Football: Northwestern pummels Syracuse to move to 2-0

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Football: Northwestern pummels Syracuse to move to 2-0

Senior quarterback Kain Colter looks to run the ball against Syracuse. Colter finished the game with 87 yards running and 116 yards passing.

Senior quarterback Kain Colter looks to run the ball against Syracuse. Colter finished the game with 87 yards running and 116 yards passing.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior quarterback Kain Colter looks to run the ball against Syracuse. Colter finished the game with 87 yards running and 116 yards passing.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior quarterback Kain Colter looks to run the ball against Syracuse. Colter finished the game with 87 yards running and 116 yards passing.

Rohan Nadkarni, Gameday Editor

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Northwestern took care of business Saturday, defeating Syracuse 48-27. The Wildcats were led by surgical execution from their offense, which put up 34 points in the first half alone.

NU’s quarterbacks excelled at throwing the ball all over the field. Junior quarterback Trevor Siemian and senior quarterback Kain Colter combined to complete 30-of-37 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Each successfully led multiple long scoring drives throughout the game.

“Great team win,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I give a lot of credit to Syracuse. I’m really glad that the series is over. These have been really hard-fought games for us.”

(Photo gallery: Football: Northwestern vs. Syracuse)

Only 51 seconds into the game, Colter conducted a four-play, 75-yard drive that gave the Cats a 7-0 lead. Colter, who started after suffering a concussion last week, threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to junior running back Treyvon Green to open the scoring.

After a field goal by senior place-kicker Jeff Budzien late in the first quarter, Siemian orchestrated his own scoring drive on NU’s fourth series. Siemian threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to cap a nine-play, 91-yard drive.

The offense fired on all cylinders in the first half. Colter and Siemian combined for only two incompletions in the first half hour, throwing one each. The unit racked up 387 yards of total offense. The production came without senior running back Venric Mark, who missed the game due to a lower-body injury.

“We have balance right now,” Fitzgerald said of the offense. “We’ve got two very dynamic quarterbacks. I also think what’s going overlooked right now is the play of our young offensive line.”

NU also capitalized in the red zone, scoring on all six of its trips inside the Orange’s 20-yard line.

The Cats did take a step back in the third quarter, accumulating only 97 yards and scoring no points.

“I really didn’t like our third quarter,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot to build off of that.”

Colter was a bright spot, running like he did before his head injury. He finished the game as NU’s leading rusher, with 87 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Memorable runs included a 33-yarder, a 17-yarder where he eluded multiple defenders, and a touchdown drive where Colter stuck the ball over the goal line for the score.

“We thought probably on Wednesday he would be ready to go,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s one of the most dynamic playmakers not only in the conference but in the country.”

The secondary also rebounded after being gashed through the air in the season opener. The Cats intercepted the Orange four times.

Sophomore defensive end Dean Lowry picked off a pass near the line of scrimmage, but sophomore safety Traveon Henry produced the most impressive takeaway. Henry sprinted across half the field to intercept a pass on the sideline and toe-tapped to make sure to keep his feet in bounds.

“I saw an opportunity to make a play and from there I got real excited,” Henry said. “It was kind of like a squirrel trying to get a nut. Once I caught it, I tried to get two (feet in). Next time I want to score.”

The Cats also managed to close out the Orange on the ground, something the team struggled to do last season. In 2012, NU allowed Syracuse to score 28 consecutive points and lost a 35-13 second-half lead.

On Saturday, up 34-13 in the third quarter, the Cats turned to their run game to wind down the clock, finishing the game with 44 rushes for 206 yards.

The win came in front of the Cats’ largest home-opener crowd in 12 years, with 38,033 in attendance at Ryan Field. NU remains at home next week against Western Michigan.

Email: rohannadkarni2015@u.northwestern.edu

Twitter: @Rohan_NU

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