Scores

Final/OT

Minnesota 23

(1-0, 1-0 away)

Syracuse 20

(0-1, 0-1 home)

12:00 PM ET, September 5, 2009

Carrier Dome, SYRACUSE, NY

1 2 3 4 OT T
MINN 14 0 3 3 323
SYR 10 10 0 0 020

Top Performers

Passing: A. Weber (MINN) - 248 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Carter (SYR) - 23 CAR, 88 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: E. Decker (MINN) - 9 REC, 183 YDS

Paulus loses Syracuse debut after tossing interception in OT

Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Greg Paulus' debut at quarterback for Syracuse lacked only the storybook ending.

Eric Ellestad kicked a 35-yard field goal in overtime Saturday to give Minnesota a 23-20 victory over the Orange, who failed to score in the extra session when Paulus threw his lone interception on an ill-advised pass.

Syracuse Scoring Surge

Over the past four seasons Syracuse had not averaged over 18.1 points per game in any singe season. On Saturday, the Orange scored their 20 points by halftime.

Points Per Game,
FBS Ranking Last 4 Seasons
Rank
2008 18.1 108th*
2007 16.4 116th
2006 17.4 102th
2005 13.8 114th
* -- Out of 119 teams

Paulus got off to a strong start in his first football game since 2004, but his turnover on a third-and-5 play on the first possession of OT gave the Gophers a chance to win.

"I shouldn't make that throw," Paulus said. "I was trying to make a play. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn't. I should have thrown the ball in the back of the end zone and kicked the field goal."

Paulus guided Syracuse to a 20-14 lead at the break but failed to convert any of the Orange's eight third-down tries in the second half.

"We had some opportunities to put them away and we just didn't get it done offensively," Paulus said. "And that's on me."

Still, in his first college football game after playing point guard for four seasons at Duke, Paulus made plenty of positive plays. He was 19-for-31 for 167 yards and one touchdown.

Fast Facts

• Syracuse led 20-10 at the half but failed to score in the second half or overtime as Minnesota came back to win on a FG in OT.

• Syracuse dropped its season opener for the sixth straight year.

• Minnesota's win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Golden Gophers dating back to last season.

• Greg Paulus threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, but his interception in overtime proved to be the difference in the game.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

"I would have liked a better outcome," said Paulus, just 7-for-14 for 39 yards in the second half after the Minnesota defense adjusted. "That pick, I shouldn't make that mistake. I'll be kicking myself for a little bit thinking about that one. But playing football is awesome. It's so much fun. I can't tell you the joy I get. To play here is phenomenal."

Paulus had not played competitive football since he was honored as 2004 national player of the year at Christian Brothers Academy in suburban Syracuse. New coach Doug Marrone, who played for the Orange in the mid-1980s, made Paulus the starter less than two weeks into preseason camp, and he felt good about the decision despite the outcome of the opener.

"It [the interception] was a poor decision," Marrone said. "I'll rely on him to make the right decision. I have a lot of trust in him."

Adam Weber was 19-for-42 for 248 yards and one touchdown and Eric Decker had nine catches for 183 yards to lead Minnesota.

Until his ill-fated throw, Paulus showed great poise for somebody who had never played the position in college, and the Orange's revamped offensive line provided adequate protection.

Paulus, who received an NCAA waiver to play football with his one remaining year of athletic eligibility, seemed at home after the Orange's first snap of the game sailed way over his head and led to a quick Minnesota touchdown. He looked off defenders and scrambled when he had to, displaying the flair that made him a record-setting high school quarterback five years ago.

Wojciechowski: Paulus Power

A costly mistake prevented a storybook ending, but Greg Paulus' debut performance gave Syracuse reason to hope, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Story

With Syracuse trailing 14-3 late in the first quarter, Paulus electrified the near-capacity crowd of 48,617, which included former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb, with his first collegiate scoring pass.

Facing a second-and-6 from the Minnesota 29, Paulus fooled three defenders with a pump fake and hit a wide-open Mike Williams near the goal line to move the Orange within 14-10. It marked the 10th straight game Williams has had a TD catch, a school record and the best mark in the nation.

Not even penalties seemed to faze Paulus. Despite a false start and a hold against the Orange late in the second quarter, he guided Syracuse 67 yards in eight plays, accounting for all but 10 yards with four completions in four attempts to set up Delone Carter's 1-yard touchdown run.

That gave the Orange, who were 10-37 in the previous four years under Greg Robinson, a rare 20-14 halftime lead. Syracuse scored 20 or more points in a game only eight times under Robinson.

The game started badly for the Orange. Center Jim McKenzie's first snap sailed over Paulus' head and was recovered by Minnesota's Cedric McKinley at the Syracuse 16. Two plays later, Duane Bennett scored untouched on a 16-yard run around the right side.

Ellestad forced overtime with a 26-yard field goal with 57 seconds left after a lob by Weber for Decker in the right corner of the end zone sailed high.

"This was exactly what I expected it to be," Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said. "Syracuse is a tough place to play. We didn't do everything right by any means, but I'm excited that we found a way to win."

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Team Stat Comparison

 
MINN
SYR
1st Downs1615
Total Yards360257
Passing248167
Rushing11290
Penalties10-618-68
3rd Down Conversions5-171-12
4th Down Conversions0-10-0
Turnovers22
Possession29:3130:29

Passing Leaders

MinnesotaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Weber19/422485.911
SyracuseC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Paulus19/311675.411

Rushing Leaders

MinnesotaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Bennett16784.9116
Eskridge8293.6014
SyracuseCARYDSAVGTDLG
Carter23883.8116
Bailey5316.2010

Receiving Leaders

MinnesotaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Decker918320.3053
Green3289.3011
SyracuseRECYDSAVGTDLG
Williams79413.4129
Owen2189.009

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERMINNSYR
TD14:41Duane Bennett 16 Yd Run. (Eric Ellestad Kick) 70
FG13:01Ryan Lichtenstein 23 Yd 73
TD11:48Troy Stoudermire Jr. 7 Yd Pass From Adam Weber. (Eric Ellestad Kick) 143
TD00:32Mike Williams 29 Yd Pass From Greg Paulus. (Ryan Lichtenstein Kick) 1410
SECOND QUARTERMINNSYR
FG07:26Ryan Lichtenstein 42 Yd 1413
TD01:39Delone Carter 1 Yd Run. (Ryan Lichtenstein Kick) 1420
THIRD QUARTERMINNSYR
FG08:03Eric Ellestad 26 Yd 1720
FOURTH QUARTERMINNSYR
FG00:57Eric Ellestad 26 Yd 2020
OVERTIMEMINNSYR
FGEric Ellestad 35 Yd 2320