Texas Bowl: Gophers lose to Syracuse, 21-17


Dec 27, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner (7) passes during the third quarter of the Texas Bowl against the Syracuse Orange at Reliant Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Gophers lost their second straight Texas Bowl, this time to the Syracuse Orange, 21-17.

Plagued by a slow start offensively, Minnesota failed to score a touchdown until the fourth quarter when Maxx Williams hauled in a 20-yard reception from quarterback Mitch Leidner to snap a streak of 13 quarters without an offensive touchdown.

The Gophers would score again less than four minutes later on a 55-yard touchdown catch from Drew Wolitarsky, giving them a 17-14 lead over Syracuse in the fourth quarter. But that lead would only last until the final minutes of the game as a 70-yard punt return by the Orange set up a 12-yard touchdown scramble from quarterback Terrel Hunt to give Syracuse the lead for good with a minute to play.

Minnesota finishes the season 8-5 and will head into the off-season looking to address issues at quarterback and wide receiver.

Leidner over Nelson

Philip Nelson started the game but finished with just 18 yards through the air on 2-of-7 attempts. He was quickly replaced by Mitch Leidner in the first half after continuously missing open receivers. Leidner was great in relief, throwing for 205 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 24 yards rushing, but the redshirt freshman took too many sacks in the game’s final moments to provide a comeback victory for the Gophers. The starting quarterback position will be wide open heading into the 2014 season.

Cobb’s 91 yards

If you watched the ESPN broadcast of the Texas Bowl, you probably heard the broadcasters mention a few times that Syracuse hadn’t allowed a rusher to go over 100 this season. Cobb was close with 91 yards on 18 carries and would have cracked the century mark had the Gophers been able to maintain the lead.

Kill back on sidelines

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill started the game in the coaches box upstairs, which has been the norm in the latter part of this season. But the third year coach made his way to the sidelines in the second half as the Gophers were trailing Syracuse 14-3.

What if?

The Gophers had a chance to win the game in the second to last play with under 10 seconds remaining in regulation. Leidner threw a prayer into the end zone which hit receiver Drew Wolitarsky on the numbers, but the ball slipped through the freshman’s hands and Minnesota failed to make a better throw in the last play of the game. No excuse for Wolitarsky to not make the catch, and unfortunately, it’s something that’s plagued him all season. Nevertheless, he had four catches for 94 yards and his first career touchdown on a 55-yard reception from Leidner in the fourth quarter.

Williams suffers apparent knee injury

Maxx Williams had to be helped off the field on Minnesota’s last minute desperation drive after catching a pass for 18 yards and getting hit in the knee. The injury was to his left knee but the severity at the moment is unknown. As much as the passing/receiving game stunk this year, the freshman was a bright spot, having caught five touchdowns including one in the Texas Bowl. Before the injury sidelined him, he had five catches for 76 yards.

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