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Upstaged in upstate

Pat Leonard | Monday, December 8, 2003

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A player broke his school’s rushing record on the turf of a sold out Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon, but that player was not Notre Dame’s Julius Jones.Syracuse junior running back Walter Reyes scored five touchdowns and set a school record for career touchdowns and points in a game as the Orangemen snapped a three-game Irish win streak and their own three-game losing streak with a 38-12 victory.Reyes now has 38 career touchdowns, three more than the previous record holder, Floyd Little, who played for the Orangemen from 1964-66.With the loss, Notre Dame falls to 5-7, while Syracuse finishes its season at 6-6.Despite early turnovers, Notre Dame stayed in the game and drew to within 24-12 on a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano with 28 seconds remaining in the third quarter. But Reyes broke a 71-yard touchdown run – his fourth of the game – on the first play of the following Syracuse drive to take the wind out of Notre Dame’s sails for good.”We were able to draw close in the second half,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said, “but we could not convert them to touchdowns and [we could] not rush the football. That kept the defense on the field. I think that made the difference.”The Notre Dame players were visibly frustrated.”We didn’t play the kind of ball we came here to play,” center Bob Morton said. “We didn’t play as physical or as tenacious as we wanted to play. It’s real tough to swallow right now.”Syracuse scored 24 points off of four turnovers in a game Notre Dame needed to win to finish a rocky season with a .500 record.Two Brady Quinn interceptions and fumbles by Quinn and Jones – his first since the season opener against Washington State – spoiled drives on which the Irish were able to execute big plays.”Any time that you turn the ball over it’s very costly,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said, “and anytime you turn it over in the red zone it’s extremely [costly], because it takes points off the board.”Quinn completed 18-of-34 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times.Excluding two separate 20-yard gains by Jones and junior running back Ryan Grant, Notre Dame could not establish its running game. The Irish finished with 62 rushing yards compared to 247 for Syracuse. The Orangemen contained the rushing attack, hitting Jones six times for zero or negative yards. Jones finished with 54 yards on 20 carries.Diedrick adjusted by calling play actions and deep throws to sophomore Maurice Stovall and junior Matt Shelton, but turnovers negated the drives. It was only a matter of time before the Notre Dame defense tired and Reyes found the holes.”Reyes is definitely a feisty back,” cornerback Dwight Ellick said. “I think he’s probably the fastest we faced this year. He sees the seam, and he hits it quick. That’s just what he did in the second half.”Reyes had just 33 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries at halftime. He blew up in the second half for four more touchdowns and 161 additional yards.A few Irish players could not explain the second half debacle.”It’s hard to say,” defensive lineman Darrell Campbell said. “It probably comes down to fundamentals that the coaches are going to mention. We missed some tackles, and when you’re going against a great back, he makes good plays and capitalizes on your miscues.”Notre Dame intercepted Syracuse quarterback R.J. Anderson twice and sacked him three times. Anderson finished with 209 yards passing, most of which came in the second half, after the Orangemen were able to establish a running game.Syracuse still was able to hop on Notre Dame early.Syracuse free safety Anthony Smith picked off a third-down Brady Quinn pass intended for Omar Jenkins on the first drive of the game and returned it to the Irish 24-yard line.Five plays and three Reyes touches later, the Orangemen had an early 7-0 lead.The Notre Dame backfield of Jones and Grant gained 41 yards on the ensuing drive, but the Syracuse defense held Notre Dame on a 4th and 1 at the SU 35-yard line, creating yet another turnover.The Orangemen got a 43-yard field goal from Collin Barber to increase their lead to 10-0. Using the indoor conditions to his advantage, Irish kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick nailed a season and career-high 50-yard field goal on the following Notre Dame drive.The rest of the half was a battle of defenses, however, and despite Quentin Burrell and Vontez Duff interceptions in the second half, the Irish were not able to keep up with Syracuse on offense or defense.”It was just a bad day for us,” Jones said. “We didn’t come out the way we were capable of.”