Syracuse rallies late for 21-17 win over Gophers
Freshman Brisly Estime had returned just two punts this season
entering Friday night’s Texas Bowl.
Something told Syracuse coach Scott Shafer to give his offensive
coordinator George McDonald flexibility to mix things up in the
return game against Minnesota.
The move paid off when Estime returned a punt 70 yards to set up
the winning score in a 21-17 victory by Syracuse.
”Brisly is a quick as a jitterbug,” Shafer said. ”We felt
that he could give us something.”
Terrel Hunt scrambled 12 yards for a touchdown with 1:14
remaining to lift Syracuse to the win.
”It would have nice if we could have just knocked them out and
won by 17 or something,” Shafer said. ”That’s kind of not our way
this year. I think it was appropriate that we won in that
Estime would have scored on his punt return if not for a tackle
by punter Peter Mortell. It was the second-longest punt return in
Texas Bowl history.
”We probably out-punted our coverage,” Minnesota coach Jerry
Syracuse (7-6) led 14-3 entering the fourth quarter before Mitch
Leidner threw two touchdown passes and a 2-point conversion to put
the Gophers up 17-14.
After the Orange regained the lead, Minnesota attempted two long
passes to the end zone on the final plays. The first slipped
through Drew Wolitarsky’s arms and the second, as time expired, was
knocked down near the end zone.
Minnesota (8-5) got a boost to start the second half when Kill
returned to the sideline for the first time since Sept. 28 before
Syracuse came back to send the Gophers to their sixth consecutive
bowl loss and second straight in this bowl.
Kill began the game in the press box, where he has observed his
team since returning from a leave of absence because of epilepsy.
Kill has had five seizures on game day in two-plus seasons at
Minnesota. He took the leave of absence in October and returned a
couple of weeks later.
”I felt I would do anything I can to help,” Kill said about
joining his team on the sideline. ”I’m not sure if it helped or
not. Evidently, it didn’t because we didn’t win the game.”
Hunt finished with 188 yards passing and 74 rushing with two
scores to earn Most Valuable Player honors and a 10-gallon cowboy
Leidner finished with 205 yards passing, Maxx Williams had five
receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown and Wolitarsky had 94 yards
receiving and a score.
Syracuse attempted a 45-yard field goal with about 3 1/2 minutes
left, but it sailed wide right. Robert Welsh sacked Leidner on
third down on the next drive to force a punt and set up the winning
The Gophers took their first lead when Syracuse bit on a
play-action fake that left Wolitarsky wide open for a 55-yard
touchdown pass that made it 15-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Leidner then hit Mike Henry for the 2-point conversion to push the
lead to 17-14.
Players and coaches on the sideline jumped around wildly after
the touchdown, while Kill smiled and stood nearly still amid the
Hunt was penalized for intentional grounding on third down of
the ensuing drive by Syracuse forcing a fourth-and-25 and a punt by
Jerome Smith rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown for Syracuse
and Estime had five receptions for 47 yards.
Minnesota cut it to 14-9 when Williams got in front of two
defenders for a 20-yard touchdown reception from Leidner on the
first play of the fourth quarter. It was their first touchdown on
offense since the second quarter of a 24-10 win over Penn State on
Nov. 9. The Gophers attempted a 2-point conversion, but Leidner was
The Orange used a clock-eating 15-play drive capped by a 5-yard
touchdown run by Hunt to push the lead to 14-3 with about three
minutes left in the third quarter. Syracuse used run after run to
pound the ball on that drive and had an 18-yard run by Smith and a
17-yard scamper by George Morris to keep it going.
Syracuse took a 7-0 lead when Smith scored on a 1-yard run early
in the second quarter. That drive was helped by a nifty catch by
Christopher Clark, who stretched out to grab a 19-yard reception
with a defender in his face just before stepping out of bounds.
Minnesota cut it to 7-3 on Chris Hawthorne’s 41-yard field goal
as time expired in the first half.