Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - The Syracuse Orange will face the Minnesota
Golden Gophers in the 2013 Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium on Dec. 27.
Scott Shafer's first year at the helm of the Orange has resulted in a bowl
berth, the team's third in the last four years. Syracuse went 6-6 under Shafer
and clinched its bowl eligibility with a 37-34 win over Boston College on
November 30th in the team's regular-season finale.
Jerry Kill missed some time this year dealing with his seizure issues, but he
will be on the sidelines for the Golden Gophers in the postseason. His team
went an impressive 8-4 on the year, including a late season win over Penn
This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams. Minnesota holds the
advantage at 3-1, including a 17-10 win at TCF Stadium last season.
Syracuse is led by its 39th ranked rushing offense. The Orange are averaging
193.8 rushing yards per game, on 4.6 yards per carry. The rushing attack falls
squarely on the shoulders of Jerome Smith, who had some huge games this season
and finished up rushing for 840 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While the ground game has been potent for Syracuse, passing the ball hasn't
been as strong, as the Orange have the 102nd ranked passing attack in the
nation. They are averaging just 181.5 yards passing per game and have thrown
17 interceptions against only 13 touchdowns. Terrel Hunt (1,450 yards, 10 TDs)
has been the leading passer on the team. Hunt does however, present a real
problem of the opposition with his ability to run the ball, as he finished
second on the team with 426 yards and five scores. Hunt did give way to Drew
Allen under center on occasion and he threw for just over 650 yards this year.
Wideout Ashton Broyld proved to be the most reliable target downfield for
Syracuse, catching 48 balls, for 411 yards.
Syracuse's defense is strong against the run ranking 26th, only allowing 138.3
ypg. They are only giving up 3.9 ypc to opposing teams. They are also an
opportunistic defense, forcing 23 turnovers in 2013.
Third-Team All-ACC safety Durrell Eskridge leads the team with 78 total
tackles. He is followed by All-ACC Honorable Mention Marquis Spruill (13.5
tackles for loss) and Cameron Lynch (61 tackles). Jay Bromley, also a Third-
Team all-conference selection, leads the squad with nine sacks on the season.
The Golden Gophers have had a streaky season, with two four-game winning
streaks throughout the year.
Like Syracuse. Minnesota relies on the ground game. The Golden Gophers have
the 34th ranked rushing attack. They are averaging an impressive 200.9 ypg and
have amassed 23 ground scores. David Cobb (5.1 ypc, seven TDs) has been strong
this season racking up 1,111 yards on the ground. Mitch Leidner (4.3 ypc,
seven TDs) has provided strong work for Minnesota in relief of Cobb.
Shafer knows that his team will be facing a tough group and recognizes
"They've got a doggone good running back in Cobb. He can run the football and
he runs it well because they block it well up front. They're a sound, tough
team. They're going to be a team that doesn't shoot themselves in the foot.
I've seen them get more consistent with the way they approach the game, the
mistakes they don't make. They don't throw a lot of interceptions and they
play a good, tough brand of football, but it's the run game first and
Passing is not a strong facet of Minnesota's offensive attack. Phillip Nelson
(1,288 yards, 9 TDs) was the team's main option under center. His numbers were
modest to say the least, although he wasn't asked to do much either. The
Golden Gophers only threw the ball 237 times this season.
The Minnesota defense is ranked 41st in the nation, allowing 371.1 ypg. The
Golden Gophers limited opponents to 154 ypg on the ground and only gave up 16
touchdowns. Minnesota has the 27th best scoring defense in the nation, only
allowing 22.3 ppg.
Damien Wilson anchored the defense with 70 total tackles and 5.5 tackles for
loss. Theiren Cockran led the squad with 7.5 sacks this season. Cedric
Thompson (65 tackles) and Aaron Hill (64 tackles) were also key pieces for
Minnesota's strong defense.
If the Golden Gophers beat the Orange it will be only the second season in the
last 108 years that the program will finish with nine wins. Coach Kill sees
this as a big opportunity for the program as a whole.
"I look it as a great opportunity to compete and make history with the team, 9
games is important to us, a bowl game win was important to us. There's great
visibility on ESPN. Those people were great to us last year. I'm excited for
them. The most important thing we need to do is move our program forward."
The Sports Network