Houston, TX (WBNG Binghamton) Terrel Hunt's last-minute touchdown lifted Syracuse (7-6) past Minnesota (8-5) to win the Texas Bowl 21-17 on Friday night at Reliant Stadium in front of 32,327 fans. Hunt was named the Texas Bowl Most Valuable Player for his two-touchdown performance against the Golden Gophers.
Hunt went 19-of-29 for 188 yards, the most completions any SU player has thrown in a bowl game. He also rushed for 74 yards, tied for the most among Syracuse players, and two touchdowns.
Bristly Estime was the leading Orange receiver, catching five passes for 47 yards but his play-of-the-game was a 70-yard punt return that set SU up for its game-winning scoring drive late in the contest. Jarrod West also had five catches that covered 38 yards and Ashton Broyld had four receptions for 41 yards.
Jerome Smith had 74 yards on 16 carries to lead the Orange ground attack and George Morris II had 33 yards on eight carries, all in the second half.
Jay Bromley made his tenth sack of the season, the most for a Syracuse interior lineman since Kevin Mitchell (9) in 1991. Bromley finished with four tackles, two for a loss. Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis led the team with eight tackles each. Lynch also forced a fumble and had two take-downs in the backfield.
Mitch Leidner was the primary quarterback for Minnesota and completed 11-of-22 passes for 205 yards. His main target was Maxx Williams, who made five catches for 76 yards, and Drew Wolitarsky led the Gophers in yardage with 94 yards in the air including a 55-yard touchdown catch. David Cobb ran for 91 yards on 18 carries.
The Orange traded turnovers with Minnesota throughout the opening 20 minutes but Bromley sacked Mitch Leidner on third down to end the first quarter, forcing a punt and giving SU possession going into the second. Syracuse had one opportunity to score in the middle of the quarter but a keeper by Charley Loeb on a fake field goal attempt left the Orange two yards shy of a first down and the score remained 0-0.
Syracuse took over on the SU 20 yard line to start the second quarter. Hunt led the Orange 80 yards down the field without a single third down, culminating in a one-yard touchdown run by Smith and an extra point by Ryan Norton to put SU up 7-0 with 10:04 remaining in the first half.
Hunt converted on fourth and long with a nine-yard run to get the Orange into the red zone and then completed the SU scoring drive with a five-yard rush into the end zone. Norton's PAT gave Syracuse a 14-3 lead with 2:57 remaining in the third quarter.
The Gophers were quick to answer, however, when Leidner threw a 20-yard pass to Maxx Williams on the opening play of the fourth quarter for Minnesota's first touchdown of the day. Minnesota tried for two extra points to bring the game within two but were unable to convert as the SU defense got to Leidner before he could get a throw off and the score stayed at 14-9 with 14:55 remaining in the game.
Minnesota scored a touchdown on its next drive to take its first lead of the game. Leidner threw a 55-yard bomb to Drew Wolitarsky, who ran into the end zone to put the Gophers up 15-14. Minnesota again went for a two-point conversion and this time was successful, giving the Gophers a 17-14 lead with 12:34 to go in the contest.
Syracuse took the ball to the Gopher 27-yard line late in the fourth quarter but Norton's field goal attempt to tie the game missed, wide right. The Orange found its second chance with 1:44 to play in the game after Estime returned a punt 70 yards to put SU on the Minnesota 14 yard line, the first time that either team started a drive in its opponent's territory. On third and long, Hunt escaped a take-down in the back field and found wide-open space in front of him, running 12-yards into the end zone, giving Syracuse the lead and the win.
The Orange fended off the Gophers for the final 1:14. Brandon Reddish played a big role in the final minute, breaking up two key passes to prevent a Minnesota score.
(Courtesy: SU Athletics)