Northwestern opens up passing game, routs Syracuse
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter September 7, 2013 9:18PM
Tony Jones (6) had nine catches for 185 yards, including this 47-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. | Matt Marton/AP
Syracuse 0 7 6 14 — 27
Northwestern 10 24 0 14 — 48
NU—Green 8 pass from Colter (Budzien kick), 14:09.
NU—FG Budzien 32, 3:15.
NU—Vitale 20 pass from Siemian (Budzien kick), 12:38.
NU—FG Budzien 21, 9:21.
Syr—Smith 3 run (Krautman kick), 6:29.
NU—Colter 16 run (Budzien kick), 2:38.
NU—C.Jones 5 pass from Siemian (Budzien kick), :02.
Syr—Moore 16 pass from Allen (kick failed), 12:32.
NU—T.Jones 47 pass from Siemian (Budzien kick), 14:48.
Syr—Gulley 9 run (Krautman kick), 10:22.
NU—Green 28 run (Budzien kick), 5:18.
Syr—Hunt 15 run (Norton kick), 2:49.
A—38,033.TEAM STATISTICS Syr NU
First downs 29 27
Rushes-yards 34-133 44-206
Passing 301 375
Comp-Att-Int 29-45-4 30-37-0
Return Yards 2 38
Punts-Avg. 6-41.3 5-36.8
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 7-52 6-55
Time of Possession 27:07 32:53
RUSHING—Syracuse, Smith 11-45, Gulley 9-32, Hunt 3-30, McFarlane 3-17, G.Morris 3-12, Allen 5-(minus 3). Northwestern, Colter 11-87, Green 14-66, Trumpy 11-36, Buckley 5-15, Siemian 1-4, M.Jones 1-0, Team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—Syracuse, Allen 27-41-4-279, Hunt 2-4-0-22. Northwestern, Siemian 15-19-0-259, Colter 15-18-0-116.
RECEIVING—Syracuse, Broyld 7-62, Clark 6-66, Estime 4-51, Kobena 4-24, Moore 3-37, West 2-38, Funderburk 2-22, Gulley 1-1. Northwestern, T.Jones 9-185, Vitale 4-42, Lawrence 3-36, C.Jones 3-35, K.Prater 3-22, Dickerson 2-20, Green 2-17, Buckley 2-14, M.Jones 1-6, Trumpy 1-(minus 2).
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:20AM
The conventional wisdom about Northwestern’s offense heading into the season was that it was married to the run game and, more specifically, the read-option that has been so successful in recent years and that downfield passing was by necessity only.
But in Saturday’s 48-27 home win over Syracuse, the Wildcats showed they can divorce themselves from that philosophy and open up the passing attack.
“When you look at something we tried to fix coming into this season, it was definitely getting the ball downfield and having some big games in the passing game and we’ve got some guys outside that can make those big plays,” quarterback Kain Colter said.
“This year, in particular, we’ve just got weapons on the outside and we felt like that’s something we wanted to capitalize [on] and something we didn’t do in past years.”
Colter, a week after sustaining a concussion, and fellow quarterback Trevor Siemian combined to go 30-for-37 for 375 yards and four touchdowns.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said that they anticipated Syracuse to bring a lot of pressure, so throwing the ball deep was part of the game plan.
When the Orange blitzed, the Wildcats thought they could get favorable matchups on the outside, particularly for junior wide receiver Tony Jones. Jones had nine receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown. Already Jones has amassed 255 yards receiving and two touchdowns and only needs 80 yards to eclipse his receiving total from last season.
“It feels good to know that I’ve got the trust from the quarterbacks and the coaches to be a guy that they look to, to go make big plays,” Jones said.
Most importantly for the Wildcats is that they’ve established deep threats that opponents will have to account for.
Last year the Northwestern passing game was mostly limited to medium-range routes or screens. That made the offense much less dynamic. Teams could put numbers in the box and key in on the read-option because they didn’t have to fear getting burned on the outside. But adding a vertical passing game will only help the read-option.
Stretching the field with a potent passing attack doesn’t mean that Northwestern will abandon the running game. The passing game won’t suddenly upstage the option as the Wildcats’ cornerstone.
But after Saturday’s game, the Wildcats become much more unpredictable.
“After two weeks, I’d like to think that we’re as balanced as anybody. We’ve got two very dynamic quarterbacks,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re really playing well within the framework of what we’re doing and complementing each other really well.”