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(Saturday, September 5th)
Final Score: Minnesota 23, Syracuse 20 (OT)
Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) - Eric Ellestad nailed a 35-yard field goal in overtime as the Minnesota Golden Gophers squeezed past the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome, spoiling the debuts of head coach Doug Marrone and quarterback Greg Paulus.
Adam Weber completed 19-of-42 tosses for 248 yards and one touchdown for Minnesota (1-0), while Eric Decker hauled in nine balls for 183 yards. Duane Bennett paced the ground attack with 78 yards and a score on 16 carries, as the Gophers snapped a five-game losing skid dating back to last season.
As for Syracuse (0-1), this game was all about the debut of Paulus, a former Duke basketball player that has one year of eligibility remaining. Paulus certainly brought excitement and fans to the seats, but the former Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse) star was unable to deliver in his first appearance for the Orange. He finished the game 19-of-31 for 167 yards and a touchdown, but threw a costly interception in overtime that set up Minnesota for the win. Mike Williams was his favorite target with seven receptions for 94 yards and a score, while Delone Carter headed the charge on the ground with 88 yards and a touchdown on 23 totes.
The Gophers jumped out to 14-3 lead in the opening three-plus minutes of the game, with Bennett scurrying 16 yards for a touchdown just 19 seconds into play. The touchdown was set up after Syracuse's first snap sailed over Paulus' head and was recovered by Minnesota at the Orange 16-yard line. Following a 23-yard field goal by the Orange's Ryan Lichtenstein, Weber connected with Troy Stoudermire on a seven-yard scoring strike. Paulus, though, guided Syracuse on a six-play, 63-yard drive that was capped with his first touchdown pass to Williams from 29 yards away.
Midway through the second quarter, Lichtenstein hit a 42-yard field goal to pull the Orange within a point. Carter than finished off an eight-play, 67- yard drive with a one-yard plunge late in the period to give Syracuse a 20-14 lead at the break.
A 26-yard field goal by Minnesota's Ellestad midway through the third quarter accounted for the only points of the frame, as the Orange held 20-17 edge heading into the final period.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Gophers drove 79 yards on 14 plays and knotted the game on a 26-yard field goal by Ellestad with 57 seconds remaining. Overtime was needed after Syracuse failed to move the ball in the final minute.
Syracuse got the ball first in overtime and moved down to the five-yard line before Paulus was flushed from the pocket on third down and threw an ill- advised pass into traffic that was picked off in the endzone.
Minnesota barely moved the ball on its possession, but Ellestad was able to drill a 35-yard field goal attempt for the victory.
Paulus is no stranger to big-time college athletics, as he was a prominent member of the Duke basketball team for four years. The graduate student was the National Player of the Year as a high school quarterback at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, but hadn't played football since 2004 and he showed a bit of rustiness this weekend.
09/05 17:04:41 ET