Aug. 30, 2008
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Watch the full postgame press conference on Nusports.com All-Access.
Fitzgerald talks about the play of Tyrell Sutton
Fitzgerald talks about his defense
Fitzgerald talks about how his team adjusted to the no huddle
Fitzgerald talks about the best part of his day
Smith talks about the defense's performance
Smith talks about his interception
Wootton on the defense's performance
Sutton talks about the offensive line
Sutton talks how the offense performed
Bachér talks about his day
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Tyrell Sutton showed his old form, running for 144 yards while C.J. Bachér threw three TD passes to lead Northwestern to a 30-10 victory over Syracuse in the opener on Saturday.
With their star running back healthy and a seasoned Bachér at quarterback, the Wildcats are aiming for their first bowl appearance since 2005 after going 6-6 a year ago. They looked ready, despite a few glitches.
A 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman and sophomore, Sutton carried 21 times and turned in his 13th 100-yard rushing performance after being limited to 522 yards in seven appearances last season. The native of Akron, Ohio entered 2008 needing just four rushing yards to reach 3,000 for his career, a total he eclipsed with a six-yard burst on his first carry of the day. He totaled a game-high 185 all-purpose yards.
Bachér, who averaged a Big Ten-leading 304.7 yards last year, settled down after a shaky start and was 23-for-35 with 215 yards and one interception. The senior got picked off on the first drive and was forced to give way to his team's punter, Stefan Demos, on four consecutive possessions.
Bachér's unit began to find its groove in the second quarter. After a 51-yard field goal attempt by Syracuse's Patrick Shadle was denied by the left upright, Northwestern quickly marched down the field with the help of four carries for 37 yards by Sutton. Bachér gave the Wildcats their first offensive points of 2008 as true freshman Jeremy Ebert hauled in a 16-yard strike, an impressive first catch of his young college career.
Sutton fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, giving Syracuse the ball on the Northwestern 9 and setting up a 2-yard run by Curtis Brinkley that put the Orangemen ahead 10-9, but Sutton quickly made up for it. He connected with Bachér on a 12-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to make it 16-10 midway through the third, and the Wildcats pulled away from there.
Junior safety Brendan Smith intercepted a pass from Andrew Robinson and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown that made it 23-10 with 2:13 left in the quarter, and Bachér hit sophomore tight end Josh Rooks with a 2-yard scoring pass midway through the fourth that made it a 20-point game.
Syracuse got a 36-yard field goal from Shadle on the opening possession, but after that it was more of the same for a program coming off a 2-10 season.
They managed just 225 yards on offense -- just 68 in the second half -- compared to 484 for Northwestern. A year ago, the Wildcats averaged 427.7 total yards per game, good for second in the Big Ten.
Robinson was 14-for-28 for 103 yards and an interception. He was also called for an intentional grounding in the end zone early in the second quarter, resulting in a safety that made it 3-2, and he had little help from what should be an improved running game now that Brinkley and Delone Carter are healthy.
The Syracuse backfield found itself under pressure much of the day, facing a defensive attack spearheaded by senior linebacker Malcolm Arrington. Arrington finished with a team-leading 10 tackles, 2.0 of which were for a loss.
The Orange managed 122 yards on the ground -- and just 60 yards in the last three quarters. Northwestern's defense limited Syracuse to just 68 total yards in the final 30 minutes.
Brinkley broke off a 28-yard run on the first possession that set up Shadle's field goal. But Brinkley, who missed the final four games of 2007 with a broken leg, mustered just 21 rushing yards the rest of the way, finishing with 49 yards on nine carries.
Carter carried six times for 45 yards after sitting out last year with a dislocated hip.
He fumbled on his first attempt after a 2-yard gain early in the second quarter. Syracuse recovered at its own 5, but Robinson was called for intentional grounding with sophomore linebacker Quentin Davie bearing down on him in the end zone.
(The AP contributed to this story.)