CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- Syracuse receiver Taj Smith made his
first career start a memorable one with two touchdowns and the
Orange ended an 11-game losing streak with a 31-21 victory over
Illinois on Saturday.
Smith scored Syracuse's first touchdown on a 41-yard fumble
return and scored on a 65-yard reception. The Orange (1-2), who led
31-7 in the third quarter, won for the first time since beating
Buffalo 31-0 in the second game of last season.
Linebacker Jerry Mackey ran an Illinois fumble 15 yards for a
score and Perry Patterson threw TD passes to Smith and to Tom
Ferron -- a 16-yarder -- as the Orange became the second Big East
team to drop Illinois (1-2) in as many weeks. The Illini lost at
Rutgers 33-0 on Sept. 8.
Illinois had two turnovers and was flagged for penalties 12
times for 106 yards, including three that stopped a second-quarter
drive. After moving 50 yards to the Syracuse 30, the Illini were
flagged for an illegal block, holding and a personal foul that left
them facing third-and-30. Tim Brasic threw downfield, but A.J.
Brown intercepted at the 17.
Patrick Schadel added a 36-yard field goal for the Orange, who
put together their best offensive performance of the season with
369 yards. Patterson finished 9-of-18 for 167 yards, Curtis
Brinkley carried 18 times for 69 yards and Delone Carter had 19
carries for 63 yards.
Freshman quarterback Juice Williams threw touchdown passes of 76
yards to Rashard Mendenhall and 69 yards to Kyle Hudson and
finished 9-of-16 for 227 yards after replacing starter Tim Brasic
early in the third quarter. Brasic scored Illinois' first touchdown
on a 5-yard run after a 15-play, 80-yard drive in the first
Brasic completed 8-of-16 passes for 61 yards and rushed for 38
more. Mendenhall carried five times for 32 yards and had two
catches for 78 as the Illini put up 398 yards of offense.
Smith, who caught five passes for 106 yards, scored the Orange's
first touchdown on a freakish fumble recovery.
On third-and-5 at the Illini 48, Patterson dropped back to pass
but was forced to scramble. Illini safety Kevin Mitchell hit him at
the 43 where the ball popped out, and Smith picked it up at the 41
and ran untouched to the end zone.
The Illini tied it 7-7 five minutes later when Brasic scored to
cap a drive aided by a facemask penalty that gave Illinois a first
down at the Syracuse 5.
But the Orange wiped out the Illini momentum on the next
possession when Patterson found Smith streaking along the Illinois
sidelines and hit him with a 65-yard strike.