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(Saturday, September 1st)
Final Score: Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) - Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian hit Demetrius Fields with a nine-yard TD pass with 44 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Northwestern Wildcats a thrilling 42-41 win over the Syracuse Orange in the season opener for both programs at the Carrier Dome.
Siemian, who stepped in for starter Kain Colter, converted 8-of-11 passes for 79 yards and shook off a couple of sacks as he guided the Wildcats (1-0) to a season-opening victory for the eighth straight year. Colter finished the day 14-of-21 for 134 yards and a pair of TDs through the air.
Ryan Nassib had a career day for the Orange (0-1) as he set a single-game school record for completions and passing yards with 44 and 470, respectively, in the setback. Nassib, who attempted 65 passes on the day, tossed four touchdowns, all in the second half. Marcus Sales reeled in 11 passes for 117 yards to lead in both categories.
Ross Krautman kicked off the day's scoring for the Orange as he converted a 22-yard field goal in the first quarter, followed by a 33-yard effort later in the period to give the hosts a 6-0 advantage.
Northwestern's special teams gave the Wildcats a lift as Venric Mark's 82-yard punt return for a score put the visitors up by a point, 7-6, heading into the second period.
Syracuse regained the lead thanks to a 14-yard touchdown run by Prince-Tyson Gulley, but again the Wildcats responded and moved ahead by a point as Mark reeled in a 21-yard TD pass from Colter to make the score 14-13.
Northwestern added to the lead later in the period as Colter combined with Christian Jones on a 14-yard TD pass play to give the visitors a 21-13 advantage at the break.
The defense for the Wildcats got in on the act early in the third quarter when Chi Chi Ariguzo returned a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown.
A few minutes later, following a missed field goal by Krautman for the Orange, Northwestern was again lining up near the goal line and this time Colter did the honors with a one-yard surge to give the Wildcats a commanding 35-13 lead.
The Orange stopped the bleeding as Nassib directed a lengthy 77-yard drive that resulted in a seven-yard TD pass to Marcus Sales, but still the hosts trailed by 15 points with the third quarter winding down.
Refusing to go away quietly, Nassib floated a deep ball to Jeremiah Kobena, who waited patiently under it after the defender had tripped and fallen to the turf, and then walked into the end zone to complete the 50-yard pass play and make the score 35-27 with 15 minutes to play.
With 6:42 remaining in regulation, Nassib was at it again as he directed yet another long drive which culminated with a seven-yard TD pass to Kobena. With the score 35-33 the Orange opted to try for a two-point conversion, but Nassib's throw to Jarrod West fell incomplete.
A defensive stop by the Orange gave the ball back to Nassib who had 5:36 to organize what could have been the game-winning drive.
The third-year starting quarterback took control of the tempo and engineered a masterful drive that included a couple of running plays by the signal-caller. Nassib pump-faked a short pass at the 20-yard line before lofting the ball into the end zone which Chris Clark turned into yet another score for the Orange. Following a penalty on the first two-point conversion attempt, Prince- Tyson Gulley ran the ball in to give the hosts a stunning 41-35 lead.
On the next Northwestern possession, the Wildcats kept Colter on the sidelines and instead went with Siemian who managed to put together a spirited drive that was aided by a questionable flag for a hit out of bounds that moved the ball to just inside the 10-yard line.
On the ensuing play Siemian threw a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone to Fields with 44 seconds remaining. A successful PAT gave the Wildcats a one-point lead at 42-41 and from there the visitors hung on for the incredible win.
Northwestern entered the game having lost all three previous matchups against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.
09/01 17:34:34 ET
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