Two weeks ago, the Syracuse Orange lost to Minnesota in a sour overtime ending. Then SU was overwhelmed at Penn State. Well aware of what was at stake with 0-2 record, the Orange had to start winning games with no strings attached.
And Saturday night's game between SU and Northwestern at the Carrier Dome featured a roller-coaster battle with five lead changes and one tie, plus a balance of big plays and untimely mistakes. The two quarterbacks, Greg Paulus and Mike Kafka, totaled 755 passing yards between them.
However, late in the fourth quarter Syracuse offense rallied to score 10 points and narrowly edged Northwestern 37 to 34 in front of mostly 40,251 animated fans in the Carrier Dome.
Ryan Lichtenstein's 41-yard field goal as time ran out made the difference as head coach Doug Marrone earned his first victory as the Orange's head coach on his third try.
"I am very excited for the fans and players that we won a hard fought game," Marrone said.
Paulus finished 25-for-35 through the air for 346 yards and two toudchdowns. Receiver Mike Williams had a career evening, with 11 catches for 209 yards and two TD receptions. Delone Carter chipped in with 18 carries, piling up 84 yards on the ground.
In the first quarter, SU's offense was sharp, generating 17 unanswered points, and the defense pitched in with a shutout. The Orange's first possession was an eight-play drive culminating in Lichtenstein's career-long 43-yard field goal.
It did not take long for a disaster to occur for Northwestern. Kafka, heavily pressured by Syracuse's front seven, fumbled, and SU's Darrell Smith recovered at the Wildcats' 31-yard line. The Orange capitalized on this mishap, utilizing screen passes to get to the line. Paulus ended the drive with 10-yard TD run.
Quickly, SU struck again A designed trick-play worked to perfection, as Paulus faked two handoffs and fired a bullet 66-yard TD pass to Mike Williams, making it 17-0.