Syracuse rallies late for 21-17 win over Gophers
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill wanted to do something to spark his
team in the second half of the Texas Bowl against Syracuse on
So he decided to coach from the sideline for the first time
since Sept. 28.
His tactic worked and the Golden Gophers rallied from an
11-point fourth-quarter deficit to take a three-point lead. But the
magic soon wore off and Syracuse came back late for the 21-17
”I made a decision,” Kill said about joining his team on the
sideline. ”I felt that we needed a little bit of pick up. I talked
to a couple of the coaches, and we weren’t as zippy as we have
been. I made an instinct decision, but whether right or wrong, I
Kill began the game in the press box, where he has observed his
team since returning from a leave of absence because of his
epilepsy. Kill has had five seizures on game day in his two-plus
seasons with the Golden Gophers. 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. ”I’m
not sure if it helped or not. Evidently, it didn’t because we
didn’t win the game.”
The Gophers loved seeing Kill back on the sideline and were
disappointed they weren’t able to hold on for the win.
”I think the whole team got pretty pumped when he made that
announcement,” receiver Drew Wolitarsky said. ”Coming into
halftime, I felt like everything was a little flat and he gave us
that spark, which is another reason why we came out and started
Terrel Hunt scrambled 12 yards for a touchdown with 1:14
remaining to lift Syracuse to the victory and win the Most Valuable
”It would have nice if we could have just knocked them out and
won by 17 or something,” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said.
”That’s kind of not our way this year. I think it was appropriate
that we won in that fashion.”
Brisly Estime set up Hunt’s touchdown with a 70-yard punt
return. Estime would have scored if not for a tackle by punter
”Brisly is a quick as a jitterbug,” Shafer said. ”We felt
that he could give us something.”
It was the second-longest punt return in Texas Bowl history.
”We probably out-punted our coverage,” Kill said.
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 Golden 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 Wolitarsky’s arms and the second, as time expired, was
knocked down near the end zone.
”I gave my best effort to go get it,” Wolitarsky said. ”It’s
tough, but we’re going to move forward. We’re a young team, and I’m
really excited for the next three years.”
Hunt finished with 188 yards passing and 74 rushing with two
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 of the game when Syracuse bit
on a play-action fake that left Wolitarsky wide open for a 55-yard
touchdown 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
Players and coaches on the sidelines jumped around wildly after
the touchdown, while Kill smiled and stood nearly still amid the
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 the Gophers’ first
touchdown on offense since the second quarter of a 24-10 win over
Penn State on Nov. 9. Minnesota attempted a 2-point conversion, but
Leidner was sacked.
The Orange used a 5-yard touchdown run by Hunt to push the lead
to 14-3 with about three minutes left in the third quarter.
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.