SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - At least Damien Rhodes won't have to worry
about how he looks at the next practice.
Rhodes caught a 68-yard scoring pass from Perry Patterson early
in the fourth quarter Saturday and Walter Reyes ran for 117 yards
and a touchdown to lead Syracuse to a 19-7 victory over Cincinnati
in the Orange's home opener.
Patterson's first career touchdown pass couldn't have come at a
better time for Syracuse (2-1), which had sputtered on offense in a
51-0 loss at Purdue and a 37-17 win at Buffalo.
"It's good to be out there when a big play happens," said
Rhodes, who also had a career-high 52-yard run in the first quarter
and scored the only offensive touchdown last week against the Bulls
on a 46-yard run.
"I just want to go out there and make a play with or without
the ball," said Rhodes, who has bulked up to 217 pounds this
season. "Being out there two weeks in a row and making a big play
for our offense feels good. If we had lost, I might have come back
Monday at 250."
The Bearcats (1-2), who play in Conference USA but will become a
member of the Big East Conference next season, were looking to make
a statement. Instead, they were tongue-tied after being victimized
by a Syracuse defense that intercepted four passes, forced two
fumbles and blocked a punt.
Cincinnati's lone score came in the fourth quarter on a
"It's a little bit disappointing not to get a shutout," said
Anthony Smith, who blocked his third punt in two games and the
fifth kick of his career to tie David Tyree for the school record.
"We know we can play, and that's all that matters."
Even Patterson was impressed.
"They had everything locked down," said Patterson, who played
most of the game after relieving freshman starter Joe Fields in the
first quarter and was 10-for-16 for 156 yards and two
interceptions. "I didn't think our secondary was that good."
The Orange scored all the points they would need in the closing
minutes of the second quarter. After Cincinnati was forced to punt
for the fifth straight time, Landel Bembo was flattened by Antoine
Horton before he could field the kick, and the penalty gave
Syracuse the ball at its own 41.
Reyes, who had only 92 yards rushing in the first two games,
gained 28 yards on two runs to move the ball into Bearcat
territory. Andre Fontenette then caught a 17-yard pass down the
right sideline and Reyes scored from the 6 on the next play to give
Syracuse a 7-0 lead with 5:28 remaining.
Collin Barber made it 10-0 with a 37-yard field goal with 68
seconds left in the half.
After a scoreless third, the Bearcats finally broke through
early in the fourth on a 45-yard drive that was set up by Doug
Monaghan's second interception of the game and a costly
roughing-the-quarterback penalty against Syracuse defensive tackle
Still, it wasn't easy against the fired-up Orange defense, which
held senior quarterback Gino Guidugli in check and never allowed
the Bearcats to mount a sustained scoring drive.
"We have a swagger on defense now," middle linebacker Jerry
Mackey said. "We're getting better and better every week."
Cincinnati, which managed just 293 yards on offense, needed six
plays to score from the 14, including a fake field goal. Backup
quarterback Earnest Jackson gained 3 yards on a fourth-and-1 fake
from the 10-yard line, and when the Bearcats faced another fourth
down near the goal line, they called a timeout before Guidugli
rolled left and hit tight end Brent Celek with a 2-yard TD pass
with 13:41 left to make it 10-7.
"We played as bad as possible and were still in the game at the
end," said Guidugli. He was 14-for-23 for 155 yards and threw
"I'm disappointed because I thought we had a chance to win,"
first-year coach Mark Dantonio said. "Too many explosive plays for
them and not enough for us."
And it was Rhodes who provided the most explosive one of the
game. Rhodes, who also had 82 yards rushing on 11 carries, quashed
any hope of a Cincinnati comeback right after the ensuing kickoff.
He caught a pass out of the backfield near midfield and raced
untouched down the left side into the end zone to make it 17-7 with
Despite the impressive win, only 32,893 were in attendance in
the 49,000-seat Carrier Dome, the smallest home crowd since 27,466
show up for a loss to Virginia Tech in 1986.
Still, they were loud when it counted most.
"I thought the crowd was great," said Syracuse head coach Paul
Pasqualoni, who has been the main target of fan disapproval coming
off two lackluster seasons. "The fans really helped us, especially
early on. It was a big factor."