SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WKTV) - After scoring 28 unanswered points to take a 41-35 lead, SU's bid for a comeback win was thwarted when Northwestern (1-0) scored a touchdown with 44 seconds left to win, 42-41, on Saturday at the Carrier Dome in the season opener for both teams. Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib set SU single-game records for passing yards (470), completions (44), attempts (65) and total offense (500 yards). He also threw four touchdown passes.
Nassib's totals also ranked highly in the BIG EAST record book. His 44 completions was one shy of Brian Brohm's (Louisville) record, and his 65 attempts matched Brohm's conference standard.
On the very first SU offensive play of the season, Nassib's 17- yard pass to Beckett Wales put the Orange within 13 yards of the end zone, and kicker Ross Krautman tallied SU's first points of the year with a 22-yard field goal to give Syracuse a 3-0 lead a little more than five minutes into the game.
On its next offensive possession, the Orange went on a nine-play, 61-yard drive, but failed for the second time in a row to scored a touchdown in the red zone. Krautman kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:57 left to play in the first to extend the Orange lead to 6-0.
Northwestern got on the board when Venric Mark returned Jonathan Fisher's 58-yard punt 82 yards for a touchdown. The point after made it 7-6 Wildcats with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Orange reclaimed the lead (13-7) early in the second quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run by Prince-Tyson Gulley, but another Mark touchdown, this one on a 21-yard pass from quarterback Kain Colter, put the visitors on top, 14-13. A 14-yard pass from Colter to Christian Jones a little more than three minutes later extended the margin to 21-13.
The Wildcats added two more scores in the third quarter, including a one-yard touchdown run by Colter at the 7:34 mark of the period, to take its largest lead of the game, 35-13.
That's when the Orange comback began.
Nassib marched Syracuse 77 yards in 14 plays and connected with Marcus Sales on a seven-yard touchdown to cap the drive, closing the gap to 35-20. Then, as time expired in the third quarter, Nassib hit Jeremiah Kobena for a 50-yard touchdown that made the score 35-27. The touchdown pass was Nassib's 30th completion of the game, breaking the previous record of 29 completions he shared with Marvin Graves and Andrew Robinson.
The Orange rally continued at the start of the fourth quarter after the defense stopped Northwestern to regain possession with 10:40 left in the game. Nassib led SU 86 yards in 11 plays and found Kobena again in the end zone to cut the lead to two, 35-33, with 6:41 remaining in regulation. The Orange went for the two-point conversion, but the play was broken up by the NU defense.
On the Wildcats' ensuing possession, the SU defense held and the Orange took over on its 28-yard line. Facing a 3rd-and-8, Nassib completed a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Marcus Sales to put SU in scoring position. Three plays later, Nassib threw a 20-yard TD pass to Christopher Clark with 2:40 left to put the Orange ahead, 39-35. SU went for the two-point conversion and NU was called for pass interference. On the Orange's second attempt, Gulley burst through the Wildcats' defense and into the end zone to claim a 41-35 lead for the hosts.
With Colter out of the game due to injury, Northwestern called on Trevor Siemian to lead its final drive. After taking a sack on first down, Siemian completed three straight passes, including a 25 yarder to Demetrius Fields, to move the ball to the SU 34. The Orange defense stiffened after that, forcing a 3rd-and-15 from the 27-yard line. Siemian rushed for nine yards on the play, but an Orange personal foul gave Northwestern new life and an automatic first down at the nine-yard line. Siemian took advantage, connecting with Fields on the next play for the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds remaining.
Syracuse had one final possession, but could not mount a drive.
Nassib accounted for 500 of Syracuse's 596 yards of total offense. In addition to his 470 passing yards, Nassib also rushed for 30 yards.
Sales led all Orange receivers with a career-best 11 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Kobena added 79 yards on four catches and two TDs.
For Northwestern, Colter finished the game 14-of-21 for 135 yards and two TDs. He also added 40 yards rushing and another touchdown. Siemian was 8-of-11 for 78 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.
Sophomore safety Durell Eskridge led the defense with nine tackles in his Orange debut.
Syracuse returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 8 when it takes on USC at New York's College Classic in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on ABC.