Champs Sports Bowl


Syracuse 14

(6-6, 4-2 ACC)

Georgia Tech 51

(7-5, 4-4 ACC)

7:45 PM ET, December 21, 2004

Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA

1 2 3 4 T
SYR 6 0 0 814
GT 21 14 14 251

Top Performers

Passing: R. Ball (GT) - 207 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: P. Daniels (GT) - 17 CAR, 119 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: N. Curry (GT) - 3 REC, 105 YDS, 1 TD

Syracuse (6-5) at Georgia Tech (6-5)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Syracuse ended the season with a rush, winning three of four behind a surging running game.

The Orange's potent ground attack faces a stiff challenge Tuesday night against Georgia Tech's stingy defense in the Champs Sports Bowl (ESPN, 7:45 ET).

Syracuse (6-5) is back in the postseason for the first time since 2001 in large part because of tailbacks Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes and two-way player Diamond Ferri.

The Yellow Jackets have relied on a defense that is allowing less than 300 yards per game and ranked 19th nationally against the run. Georgia Tech (6-5) has held six opponents to 84 yards or less on the ground, including holding Maryland to just 7 yards.

"They have a lot of guys who can go out there and tote the rock," Georgia Tech free safety James Butler said. "We cannot worry about who they have back there. We have to go out and play fundamental football, and go out there to stop their run."

The running game got going just in time for the Orange. After averaging just 147 yards on the ground during a 3-4 start, the Orange ran for an average of 266 yards and 15 touchdowns in the final four games to claim a share of the Big East title.

Reyes contributed first, with 244 yards and three scores in wins over Connecticut and Pittsburgh. But he was hurt against the Panthers, and sat out the rest of the regular season.

"It has been a long season for the seniors and personally for me," said Reyes, expected to start against Georgia Tech. "I came into the season with high expectations and then going down and missing the last couple of games with torn muscles in my shoulder, it was rough."

Rhodes filled in the next game, running for 200 yards and three touchdowns, yet it wasn't enough as Syracuse was upset by Temple.

In the season finale against Boston College, Rhodes rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter before a leg injury sidelined him. That's when coach Paul Pasqualoni called for Ferri, a strong safety who had carried the ball just once since converting from running back before the 2003 season.

In a performance that earned him the Big East's player of the week on offense and defense, Ferri ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and returned his team-leading fourth interception 44 yards for a third score. Syracuse won handily to share the league crown with the Golden Eagles.

"A lot of teams play people both ways," Pasqualoni said. "But to carry the ball 28 times in between the tackles and then play every snap on defense, every nickel snap, every upfield snap, and then to return punts, return kickoffs, cover punts; I'd say it's a pretty extraordinary effort in college football."

If the chore of stopping that trio isn't enough for Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey, the only coach to lead the program to bowls in his first three seasons, he also must coax a consistent effort out of promising but erratic quarterback Reggie Ball.

Ball's sophomore season was a disappointment after being Atlantic Coast Conference's top rookie in 2003. He played well in the first two games, completing 60 percent of his passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns and just one interception. But Ball's numbers fell off down the stretch as he completed just 46 percent of his passes and threw twice as many interceptions (16) as touchdowns (8).

Gailey has already told Ball he must win back his job during spring practice.

"He has handled a lot of adversity pretty well," Gailey said. "Hopefully, he is stronger for it. Hopefully, he is smarter for it. Hopefully, he'll be a better player for it.

"But I can't guarantee that."


Passing Leaders

T. Hunt57.298314
A. Long53.993548
J. Thomas51.31719186
T. Byerly69.214810

Rushing Leaders

P. Gulley1286144.81
A. Ameen-Moore623375.41
J. Thomas19010865.78
S. Days1579245.99

Receiving Leaders

J. West4970014.30
S. Ishmael2741515.43
D. Smelter3571520.47
D. Waller2644217.06