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Minnesota 28, Syracuse 20: Orange mistakes derail Pinstripe Bowl comeback

Gophers prove a Minnesota team can win at Yankee Stadium

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It started to look good for Syracuse in the Bronx.

Then the mistakes came.

The Syracuse Orange couldn’t capitalize on an improved offensive showing in the second half as small Orange mistakes turned into big gains for the Minnesota Gophers. A pick-six and 72-yard kickoff return from the Gophers gave Minnesota all the momentum it needed to wrestle control away from the Orange as Syracuse lost the Pinstripe Bowl 28-20.

Both Orange units showed signs of life early with major pieces missing. Syracuse didn’t have Sean Tucker and Matthew Bergeron on offense while the defense dealt with Garrett Williams, Duce Chestnut, Ja’Had Carter, Anwar Sparrow, Derek McDonald and most importantly Mikel Jones not on the field. The Mob benefitted from a bad snap to stall out Minnesota’s first drive while Syracuse mixed in LeQuint Allen and Trebor Pena outside runs to get past midfield.

However, a three and out from Syracuse on its second drive set up Minnesota to use field position and the Gophers took advantage through the air Minnesota went to the outside at took advantage of the lack of Chestnut and Williams to keep the Orange defense guessing. That opened up opportunities for Minnesota’s record-breaking running back Mohamed Ibrahim to gain yard after yard and eventually find the end zone.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse offense continued to stall out at the wrong times as the next Orange drive stopped with a 4th and 3 at Minnesota’s 36 getting blown up. The Gophers responded with more of an aerial attack and less of a reliance on Ibrahim. Even an injury to Minnesota starting QB Athan Kaliakmanis didn’t deter the Gophers. Minnesota brought back Tanner Morgan, who was the Gophers starter for eight games this season but suffered multiple upper-body injuries. Morgan continued Minnesota’s aerial attack to give the Gophers their second touchdown on a beautiful throw and catch to Daniel Jackson in the corner of the endzone.

However, Syracuse responded with a strong and confident drive with less than a minute to go before halftime. Devaughn Cooper set himself up in great spots over the middle on a slant and down the left sideline to set up the Orange in Minnesota territory. Then Damien Alford leaked behind the secondary and fell just short of the goal line. Shrader’s accuracy on his deep balls were pinpoint and he skirted around the outside to give Syracuse a score. The Orange trailed 14-7 at halftime.

The second saw LeQuint Allen start to breakout for the Orange. The true freshman, starting his first game for Sean Tucker, dazzled with his space-creating abilities. He gained room around the tackles by starting horizontally and breaking upfield. He also showed great route running when he was motioned out to wide receiver. His footwork drew gasps from the Syracuse faithful at Yankee Stadium.

However, a couple of critical mistakes turned the tide for Minnesota. First, Shrader didn’t move off an initial read for Oronde Gadsden and telegraphed a throw for his favorite receiver. That allowed Coleman Bryson to jump the route and take the ball all the way back for a pick six. Then, after a Andre Szmyt field goal, Gopher return man Quentin Redding faked a reverse on the ensuing kickoff and fooled the Orange coverage to return the ball to Syracuse 25. Minnesota pounced on the short field opportunities and before Syracuse could blink, the Gophers took a 28-13 lead into the 4th quarter.

Syracuse’s defense continued to hold strong in the fourth quarter, aided by the fact that Ibrahim didn’t play after setting his school records. However, the offense continued to stall out in passing situations as Shrader held onto the ball for too long in some situations and couldn’t hit downfield passes in others. The Orange found some momentum with the legs of Allen and Shrader, but Syracuse couldn’t get anything in the air against Minnesota’s much-heralded pass defense.

Syracuse’s bowl-win streak ends at four as the Orange drop its first Pinstripe Bowl in three tries. The 2022 Orange season ends with a 7-6 record, the second winning season under Dino Babers.