Monday, September 21, 2009

Freshman kicker, senior QB lead Syracuse to first victory

Syracuse Orange fans had talked all week about how, even though the team had been making progress, they needed something tangible to make it real.  Even though the team had been playing harder, better, and faster than in the past five years, the improvements required one thing to prove it:  A win.

The 40-thousand-plus at the Carrier Dome on Saturday night went home with their wishes granted as Syracuse pulled off a 37-34 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats.

In a game that went back and forth, featured five turnovers and also saw a 24-yard touchdown reception by Northwestern's quarterback, the Orange ended up victorious on freshman kicker Ryan Lichtenstein's 41-yard field goal as time expired.

Syracuse's offense finally clicked in the third game of the season after putting up just 27 points in the first two losses to Minnesota and Penn State.  Senior quarterback Greg Paulus finished 24 of 35 for 346 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Mike Williams.  Paulus also ran for a 10-yard score in the first quarter and Williams finished with career-highs in yards (206) and catches (12).

Syracuse jumped out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter after Paulus' run, a Lichtenstein field goal, and a 66-yard strike to a wide-open Williams.  Northwestern then scored 21 unanswered points after a Syracuse fumble.  The Orange came back to lead 24-21 going into the locker room for halftime after Delone Carter pounded in a three-yard touchdown score with a minute to go.  They had a chance to add on to the lead, but Paulus threw his only interception of the night in the end zone, keeping the lead at three.

Northwestern took a 28-27 lead after a trick play with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.  Quarterback Mike Kafka (35/42, 390 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT) handed the ball to receiver Andrew Brewer on an end around to the left side of the field.  With Syracuse's defense swarming the ball, Brewer turned and threw back across the field to a wide open Kafka, who had blockers lined up and waltzed into the end zone for a 24-yard score.

On the ensuing possession, Paulus lost a costly fumble and Northwestern capitalized as Kafka and Demetrius Fields hooked up for a three-yard touchdown, giving Northwestern a 34-27 lead.  Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos then made the biggest gaffe of the night, missing the extra point to keep the lead at seven.

The Orange fought back as Paulus hit Williams again, this time for 13 yards, and Syracuse tied the game at 34.

With Northwestern driving for the game-winning score with a little over a minute left in the game, Kafka dropped back to throw, was pressured by Syracuse defensive tackle Art Jones, and ended up throwing an interception to Orange safety Max Suter, who returned the pick 22 yards to the Northwestern 39-yard line.  Paulus hit Williams for eight yards and Donte Davis for four yards to get Syracuse into field goal range for Lichtenstein, a walk-on who just earned a scholarship last week.

Syracuse running back Delone Carter added 76 yards and a touchdown.  In the first quarter, Carter became the 39th running back in Orange history to rush for 1,000 career yards.

With the loss, Northwestern fell to 2-1 on the season.  The Wildcats will host Minnesota in their conference opener next Saturday.

Syracuse coach Doug Marrone earned his first career win as the Orange moved to 1-2 on the season.  The Orange will play Maine, an FCS Subdivision team, next week at the Dome at 7:00.

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