Four Downs: Hunt helps Syracuse sink Gophers in Texas Bowl
DEC 27, 2013 11:30p ET
1. Syracuse has developed an affinity for comeback wins
On Friday, a similar script held true for Syracuse, which collected a go-ahead touchdown from Hunt with 74 seconds remaining ... and then survived Minnesota's oh-so-close Hail Mary attempt with four seconds left, after the ball went through the hands of Gophers freshman Drew Wolitarsky near the goal line.
The one constant in both cases involved Hunt, whose running exploits (74 yards, two TDs) trumped a night of pedestrian passing (188 yards, zero TDs).
But that's all part of Hunt's quarterback maturation.
With only 11 college starts, Hunt's statistical variations will swing wildly from week to week. But that developmental process can be expedited ... when gamers, like Hunt, are orchestrating game-winning drives in the final moments of crucial games.
2. Let's hope Brisly Estime received a game ball for his momentum-changing heroics in the fourth quarter
History will remember Hunt's 12-yard touchdown run to clinch the Syracuse victory. But the Orange might have never experienced that elation if Estime hadn't returned a punt 70 yards, kick-starting his team's final scoring drive.
After all, Syracuse (7-6) had blown an 11-point in the fourth quarter and essentially had zero offensive momentum in the final minutes -- leading up to Estime's sterling maneuver, the second-longest punt return in Texas Bowl history (whatever that's worth).
Forty seconds later, Hunt scored the game-winning touchdown, capping a drive that required only three plays and 14 yards.
3. The Orange succeeded in keeping David Cobb relatively in check
Cobb, the Gophers' workhorse back, finished with 103 total yards (91 rushing) on 19 touches; but that output is a tad deceiving, since he logged just six carries in the final quarter and zero touches on Minnesota's final drive.
Leading up to the Texas Bowl, Cobb had averaged 144 total yards in the previous six games, with four outings of 27 or more touches.
During that span, Cobb became the focal point of the Gophers offense. He had evolved into Minnesota's greatest singular key to victory.
Minus a healthy Jerry Kill roaming the sidelines, of course.
4. The Golden Gophers can look forward to an offseason of raised expectations ... and a budding quarterback competition
Freshman Mitch Leidner, who took over for Philip Nelson in the first quarter, only completed 11 passes against Syracuse.
But he might have made believers of Minnesota's coaches and fans late in the game, tossing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and coming close to a third on the aforementioned near-miss Hail Mary (involving Wolitarsky).
It's a little strange that only four Gophers caught passes against Syracuse, led by Wolitarsky (four catches, 94 yards, one TD) and fellow freshman Maxx Williams (five catches, 76 yards, one TD).
But hey, that nugget will likely be embraced in the run-up to a 2014 season that already has Minnesota (8-5, 4-4 in conference play) contending for a West title in the Big Ten -- thanks to a realignment plan that has Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State housed in the East division.
As in, the freshmen take their lumps today ... in hopes of making history tomorrow.