Framing Syracuse

It’s a short week to prep for the home opener on Saturday night vs a familiar foe, Syracuse. I can only imagine how short of a week it must be for a Wildcat team that suffered an incredibly physical game and returned home sometime around 8 am ct Sunday morning. Fitz talks about a 24-hour “flush rule” – win or lose -but as fans we don’t have parameters. It’s time to pivot towards Syracuse, though

Northwestern (1-0) vs Syracuse Orange (0-1) – History Capsule

Gameday Info: Saturday, September 7, 5 pm ct (BTN)

Alltime Series: Northwestern & Syracuse tied – 5-5
Head Coach: Scott Shafer, 1st season (was DC under Doug Marrone for past four seasons)
2012 record: 8-5 (Big East Champions)
‘Cuse 2013 record: 0-1, lost 23-17 Penn State at MetLife Stadium on Saturday
Conference: ACC (1st season)
Undergrad Population: 13.987
Venue:  Ryan Field- capacity 47,330 (yes, NU has added 200 to its sellout number)
Last meeting: Northwestern 42 Syracuse 41, September 1, 2012
Opening Line: Northwestern favored by 9.5
Honorary NU Game Captain: ’89 alum, Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike & Mike show. This means tons of free pub on ESPN Radio this week for our ‘Cats.
Trends: NU has won 13 straight non-conference home games (11th best streak in FBS).

Setting The Stage For Syracuse

I don’t really need to remind you about our last meeting, do I? Last year’s heart-stopping season opener in the air condition-less stadium named for the air conditioning company, left every fan dripping in sweat – including those watching on TV.  Northwestern exploded to a 22-point third quarter lead thanks to Venric Mark’s incredible day on special teams, Kain Colter’s offensive weaponry and Chi Chi Ariguzo’s opportunistic INT and fumble recovery. As you know, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib went off, picking apart our secondary and mounted what seemed like a game-winning comeback. Kain Colter pulled himself on the final drive, due to an injury, and Trevor Siemian stepped in and calmly led the ‘Cats to the win with a beautiful toss to Demetrius Fields (after a controversial late hit call kept the drive alive).

This game ends a four-game series between Northwestern and Syracuse, which dates back to 2008, when NU dominated the Orange in Evanston. The ‘Cats lost to Greg Paulus at ‘Cuse in ’09 in the Mike Williams and Mike Kafka game, and then, we tied-up the all-time series with last year’s win. Syracuse boasts the 16th most wins alltime in FBS (698), while NU is going for win #500 on Saturday night.

The Shafer Era

Scott Shafer
We enter game two of the Scott Shafer era. Shafer was the DC for 4 seasons under previous head coach, Doug Marrone.

The Orange lost a nailbiter to Penn State in the season opener, 23-17, and looked sloppy, and at times sluggish in the loss. They certainly had every opportunity to win the game, but 5th year senior QB (Oklahoma transfer), Drew Allen, struggled with consistency (16-37, 189 yds, 2 INTs) and threw a pick on the potential game-winning drive with two minutes to go.  If you watched the game (I did), it was borderline boring in the first half with a 6-3 FG-fest going on, but that would change once the suspension of Penn State WR Allen Robinson was lifted and he hung 133 receiving yards on the ‘Cuse – in one half.

Don’t kid yourself, though. This ‘Cuse team has talent. Doug Marrone was building a program that improved talent significantly in the past two years, with younger players earning time over veterans. Case in point is Ashton Broyld who is a dynamic athlete. so much so, that the ‘Cuse had to create a position for him. The ‘Cuse did lose a bunch to graduation, but RB Jerome Smith and RB Prince Tyson-Gulley, who were disappointing on Saturday, but SU fans are pinning this on a pistol formation and some less than desirable play-calling. The Smith-Gulley tandem is the fifth best returning duo in FBS (2,001 combined yards in 2012) and Smith was first team All-ACC by Athlon.  Tyson-Gulley has that Venric-like chip on his shoulder.  The ‘Cuse did lose star OL Justin Pugh to the league, but this team will be no easy out.

Obviously, Penn State is a solid team. Syracuse got gashed for two big plays on defense, and their secondary is the glaring weak link, but the front seven is good. No, check that, very good. Obviously with so much uncertainty around the ‘Cats line-up for Saturday (both Kain and Venric are listed as starters at this point), the gameplan is going to be a surprise until kickoff for ‘Cats fans. Let’s dig in to some numbers.

NU vs SU Head-to-Head

It's only one week, so don't look too much in to these.
It’s only one week, so don’t look too much in to these.


Box Score Browsing:

Here is the Penn State-Syracuse box score from Saturday. Key stats that should stick out –  Syracuse posted a rushing average of only 1.9 ypc.


Northwestern Connections

There aren’t many, but three stand out. 
First, the major motion picture, “The Express”, featuring the story of Syracuse star and 1959 Heisman winner, Ernie Davis, was filmed at Ryan Field in 2007.  The ‘Cats home stadium served as the set for ‘Cuse’s old home stadium, Archbold Stadium.
Second, much has been made about Northwestern’s brand positioning of “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”. Well, the ‘Cuse have been doing a similar positioning long before we unveiled our slogan.  For years, it seems like the tops of cabs in Manhattan have been graced with the Syracuse logo and the slogan “New York’s College Team”. 
Third, my sister older went there. Hence, I really want this one for family bragging rights. 
Home Sweet Home
As you know, Northwestern is still three weeks away from starting school, so there will be a minimal student section on Saturday night. However, I’m expecting a crowd in the upper 30,000s – around 36,000 or so. It is Chicago Blackhawks night, by the way, so if you know folks enamored in seeing the Stanley Cup, bring them along. The ‘Cats are boasting some impressive marks at home. Consider, NU has won 13 straight non-conference home games, a streak dating back to Sept. 15, 2007, which is currently the 11th best such streak in the FBS (in the great trivia question department, LSU (28), Texas Tech (26) and Wisconsin (25) are the top three). 
‘Cat Tracking

We can browse, study and respect our ACC opponent all day long. However, as we try and get to that next level as a program, eyes are inward this week for fans, looking at the potential of no Kain Colter, the loss of Daniel Jones for the entire season due to a knee injury and the uncertainty surrounding Venric Mark’s health. Here is the depth chart for NU that was posted in this week’s game notes by Northwestern Athletics. Note that Fitz said Kain Colter, Venric Mark and true freshman CB, Matt Harris are all “day-to-day”. Let’s take a look at our offensive and defensive two-deeps.


Don't read in to Kain Colter and Venric Mark being listed as starters...yet.
Don’t read in to Kain Colter and Venric Mark being listed as starters…yet.


CB Daniel Jones is done for the year. Dwight White is now backed by CJ Bryant.
CB Daniel Jones is done for the year. Dwight White is now backed by CJ Bryant.

‘Cat Awards Of The Week

  • Collin Ellis won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his pair of pick 6s. 
  • Collin also won your “game ball” vote in the LTP poll:
  • Who do you give the game ball to?
      • Collin Ellis (67%, 398 Votes)
      • Game ball, schmame ball. I’m too concerned about injuries! (13%, 75 Votes)
      • Treyvon Green (10%, 61 Votes)
      • Trevor Siemian (8%, 47 Votes)
      • Dan Vitale (2%, 14 Votes)
        Total Voters: 595
  • Pat Fitzgerald and the coaching staff gave out the folllowing week one awards:
  • Offensive POTG – Treyvon Green. OFF Big Playmaker – Dan Vitale, Off Practice – Connor Mahoney
  • Defensive POTG – Collin Ellis, Def Big Playmaker – Dean Lowry, Def. Practice – Tom Hruby

‘Cuse Cliff Notes & Bookmarks

There are a couple of places for you to sharpen your background intel on Cal. Paul Myerberg ranked Syracuse #81 in his countdown and you can read it here.   The definitive Syracuse blog is the insider-named Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. Here is a link to our off-season Q&A with one of the more respected sports bloggers out there, Sean Keeley.

Syracuse’s 2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Penn State (L 23-17)
Sept. 7 @ #22 Northwestern
Sept. 14 Wagner
Sept. 21 @Tulane
Oct. 5 #8 Clemson
Oct. 12 @ NC State
Oct. 19 @ Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Wake Forest
Nov. 9 @ Maryland
Nov. 16 @ #11 Florida State
Nov. 23 Pittsburgh
Nov. 30 Boston College

  • Mark Wheaton

    How is it possible that NU has added 200 seats plus the tarp? just where are these seats?

    • NUHighlights

      The temporary bleachers on the terrace account for the extra 200 seats. They’ve been up there for the last year or two. The tarp doesn’t reduce capacity since they’re used if there’s no need for those sections.

      • LTP

        Thanks @NUHighlights. Beat me to the punch. I was referencing capacity, not estimated attendance vs ‘Cuse.

      • NUMBalumDave

        Speaking of attendance, and just because I’m lazy today, are there any figures on season ticket sales for 2013?

        • LTP

          Not officially. Last report was “there were only a few hundred left” which makes no sense to me considering we will have 10,000 empty seats on Saturday.

          • sailingcat

            I’m staff at Northwestern and we got an email last week prompting us to buy season tickets and saying that there were less than 150 left.

          • LTP

            Talked to Polisky today. NU season tickets are sold out. Will explain how there could be empty seats as a result.

  • NUCat97

    I’m curious why it seems as if all the TV graphics (and even your graphic above) has decided to go with the standard “N” logo instead of the “N-Cat” logo. It’s a nitpick, yes, but I actually prefer the latter for our athletic identity, and changing it now speaks to the nagging inconsistency I thought the department was striving to eliminate in our branding.

    • JMK

      We made it our primary logo in the offseason.

    • GoU_NU

      I’m as big of an NU fan as they come, but the N-cat is not a great logo. It looks unprofessional and kind of juvenile. The solid sculpted N is, in my opinion, a much better way to go.

      • cece


        Plus pushing the N logo goes along with identity that we have to claim back from UN-L.

        Also, Dear ESPN, enough with the N’Western. Come on Wilbon, stop just talking about NU and DO something about that!!!!!!

      • Chasmo

        I agree. The “cathead” logo is ugly, as the “cathead” not only looks bad, but obscures the “N.” I lean toward the “vintage” look in all my NU wear and avoid the “cathead” logo like the plague.
        My favorite Wildcat logo, by the way, was the one used in the late 1960’s to mid 1970’s — a Pink Panther inspired version of Willie where he is a skinny wildcat with big feet and claws.

        • LTP

          I talked to Mike Polisky about this today and NU Athletics has made the decision to go with the “block N” logo and will be consistent with it – on the field, on the helmets, etc…

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I noticed the change on GameDay in the morning. Not against it. I like seeing the team use the same branding.

  • Scott Feeney

    I know this has nothing to do with Syracuse, but I was just getting sick and tired with the University of Illinois’ obsession with NU. Unfortunately, St. Louis is not as close to Campaign as Chicago, otherwise this would be funnier. Hope you enjoy some humor to open the week. Would love to see some fans raising these signs at the end of the year.

  • Jim

    When do this week’s polls get released? I need to know so I can stop obsessively checking to see if they’re out, and instead do my job…

    • Catatonic Joe

      I have been doing the same thing. This idea playing college games for 6 days in a row is stupid.

    • Catatonic Joe

      I can’t even find a news story about when the poll will be released. Maybe the Pac 12 is holding up the voting for further review.

    • Louis M.

      NU up to #19 from 22 in the AP poll

    • NUMBalumDave

      USA Today #20

  • LTP

    As if we needed more ammo in the quickly nasty-turning rivalry with Cal. The Pac12 rescinds the McCain suspension stating they didn’t have access to replay. Huh?!!!! That’s just a joke.

    • Pittsburgh Wildcat

      Just a guess, but I’d bet the replay official forgot he was supposed to review it for the purpose of confirming the ejection. Which is sad and inept given that rule’s point of emphasis now.

      It just feels like the Pac-12 office publicly covering up for its officials errors. Also just a guess, but I’d bet that officiating crew did not grade out well overall.

    • Wildcats99

      I don’t much care about Cal anymore this season, but I must say this is extremely fishy. I was at the game and after the targeting call they specifically stopped play for “further review” and then ultimately announced that the call on the field was “confirmed.” So I’m not sure why the conference is now claiming that it wasn’t reviewed because it absolutely was and upheld.

  • JimB98

    Noticed a change on the two deep at WR. Pierre Youngblood-Ary backing up Tony Jones instead of Kyle Prater/Mike McHugh. I think this is more in line with what we heard coming out of training camp, so not unexpected.

    Wonder if they would ever try Prater at superback? Aside from the fact he can’t stay healthy (admittedly would not be helped there), he doesn’t seem to have the speed to get separation at WR. But he sure “looks” to me like a potential NFL TE with that size and athleticism (again, assuming he could ever stay healthy). I know little about the intricacies of the superback role vs traditional TE though, so perhaps he’s too big for that position. It’s just I’ve heard nothing about the backup to Vitale. He is the guy I most fear getting hurt – might be the single most irreplaceable player on the roster.

    • Next Cat

      FYI — Fitz listed Prater yesterday as among the players hurt Saturday and, I think, said he’s day-to-day. Not sure when he would’ve been hurt. Special teams?

  • Chaddogg

    I’m pretty sure Northwestern just got win #500 all time, against Cal.

    • GradCat

      According to Winsipedia (great site, btw) Cal was win number 500.

    • GradCat
    • LTP

      Yes, but it’s off from NU media guide by 1. I’m nerdy enough to have checked. One of them is off.

      • GradCat

        Perhaps the NU media guide isn’t counting that all-important win against Northwestern Dental… :-)

        • LTP

          I’m serious. I think it may be. Will ask Paul Kennedy. By the way, beware of – an absolute time suck of a website. No matter who you plug in, though, it doesn’t bode well for NU. Where is the 1995 filter?!!!!

          • GradCat

            Still searching for the filter! And I’m already too aware of how distracting that site can be. When I first found out about it, an hour and a half had passed before I realized it…

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          Northwestern still does not recognize the 1931 National Championship we won in basketball. :-/

  • LTP

    ‘Cats #19 in AP Poll –

    • Catatonic Joe

      Thanks LTP.

      Jim, get to work.

    • NUMBalumDave

      #20 in Power Rankings

  • wildcatneighbor

    AP poll is out…we’re Number 19!

  • LTP

    ‘Cats #20 in Coaches Poll. One behind UNL. #19 in AP – ahead of UNL.

  • HB

    A friend in Texas who has no connection to NU or the Big loves the Cats. Reason? He has made a windfall picking the Cats in our last nine games to cover the spread. As long as there are lots of folks, including the 45 percent of LTP poll responders, who doubt that the Cats are a legitimate contender, he will continue to prosper. I had no doubt sitting at the Cal stadium that we would win even when we fell behind. The players I ran into at the Claremont Resort Hotel were extremely well poised and reflected quiet confidence. This confidence carried over onto the field and was exhibited when the Cats marched down the field, ate up the clock and punched in the final TD. Go Cats!

    • LTP

      Also saw the Claremont Hotel was lit up purple! Thanks for the firsthand report

  • Henry in Rose Bowl Country

    Interesting what a soft schedule Syracuse has or alternatively how weak the ACC is. After two losses to PSU and NU, Syracuse has only two more games they definitely should lose…Clemson and Florida St. They will probably end up a very unimpressive 8-4.

  • fitz29

    I was at the game last Saturday and to be honest, I was very happy we won the game, but walked out of the stadium with an empty feeling about the injuries, specifically to Jones and how our Defense gave up big chunks of yards and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs. That said, when I returned home last night, I re-watched the game on my DVR. I was actually more impressed by how well we played after watching it again. To some degree, if you toss out the 1st drive, which has a lot of variables being 1st game of the season, playing against a new coach, trick play, etc, the D played well 3 of the 4 quarters. I even think White played well after coming in for Jones other than the deep TD pass he gave up early in the 3rd quarter. Even after Buckley’s ensuing fumble, the long pass that was completed over White on 2nd and 27 was more a result of a great pass and catch than poor coverage or a defensive breakdown. What was also encouraging was the fact that White made some nice tackles after those plays to prevent 1st downs and additional yards after the catch. He also didn’t sag too much and give up a lot of passes underneath (a common trait for past under-performing CBs). Anyway, after watching the game again and not having the stress and in-game emotions of a live game, I thought the team played even better than I recalled and am encouraged as we look ahead to Syracuse this week.

    • LTP

      Also, Trevor was “on” in the first half. Man, did he look good, nay, great, the second time watching it. He got a little careless in the second half, especially down the stretch. I still say one of the key criticisms I have is the lack of aggression from our playcalling on “D” in the first half. Goff gained tons of confidence within the game. It seemed each time we pressured, good things happened.

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        I really felt Northwestern went away from Trevor too much in the second half and that killed the offensive momentum. He was the best offensive player for Northwestern in the first half. Got taken completely out of rhythm. Buckley’s fumble on the kickoff didn’t help keep him in rhythm either.