The first season in the ACC for Syracuse was had plenty of close games that went both ways. Their finale in the Texas Bowl against Minnesota was no different, scoring a game winning touchdown with only 1:14 left in the game.
The Orange (7-6) expect to take another step forward thanks to their move to the ACC. Not just financially, but by becoming a program that’s a bit easier to notice for top recruits, although it’s probably going to take some time. Big losses to Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech probably didn’t help, but this is a process that’s going to take time. After losing an 11-point lead it looked like it’s going to be longer and more painful than they thought, but Terrel Hunt scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown, coming thanks to a 70 yard punt return by Brisly Estime, setting up the winning drive. He was tackled by the punter, Peter Mortell, although he was only delaying the inevitable.
This wasn’t a game that was about featuring impressive future NFL prospects or stars from the regular season. No one had a special individual performance to tell their grandkids about. Just two teams trying to finish the season with a smile on their faces and make it about more than a few months of mediocrity.
It would have nice if we could have just knocked them out and won by 17 or something. That’s kind of not our way this year. I think it was appropriate that we won in that fashion.
Syracuse weren’t involved in that many games this season, to be frank, but it’s always nice trying to make it seem like this season could have been about a lot more than it actually was. The same feeling was echoed on the other side of the trench for the Golden Gophers, who had to do without their head coach this season for a while.
Jerry Kill began the game up in the box, later joining the crew on the sidelines. Kill has had five seizures on game day in two-plus seasons, as his epilepsy caused him eventually to take a leave of absence in October only to return a couple of weeks later. His return to the field might have helped Minneosta come back from 11 points down in the first half to grab the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a big 55-yard touchdown as Mitch Leidner connected with Drew Wolitarsky, but that punt return by Estime ruined what could have been a very happy ending. Minnesota finishing at 8-5 is still their best season under Kill since he joined in 2011, losing for a second straight year in the Texas Bowl.
Syracuse did most of their damage on the ground, carrying the ball 46 times for 208 yards. Junior Jerome Smith had 74 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown, ending a season which saw him go through a slight decline compared to 2012, while Hunt finished with 74 yards as well, scoring two touchdowns. Hunt also threw for 188 yards, completing 19 of 29 passes, and the Orange should be slightly pleased with having him on for at least one more year and probably his remaining two.