Northwestern at Syracuse Postgame Notes
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. --
Senior quarterback Mike Kafka broke a 47-year-old school record for consecutive completions, set a career-high for passing yards by the end of the first half and scored touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving in a 37-34 loss to Syracuse Saturday night at the Carrier Dome.
Kafka completed his first 16 passes of the game and finished the first half 18-of-19 through the air for 242 yards and two touchdowns in helping Northwestern take the lead after falling to an early 17-0 deficit. Kafka broke Tom Myers' school mark of 15-straight completions set when Northwestern was ranked No. 1 in the country in 1962. Kafka's previous career high for passing yardage was 192 set against Towson in the 2009 season opener.
With the score tied at 34 apiece in the fourth quarter, Syracuse's Max Suter intercepted a Kafka offering near midfield, a play that led to an eventual 41-yard game-winning field goal by SU's Ryan Lichtenstein as the clock expired.
Syracuse jumped out to a quick lead with two scores in the game's first six minutes. After getting a 42-yard field goal on their first possession, the Orange forced a fumble on the Wildcats' first play from scrimmage. SU then quickly punched the ball into the end zone for a 10-0 advantage with 9:33 remaining in the first quarter. The Orange extended its cushion to 17-0 later in the period with a 66-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Williams.
The Wildcats came back strong in the second quarter, scoring 21-straight points to take a 21-17 lead late the period. Kafka punched the first score in himself on a 3-yard rush before finding Andrew Brewer on a 39-yard touchdown pass and Drake Dunsmore on a 22-yard scoring sling.
Syracuse answered with a late 3-yard rushing touchdown to take a 24-21 lead into the locker room.
After the Orange extended their lead with a third-quarter field goal, Northwestern forced a much-needed turnover when Brad Phillips came on the blitz and forced a Greg Paulus fumble before winning the battle at the bottom of the pile to come up with the loose ball. Two plays later the Wildcats took the lead, 28-27, when Kafka threw a lateral to Brewer, who then tossed the ball back to Kafka for a 24-yard touchdown.
With that play, Kafka became the first Big Ten player with at least one passing, rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game since Penn State's Zack Mills turned the trick against Akron on Sept. 4, 2004.
Northwestern made it a 7-point lead with 9:04 to play in the game when Kafka found Demetrius Fields for a 3-yard touchdown, but the extra point hit the upright to leave it at a 34-27 game.
The Orange rallied on the ensuing drive, marching 70 yards on six plays to paydirt, tying things at 34 when Paulus connected with Williams for the second time, this time from 13 yards out. The Wildcats' attempt to complete its second game-winning drive in as many weeks stalled on Kafka's interception with 1:38 remaining in the game.
Kafka finished the game 35-of-42 through the air for 390 yards and three touchdowns. Dunsmore led all Wildcat receivers with 10 catches for 90 yards and a score. Zeke Markshausen added a career-best nine catches for 86 yards.
Defensively, Johnson recorded a sack, a forced fumble and recovered one a fumble.
Northwestern was without running backs Stephen Simmons and Jeravin Matthews, starting middle linebacker Nate Williams, starting cornerback Sherrick McManis and starting wide receiver Sidney Stewart in the game; all were out due to injury.