Gophers fall to Syracuse 21-17

Jerry Kill returned to the sideline for the second half

Jack Satzinger

 

The last time Minnesota played in the Texas Bowl, it squandered a late fourth quarter lead to lose by single digits.

History repeated itself Friday night when the Gophers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten) lost to Syracuse (7-6, 4-4 ACC) 21-17.

Minnesota entered the fourth quarter trailing 14-3, but got its passing attack going behind Mitch Leidner who replaced Philip Nelson at quarterback early on.

Leidner threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Maxx Williams, his roommate, to kick off the final quarter. It narrowed Syracuse’s lead to 14-9 after Minnesota failed to score on a two-point conversion.

Minnesota’s defense forced Syracuse to go three-and-out, and then Leidner flashed his arm strength.

After a play-action fake, he threw a 55-yard strike to true freshman receiver Drew Wolitarsky that resulted in a touchdown. Minnesota converted for two points to take a 17-14 lead.

That advantage still existed with 1:47 left in the game. It was quickly wiped away.

A huge punt return for Syracuse gave the Orange the ball on Minnesota’s 14-yard line. Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to give the Orange the lead with just over a minute remaining.

After the Gophers had driven to the middle of the field, Leidner threw a deep pass to the end zone intended for Wolitarsky.

The ball went through his hands as the Gophers watched a late fourth quarter bowl game lead slip away for the second-straight season.