EVANSTON, Ill. -- Tyrell Sutton showed his old form, running for 144 yards while C.J. Bacher threw three scoring 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 Bacher at quarterback, the Wildcats are aiming for their first bowl victory since the 1949 Rose Bowl 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 because of an ankle injury last season.
His fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the second half gave Syracuse the ball on the Northwestern 9 and set 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 Bacher 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.
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 Bacher hit tight end Josh Rooks with a 2-yard scoring pass midway through the fourth that made it a 20-point game.
Bacher, 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 had two passes broken up on the second after throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns (19) last season.
Syracuse got a 36-yard field goal from Patrick Shadle on the opening possession, but 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.
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 that should be better now that Brinkley and Delone Carter are healthy.
The Orangemen managed 122 yards on the ground -- 62 in the first quarter. Not a good start for a team that gained an embarrassing two yards per carry and 753 in all last season.
Brinkley broke off a 28-yard run on the first possession that set up Shadle's field goal. But he finished with 49 yards on nine carries after missing the final four games with a broken leg.
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 Quentin Davie bearing down on him in the end zone.