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    New-Look Wildcats Open 2012 vs. Orange Saturday

    Junior Venric Mark, who earned the starting running back job in fall camp, is poised to make his first career start for the NU offense Saturday at Syracuse.

    Junior Venric Mark, who earned the starting running back job in fall camp, is poised to make his first career start for the NU offense Saturday at Syracuse.

    Aug. 28, 2012

    Northwestern (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Syracuse (0-0, 0-0 BIG EAST)
    Saturday, Sept. 1 • 11 a.m. CT
    Carrier Dome (49,250) • Syracuse, N.Y.

    TV: ESPN2 (Crew: Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Jenn Brown)
    Radio: ESPN 1000 (Chicagoland) (Dave Eanet, Ted Albrecht) and WNUR (89.3 FM)
    Live Twitter Updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Northwestern at Syracuse -- Weekly Release | 2012 Northwestern Football Yearbook

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    For Openers
    • For the third straight year, Northwestern faces a BCS-conference school on the road in a season-opener when it kicks off its 125th season of varsity intercollegiate football Saturday at Syracuse (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2).



    • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald will be putting his undefeated record in season-openers on the line Saturday, looking for a 1-0 start for the seventh time in seven seasons at the helm of his alma mater. The Wildcats have won 10 of their last 12 season-openers, including a 30-10 victory over Syracuse in the first game of the 2008 campaign.

    • Northwestern posted a 3-1 mark against nonconference foes in the 2011 regular season, raising Pat Fitzgerald's all-time record vs. non-Big Ten opponents in the regular season to 19-5. This year's nonconference schedule is a challenging one for the Wildcats, who open with three straight BCS-conference opponents (at Syracuse, vs. Vanderbilt, vs. Boston College) before hosting FCS foe South Dakota.

    • NU is a generally young squad after graduating the winningest senior class in school history last season, one that included six All-Big Ten-level performers in 2011. The 'Cats return five starters on offense and six on defense and could start as many as 10 players of sophomore eligibility or younger in Saturday's season-opener.

    • One of the keys to Northwestern's run of four consecutive bowl appearances has been its success away from home. The Wildcats own a record of 14-8 in true road games since 2008, a run that included six consecutive road victories from Nov. 7, 2009 through Oct. 30, 2010.

    • Junior Kain Colter (Denver, Colo./Cherry Creek) is poised to make his fourth career start at quarterback (he also has started four games at wide receiver) and is under center in the 'Cats' season-opener for a second straight year. Colter stepped in for an injured Dan Persa in Northwestern's 2011 opener at Boston College and led the 'Cats to a 24-17 victory. Colter, who was 2-1 as a starter prior to Persa's return, continued to receive reps under center last year while also featuring as a wideout. He has the unique distinction of being the Wildcats' leading returning passer (673 yards), rusher (654) and receiver (466) from last year's squad. A true dual-threat signal-caller, Colter has twice rushed for 100 yards from under center but also owns a career completion percentage of 63.7 with six touchdown passes compared to just two interceptions.

    • As was the case in 2011, Northwestern's initial two-deep lineup of 2012 includes a pair of true freshmen. Superback Dan Vitale (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) earned the No. 1 spot coming out of fall camp in the battle to replace 2011 Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year and NFL draftee Drake Dunsmore. On the other side of the ball, defensive end Dean Lowry (Rockford, Ill./Boylan) has stood out to all spectators, and not just because of his 6-6, 255-pound frame. Lowry's ability to get into the offensive backfield and disrupt plays earned him a place behind returning starter Quentin Williams.

    Northwestern-Syracuse Series Information
    • Northwestern and Syracuse are meeting for the third time since 2008 after a prolonged stretch without squaring off on the gridiron, a stretch which lasted from 1984-2007. The two teams have split the first two matchups in a four-game series that runs through next season, with the 'Cats taking a 30-10 victory in the 2008 season-opener before SU won a 37-34 outcome on a last-second field goal at the Carrier Dome in 2009.

    • The Wildcats' first appearance in the Carrier Dome came in the Dome's inaugural year as the home of the Orange, 1980. SU defeated Northwestern, 42-21, on Sept. 27.

    • After earning a victory in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, Syracuse missed out on postseason play a year ago, finishing with a 5-7 mark in Doug Marrone's third season as head coach of his alma mater.

    • The Orange return starting quarterback Ryan Nassib, a senior who threw for 2,685 and 22 touchdowns in a strong junior campaign. His top target from a year ago, Alec Lemon, also is back on the perimeter for SU, looking to match a 2011 season in which he caught 68 passes for 834 yards and six scores.

    Click to download the complete depth chart and Northwestern game notes


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