By Sean Fernandez
As much as it pains me to revisit yesterday’s heartbreaking loss, we’ll still recap the chaotic happenings of the Orange season opener.
It was a roller coaster ride in every sense of the word. In the first quarter, two Ross Krautman FG’s gave the Orange a 6-0 lead that was erased on one play, an 82 yard punt return for TD by NW’s Ventric Mark. Syracuse trailed 7-6 after the first 15 minutes.
Then, on Syracuse’s next drive, Prince Tyson-Gulley found the end zone from 14 yards out to give SU a 13-7 lead. Things were looking good for the Orange. The D was limiting the big play and putting pressure on scrambling QB Kain Colter.
It all began to unravel from there. The remainder of the first half was all Northwestern. Colter threw 2 TD’s in the last 7 minutes of the half, one to the aforementioned Mark and one to Christian Jones. Then, in the first 7 minutes of the 3rd quarter, the Wildcats added two more quick TD’s. The first was a 33 yard ‘fumble return’ by Chi Chi Ariguzo, who picked up a dropped Ryan Nassib screen pass that was intended for Jerome Smith, and took it to the house after some hesitation. The majority of the players on the field thought it was an incomplete pass, but further review confirmed that the pass went backwards, making it a live ball. A lack of awareness from the Orange turned a simple incomplete pass into an easily-avoidable 7 points. Northwestern’s second TD of the 3rd quarter came on a 1 yd QB sneak from the oh-so-sneaky Colter.
The brand new Carrier Dome scoreboard read 35-13 in favor of Northwestern, and the Orange faithful began to trickle out of the turnstiles in disappointment. Things weren’t looking good. There were rumblings in the stands about Doug Marrone’s job security, and about the team as a whole. At that moment, the Orange woke up and took the game over.
Ryan Nassib went off. He broke multiple Syracuse passing records, completing 44 of his 65 passes for 470 yards and 4 TD’s (all in the second half). It was a spectacular performance from the fifth year senior. The first of his TD’s was to Marcus Sales, who had 11 receptions for 117 yards and a TD in his return from a year-long suspension. After that TD, the Syracuse D tightened up and stifled the Northwestern offensive attack. Syracuse got the ball back with about a minute to go in the quarter, and Nassib connected with Jeremiah Kobena on a 50 yard reception as time expired in the 3rd. Heading to the 4th, it was 35-27 Northwestern. In a Wake Forest-esque manner, Syracuse was charging and the 37,830 fans in the Dome were cheering at a deafening volume.
The two teams exchanged scoreless possessions early in the 4th until Nassib hit Kobena again with 6:42 left in the game. The score was 35-33 NW with an Orange two-point conversion forthcoming. Once the two teams got set, the Wildcat D held strong and Nassib’s pass went incomplete.
Northwestern got the ball back but they were forced to punt yet again by the Orange defense. SU took over deep in their own territory and began to march down the field. With 2:40 left to play, Nassib found newbie WR Christopher Clark in the end zone to make it 39-35 Orange. PTG then ran in the two point conversion to make it a 41-35 lead. The magical comeback was nearly complete. One more stop from the SU defense and the Orange would be 1-0 heading into next week’s clash with the #1 USC Trojans at MetLife Stadium.
Backup Quarterback Trevor Siemian came in for the ‘Cats, and Northwestern began marching down the field. With about a minute to go, senior OLB Dan Vaughan recorded a sack to make it 3rd and 15 from the SU 41 yard line. On the next play, Siemian ran with it along the right sideline, and was hit by DB Keon Lyn on his way out of bounds. The ref threw the flag and NW got a fresh set of downs. A few plays later, with: 44 left to play, Siemian threw a touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields from 9 yards out. NW’s Jeff Budzien made the PAT, giving the Wildcats a 42-41 lead.
Northwestern held on for the win after Syracuse’s attempts at a rebuttal proved to be unsuccessful. It was a disappointing loss for the Orange and a quality road win for Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats.
After digging themselves an incredibly deep hole, the Orange fought back valiantly. In the end, it wasn’t enough, and they are now on a 6 game losing streak dating back to last year. If Doug Marrone and company are to turn things around, hanging tough with USC next week will be a good start.