Instant analysis: Syracuse 36, Kansas State 34

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
6:52
PM ET
Instant analysis from the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which Syracuse won 36-34 over Kansas State:

How the game was won: Syracuse was offensively-challenged most of the season and especially so down the stretch; the Orange had only 46 total points in their final four games. The porous Kansas State defense proved a good cure for that. Both coaches called aggressive games, with plenty of flea flickers and other trick plays on a slick Yankee Stadium field. Syracuse scored on every second-half possession as its offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. The defense just made one stop in the second half, and the Wildcats passing game went wild. But a couple of questionable fourth-quarter decisions allowed the Orange to win an entertaining shootout.

Turning point: Kansas State fans will be mad about this one for a long time. The Wildcats' Adrian Hilburn caught a 30-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 left to bring his team within two points. But Hilburn was flagged for excessive celebration after he saluted the crowd in the end zone. That 15-yard penalty moved the ball back to the 18 for the two-point conversion attempt. Kansas State couldn't pick it up, and the Wildcats were left to fume over the officials' decision.

Turning point II: The Wildcats might not have needed the two-pointer had they taken three earlier in the quarter. They tried a fake field goal on the Syracuse 14 that failed miserably. That was the only time in the half that either team failed to score on a drive, other than when the Orange took a knee late.

Player of the game: Syracuse receiver Marcus Sales. All season, the Orange lacked playmakers at the wideout spot. With Van Chew and Alec Lemon banged up, Sales came through in a big way. The guy who had only one touchdown catch all season had five grabs for 172 yards and three scores in the bowl game.

Player of the game II: Delone Carter ran for 202 yards on 28 carries and scored twice as the Orange offensive line plowed over Kansas State's defense.

Stat of the game: Syracuse averaged only 274 yards per game in Big East play, last among eight teams. Against Kansas State, the Orange had 498 yards.

Second-guessing: Did Hilburn deserve that excessive celebration call? He definitely made a celebratory gesture, but it was not taunting in any way. You absolutely hate to see a crucial point of the game be influenced by that kind of call. But, again, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder should be questioned for the fake field goal on a fourth-and-five when his defense could not stop Syracuse. And the officials made some highly questionable calls that went against the Orange in the first half.

What it means: Syracuse caps a terrific bounce-back year with its eighth win. The Orange hadn't been bowling since 2004 and came away with a postseason victory that should give a boost to recruiting. The offensive performance was encouraging, though Kansas State's defense had a major influence on that. Despite the controversial ending, the Pinstripe Bowl was a success in its first year and will have people talking about how entertaining it was. The Big East got its first postseason win over a BCS AQ team this season and improves to 2-1 in bowls.

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