Syracuse may have familiar feel for Gophers

Minnesota opens the 2009 season at Syracuse on Saturday.

The 2009 Gophers football season opener will look quite similar to the 2008 season when the team takes the field Saturday. Most of the lineup will consist of returning starters, including last seasonâÄôs leading passer, rusher and receiver . Third-year head coach Tim Brewster will be on the Minnesota sideline. And the Gophers will be playing in a domed stadium. A week before opening its new on-campus, outdoor home at TCF Bank Stadium , Minnesota will visit the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. For the Orange football team, however, its home stadium will be among few familiarities for a team that tied for last in the Big East in 2008 . Saturday will mark the debut of Orange head coach Doug Marrone, who coached in the NFL the past seven years, most recently as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. Marrone, who was a starting offensive lineman for Syracuse from 1983-1985 and played two seasons in the NFL, takes over a team that finished 3-9 (2-3 in non-conference play) last season. Syracuse has not had a winning season since 2001 . Of the seven returning starters from last seasonâÄôs 114th-ranked offense, only four will be in SaturdayâÄôs starting lineup . Last yearâÄôs starting quarterback, senior Cameron Dantley , is third on the depth chart. Marrone has instead given the signal calling responsibilities to former Duke basketball point guard Greg Paulus . Paulus, a graduate student at Syracuse, started 100 games in four seasons for the Blue Devils and was third-team All-ACC in 2007-2008. He finished his career among the schoolâÄôs top 10 all-time in assists and three-point field goals. A Syracuse native , Paulus was the Gatorade Player of the Year in football and basketball in his senior year at Christian Brothers Academy. He was also the 2004-2005 Gatorade Athlete of the Year for New York. Paulus should be helped by the return of senior wide receiver Mike Williams , who sat out the 2008 season but carries a streak of nine consecutive games with a touchdown reception . The teamâÄôs top two running backs, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey , finished fourth and third, respectively, in rushing on the 2008 team . The Orange will face a Gophers defense that finished 11th in the country in forced turnovers last season . Meanwhile, Syracuse returns seven starters from a defensive unit that allowed the most points in the programâÄôs history in 2008 . Syracuse allowed 189 rushing yards per game last season , which could help a Gophers rushing attack that finished 104th in the nation last year . Minnesota is opening its season against a BCS-conference opponent for the first time in 15 years . The Gophers and Orange have split two games in the all-time series, with Minnesota winning the most recent matchup 35-33 at the Metrodome in 1996 . For Syracuse, the game will be the first of three consecutive matchups against Big Ten opponents to open the season. The Orange will travel to Penn State on Sept. 12, and host Northwestern on Sept. 19 . Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. CDT.