SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Walter Reyes wasn't about to lose that big
grin after leading Syracuse to a season-ending victory over Notre
Dame. Neither were his teammates -- or his beleaguered coach.
"What a great win!" Reyes said Saturday after rushing for 189
yards and five touchdowns to lead Syracuse to a 38-12 victory.
"It just showed a lot of character and heart. For the program,
we wanted to come out here and show the nation that Syracuse
football is still here."
It was the first meeting between the teams in 40 years and the
outcome was a bitter disappointment for the Irish (5-7). Instead of
extending their winning streak to four games, they finished with
their third losing season in five years, something that had never
happened in the storied history of the program.
"We felt that this game could have been a good springboard into
the offseason," coach Tyrone Willingham said. "This could be a
very difficult loss, but we can't allow it to be."
It could have been very difficult for Syracuse coach Paul
Pasqualoni if the Orangemen had lost. He has been heavily
criticized since last year's team went 4-8. Instead, the Orangemen
(6-6) snapped a three-game losing streak and averted another losing
Athletic director Jake Crouthamel said after the game that he
would sit down with Pasqualoni on Sunday for an evaluation and make
an announcement later in the week.
Pasqualoni, 101-53-1 in 13 years as head coach, basked in the
happy aftermath of the victory and declined to speak about his
status. His players clearly adore him.
"We love that man," said defensive tackle Christian Ferrara,
who had five tackles for losses. "If something does go bad like
that, I think it's the biggest mistake this university will ever
"He ain't going anywhere. I hope he doesn't," said Reyes, who
has a school-record 38 rushing touchdowns, three more than Floyd
Little in his career, and also finished the season with a record
134 points. "He's done so much for us. If he does, it will be
The victory ended a difficult week for the Orangemen. Not only
did they have to forget last week's embarrassing 24-7 loss at
Rutgers, they had to deal with the prospect that Pasqualoni's job
was in jeopardy.
"This whole week ever since the drama was going on about him
being fired, I think he did a great job. He didn't really care
about that," Reyes said. "He wants to beat Notre Dame, and the
players fed off that."
Especially Reyes, who had not rushed for 100 yards since the
fourth game of the season. He scored twice in a 95-second span in
the third quarter on runs of 3 and 15 yards to give Syracuse a 24-6
lead, then stunned the Irish on a 71-yard TD run off right tackle
with 11 seconds left in the third after they had moved to 24-12.
"It was kind of a momentum breaker for them," said Reyes, who
finished the season with 1,347 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.
The Irish had been winning behind the running of Julius Jones,
who had averaged 200 yards per game during their three-game winning
Against the fired-up Syracuse defense, Jones gained only 9 yards
on eight carries in the first quarter. Right after he had a 26-yard
run to the Syracuse 14 early in the second, he fumbled on the next
play and Steve Gregory recovered for the Orange.
"When we were able to get the running game going (in the last
three games), everything flowed better for the team," said Notre
Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, who was 18-for-34 for 199 yards and
threw two interceptions. "We didn't establish it today, and it
hurt us throughout the game."
Indeed. Jones finished with 54 yards on 20 carries, and the
Irish gained only 62 yards on 36 attempts.
"I think we're the best defensive line they faced," Ferrara
said. "I'll take this over anything in the world, going out with a
win, a dominating win, against a team like this."