EVANSTON, Ill. — Four interceptions. Two in the second quarter and two in the fourth.
That’s what people will remember from Drew Allen’s performance on Saturday.
But wide receiver Christopher Clark, who finished with six catches for 66 yards, backed up his quarterback.
“Just because you throw four picks, doesn’t make you a bad quarterback,” Clark said.
But it also doesn’t lead to a lot of wins, and on Saturday No. 19 Northwestern (2-0) pulverized Syracuse (0-2) 48-27 in front of 38,033 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., because of them. Allen finished with 27 completions for 279 yards, but his four interceptions are what will be remembered.
“I take full responsibility for how we played,” Allen said.
Allen got sacked on his very first play from scrimmage in a Syracuse uniform against Penn State. On Saturday, he fumbled the ball on the offense’s opening play.
It was déjà vu for Allen, and forecast the fate of the Syracuse offense.
The Orange was already down 7-0. With the ball at its own 21-yard line, losing possession would have been disastrous. Fortunately for Allen and Syracuse, though, guard Ivan Foy pounced on the ball and cradled it.
But on a night where Northwestern quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian played lights-out, near-perfect football, Allen was anything but.
It was Colter and Siemian’s world, and he was just living in it.
“It was a tough game for Drew,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said.
After a 20-yard touchdown pass from Siemian to Dan Vitale made the score 17-0, Allen threw his first interception. Traveon Henry snatched Allen’s pass, capping off a stretch of three poorly thrown balls in a row for Syracuse’s quarterback.
Later in the first half, after arguably Syracuse’s best drive of the game and one where Allen was sharp, he was intercepted again. This time Chi Chi Ariguzo did the honors. Syracuse had the ball in Northwestern territory with a chance to knife into Northwestern’s 27-7 lead.
Instead of heading into halftime down 27-14 and within striking distance, though, Syracuse failed to capitalize and went on to allow a touchdown on the ensuing possession.
The Orange entered halftime down 34-7, embarrassed and outplayed in every facet of the game, particularly at quarterback.
“That first half was ugly,” Shafer said.
Allen became the first Orange quarterback since Greg Paulus in 2009 to throw four or more interceptions in a game, and despite Allen’s 6-foot-5 frame, he’s had trouble getting rid of the ball cleanly through two games.
His last interception was deflected by a defensive lineman before Ibraheim Campbell picked it off.
“He got batted balls,” wide receivers coach Rob Moore said. “Balls get batted up in the air, anything can happen.”
That last part, at least, seems to be the case for Allen all the time. Anything can happen. Against Penn State he unleashed a 55-yard bomb to Jeremiah Kobena, but also threw two costly interceptions.
On Saturday, he delivered a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Moore – the first and only touchdown pass of Allen’s career – to cut the deficit to 34-13. But by then the game was virtually out of reach. His two second quarter interceptions left the Orange in a precarious position.
In the fourth quarter, Dean Lowry and Campbell each picked off Allen in the span of seven minutes. Any hope of salvaging a win was long gone by that point for Syracuse.
On Allen’s last interception, he took the worst of a blindside hit, which caused him to exit the game. In came Terrel Hunt, the Orange’s backup quarterback. Although Hunt lined up against Northwestern’s second-team defense, he still made the most of the situation and capitalized on the opportunity.
Hunt ripped off 52 yards — 22 through the air and 30 on the ground — to lead Syracuse to a touchdown. On the scoring play itself – a 15-yard run – Hunt dizzied the defense with the kind of athleticism Colter had showcased all day.
Shafer has insisted that Allen’s a mobile quarterback who can make plays with his feet, but Allen certainly hasn’t shown off that element of his repertoire quite yet.
Now the question burns brighter than ever before. Allen or Hunt. Or both, for that matter.
“Whoever our quarterback is,” Clark said, “I’m going to stick with him.”
Published on September 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm
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