EVANSTON, Ill. -- Pat Fitzgerald found a lot to like in Northwestern's 48-27 victory over Syracuse on Saturday night.
But the Wildcats coach could have done without a subpar third quarter.
"For about three quarters of the game, I thought we played pretty well," he said. "I really didn't like our third quarter. We've really got to figure out if that's the attitude that we're going to approach, if we're going to follow and pay attention to detail or allow a team to hang around with us."
Syracuse (0-2) scored twice in a 14-minute span in the second half, but No. 19 Northwestern (2-0) already had a comfortable enough lead and produced two fourth-quarter insurance touchdowns to further pad its advantage.
The Wildcats scored on six of their first seven possessions to build a 34-7 lead in the first half and the defense intercepted Orange quarterback Drew Allen four times in a Ryan Field home opener in front of 38,033.
"I wasn't pleased how we played on both sides of the ball and that starts with me," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "We know they're a good offensive team. We knew that going in. What we couldn't do is give them opportunities and we damn well did. We gave them too many opportunities in the first half and that's where it went south."
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter bounced back from a concussion in the opening game with one touchdown pass and a scoring run while Trevor Siemian threw for three TDs.
Colter was considered uncertain for the game after departing early in last week's opening 44-30 victory over Cal. But he but suited up and led an opening series lasting just 51 seconds, moving Northwestern 75 yards on four plays and finding Treyvon Green on an 8-yard touchdown strike.
"I felt good and as time went I felt a lot more comfortable," Colter said. "(But) I felt like that first series came a little too easy and I wanted time to get used to it."
Jeff Budzien kicked his fourth field goal of the season on the Wildcats' third possession. His 32-yarder opened a 10-0 lead with 3:15 left in the first quarter.
Siemian, the second part of Northwestern's dual quarterback system, didn't miss a beat when he took over in the second quarter. He guided Northwestern 91 yards in nine plays and found Dan Vitale for a 20-yard touchdown strike and a 17-0 lead.
Safety Traveon Henry set up Northwestern's next score, intercepting Allen at the Wildcats 46-yard line. On the next play, Siemian threw a 43-yard completion to Tony Jones to the Orange 11, but Northwestern stalled inside the 10 and settled for a 21-yard Budzien field goal and a 20-0 lead.
Syracuse's most promising drive came late in the second quarter with receivers wide open on three pass plays and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct against Northwestern that helped the Orange into the red zone. The Orange scored on Jerome Smith's 3-yard run, trimming the Northwestern lead to 20-7 with 2:52 left.
Colter returned late in the half and capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with his 16-yard TD run for a 27-7 lead.
Northwestern added a score late in the first half. After the Wildcats' Chi Chi Ariguzo intercepted a pass at Northwestern's 38 with 51 seconds left, Siemian's 28-yard strike to Rashad Lawrence to the Orange 5 set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Christian Jones in the corner of the end zone for a 34-7 lead.
Syracuse freshman Kendall Moore, a former Chicago high school star, hauled in a 16-yard TD strike from Allen to open the second half. Siemian connected with Tony Jones on a 47-yard TD strike to give Northwestern a a 41-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Syracuse's Prince-Tyson Gulley cut the deficit to 41-20 with a 9-yard touchdown run with 10:22 to play.
Green scored his second touchdown of the night for Northwestern on a 28-yard run with 5:18 to play.
Orange reserve running back Terrel Hunt closed the scoring with a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:49 left.
Colter was 5 of 18 for 116 yards passing and rushed 11 times for 87 yards. Siemian went 15 of 19 for 159 yards for Northwestern. Jones had nine catches for 185 yards.
Allen was 27-of-41 passing for 279 yards and one touchdown and was picked off four times.
"I take full responsibility with how we played," Allen said. "When I did not do well, the offense didn't do well. I take full responsibility for those turnovers."
Ashton Broyld and Christopher Clark lead the Syracuse offense with a combined 13 catches for 128 yards.
NOTES: Northwestern is home the next three games, including non-conference matchups against Western Michigan (Sept. 14) and Maine (Sept. 21) and a Big Ten opener against No. 3 Ohio State (Oct. 5). ... Northwestern tailback Venric Mark was on the sideline but inactive with a lingering leg injury. ... The Orange will have to wait another week for another shot at new coach Scott Shafer's first win. The Orange are also two wins from becoming the 15th FBS program with 700 victories. ... Syracuse is back home next Saturday against Wagner, the first of three home games in the Carrier Dome. The Orange open their inaugural ACC season on Oct. 5 at home against Clemson.