EVANSTON-Northwestern ran away from Syracuse on Saturday night with a dominant 48-27 win.
Here, then, are four things we liked and four things we didn't about the Wildcats' rout of the Orange.
Four downs: Positives
1. Passing game: The Wildcats were absolutely on fire through the air on Saturday night. Kain Colter was 15-for-18 with 116 yards and a touchdown, while Trevor Siemian finished 15-of-19 for 259 and three TDs. The two quarterbacks spread the ball to 10 different receivers during the aerial display. Tony Jones was the favorite target of the night, and he finished with nine receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown. Quite simply, the Cats couldn't be stopped. Every time they needed a big play, they responded through the air. For a team that lacked a big-play threat last season, the wide receivers stepped up on Saturday.
2. The first half: Northwestern may have slowed down a bit after halftime, but the Wildcats played a nearly flawless opening half. The Cats scored a touchdown on the first drive of the half, the last drive of the half and added a slew of other scores in between. The team racked up 387 total yards of offense, allowed just one scoring drive and picked off two passes. When the two teams ran into the locker rooms for halftime, Northwestern owned a commanding 34-7 lead. As far as halves of football, this one was about as perfect as they come.
3. Interceptions: Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen seemed to be in a giving mood on Saturday night. He tossed four interceptions, which led to 17 Northwestern points. Traveon Henry, Ibraheim Campbell, Chi Chi Ariguzo and Dean Lowry all got in on the action. Northwestern, on the other hand, took great care of the ball; neither Colter nor Siemian threw picks on Saturday. The four interceptions bring Northwestern's season total up to seven through two games.
4. Dominating the line of scrimmage: Both the offensive and defensive lines really controlled the trenches. The offensive line allowed three sacks, but it also cleared the way for 196 rushing yards and gave Colter and Siemian plenty of time to operate. Defensively, the front four never allowed Allen to get comfortable. Tyler Scott was the only player to record a sack for NU, but they helped record four TFL. More importantly, the defensive line closed down the running lanes and, for the most part, didn't give Allen room to step into his throws in the pocket.
Four downs: Negatives
1. Third quarter, take two: Just like last week's game against Cal, Northwestern was largely ineffective and lackluster in the third quarter. The Orange outscored the Wildcats 6-0 in the third quarter, and the Cat offense seemed to hit a speed bump. After racking up almost 400 yards in the first half, Northwestern didn't even break the 100-yard mark in the third quarter. The Syracuse offense drove the length of the field on its opening drive to cut the lead to 21, and Northwestern was unable to put a drive together in response. Luckily for the Wildcats, Syracuse never got back into the game, as Cal did the week before. Still, it was one of the few negatives in an otherwise productive game.
2. Cornerbacks: The defensive line played great and the linbacking corps helped keep the run game in check, but the secondary looked like a weak link at times. Dwight White got picked on once again, getting called for pass interference and missing several important tackles. But he was not alone, as Campbell, Nick VanHoose and Henry also missed tackles at times that allowed Syracuse to grab extra yards. For much of the first half, it looked like Syracuse was targeting VanHoose as much as it was Henry. The group did make up for the poor tackling by coming up with timely interceptions, but there is work that remains to be done.
3. Allen threw another interception before we could come up with a third one. Seriously, this was an impressive performance by Northwestern and it would be nit-picking to come up with more than a couple negatives.