saturday.

    A year ago, Northwestern's Kain Colter helped Northwestern slip past Nebraska for a huge road win. Now the Wildcats are looking for their seventh win of the season as they host the Huskers on Saturday.
    Associated Press/2011

By Andrew Seligman
AP Sports Writer

Rocked by a blowout loss, Nebraska players decided to hold a team meeting to make sure they were still together and knew what they needed to do.

Coach Bo Pelini searched for answers, too.

Now, after a week off, the Cornhuskers say they are ready to face 6-1 Northwestern in Evanston before a packed crowd on Saturday and put aside that brutal beating by Ohio State.

"There comes a point where the men of the team need to come together and say, `All right, this is how things need to be done,"' receiver Kenny Bell said. "When you hear a coach say it every day for 10, 11, 12 months, it just starts to become noise. It's hard to focus on what they're saying."

Northwestern is focused on getting to 7-1 and improving its bowl position.

"We put ourselves in a good situation to where we control our own destiny," Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter said. "Obviously, Nebraska's a great contender on our side of the division so we're looking forward to this one. We really need this one and all the ones coming up."

The Cornhuskers insist they're still together, that their minds are in the right spot, and that they're ready to move on from that 63-38 pounding at Ohio State two weeks ago.

Pelini is, too. He threw down the gauntlet and challenged his team to win its remaining six games after the Cornhuskers got shredded by the Buckeyes. One thing he didn't do -- question his methods.

"I believe in my process and I've been coaching long enough that I know what I'm trying to do," Pelini said. "I know that the process works. Obviously I question and I turn over every leaf. I turn over every rock to find out where we got off that process and why what happened happened."

Winning out would assure Nebraska (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) the Legends Division title and a spot in the conference championship game, but by no means is that a small task. The Cornhuskers still have to face Michigan and Michigan State, and beating Northwestern (6-1, 2-1), which has not lost at home this season, is no sure thing.

Northwestern also could claim the Legends Division and a spot in the title game by running the table with games against Iowa at home, Michigan and Michigan State on the road, and Illinois at home.

The Wildcats knocked off Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last year, and they come into this one after Venric Mark ran for 182 yards in a win over Minnesota last week that helped shake off a loss at Penn State.

Nebraska has had plenty of time to think about what went wrong against Ohio State.

The Cornhuskers gave up the fourth-most points in program history and most in Pelini's five years. There were missed tackles and missed assignments in another awful defensive effort just one month after Nebraska gave up its second-most yards ever (653) in a 36-30 loss at UCLA.

Before the Ohio State game, Pelini said he hadn't forgotten how to coach defense and stop the run following a come-from-behind win over Wisconsin. Yet there was Ohio State's Braxton Miller breaking his own school record for a quarterback by rushing for 186 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown. He also threw for 127 yards and a score. Carlos Hyde set career highs with 140 yards rushing and four TDs, and the offense didn't really help matters despite scoring 30 or more for the sixth straight game, with Taylor Martinez throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble.

Through six games, Nebraska leads the Big Ten in rushing, scoring and total offense, but it also ranks 12th -- and last -- in turnover margin. Only 11 teams in the nation have committed more turnovers than Nebraska with 15, and the Cornhuskers rank 91st against the run. That's shocking for a program with a history of dominant defenses, and it doesn't bode well for this week, considering Northwestern averages about 230 yards rushing.

"As a head coach you think about all those things, especially during a bye week when you have a lot of time to think," Pelini said.

The Cornhuskers have had fits with mobile quarterbacks in recent years, most recently with Miller, and they're about to face another one in Colter.

One difference is that Northwestern uses a two-man rotation, with Colter at times lining up as a wide receiver and Trevor Siemian behind center in passing situations. And the packages are basically the same, no matter who's at quarterback.

"It doesn't change a lot what they do offensively and that allows them to do it," Pelini said. "It's not like they have completely different packages. Other than changing out the quarterback and giving Kain Colter reps at those spots, it's probably not as hard for them as some people that have to run two completely different offenses for two different skill sets."

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