After the senior tailback fumbled deep in Syracuse territory with 3:49 left, Reyes plowed in from 21 yards for the game winning score less than two minutes later as the Orange won a highly contested game against Rutgers, 41-31. Reyes finished with 237 yards and two touchdowns. Damien Rhodes added 102 yards and two scores of his own.
Reyes' performance was by far the best of the season. He had only rushed for 100 plus yards against Cincinnati two weeks ago (117 yards).
"I told everyone a breakout game was coming," Reyes said. "Everyone was getting worried, ‘Oh, where is Walter?' Hey, I'm here. Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere."
But Reyes easily could've been answering different questions in the post game. After Reyes fumbled, the Syracuse defense, which for much of the day had trouble stopping Rutgers' offense, held and Jeremy Ito missed a 43-yard field goal.
"When they missed the field goal, I pointed to God and said, ‘Thank you," Reyes said.
That was when Patterson, who had struggled up until the game winning drive, stepped up. With 3:27 left and Syracuse trailing 31-27 and the ball at the SU 20, Patterson was poised, quickly throwing for consecutive first downs to Reyes and Jared Jones.
Patterson, under pressure, then threw long to Andre Fontenette, who almost fell before making a stumbling 43-yard catch. Before that drive, Patterson had thrown two interceptions and just 66 yards. He finished 11-for-25 with two interceptions.
"I was at the right place at the right time," Fontenette said. "When you play receiver, you always want the ball. I hope I can make more big plays throughout the season."
The Syracuse defense then stopped any hopes of a comeback, pushing Rutgers all the way from its 21 to its own 3. After Rutgers turned the ball over on downs, Damien Rhodes ran in from three yards for the final score.
"It's important in this game that you're able to do that with an amount of toughness, not only physical toughness but mental toughness," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "I'm just really proud of how they handled themselves in the fourth quarter of this game."
The Syracuse win negated outstanding performances from Rutgers quarterback Ryan Hart, who threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Clark Harris was also solid for the Scarlet Knights, catching two touchdowns, making up for the absence of star tailback Brian Leonard, who did not play because of a bruised thigh.
"Hart did a great job tonight," Pasqualoni said. "I counted six times where we hit him as the ball was thrown. I thought the tight end caught the ball well, the kids caught the ball well, and the quarterback threw the ball well."
The Syracuse offense relied heavily on its rushing game in the first half, mostly due to an ineffective passing game.
Patterson started 4-of-6 for 39 yards, including passes of 18 and 14 yards to Landel Bembo and Jared Jones. But with Syracuse at the Rutgers 11, Patterson was intercepted in the end zone by Joe Porter.
Patterson would only throw for 10 more yards in the half, finishing 6-for-15.
"In the beginning, I would give myself an ‘F,'" Patterson said.
For most of the first quarter, both offenses were stagnant. Rutgers mustered just 34 yards on three drives, while Syracuse, after a promising first drive, gained just 33 yards.
To jump start its offense, Syracuse went to Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes. The two combined for 201 yards in the first half and each had big plays in the second quarter.
"You're trying to do a good job philosophically, taking what the defense gives," Pasqualoni said. "When you're doing that with precision, getting good blocking up front, and getting good blocking on the perimeter, you have the chance to have these kind of days."
With Syracuse leading 3-0 early in the second quarter, Rhodes, on his first rush of the game, ran for 25 yards. He followed that up with a 44-yard run, giving Syracuse its first touchdown of the game, putting Syracuse up 10-0 with 11:19 left in the first half.
But Rutgers answered right back on the ensuing drive as Hart found Harris in the end zone to cap an 11 play, 70 yard drive. Rutgers got the ball back quickly, as Diamond Ferri fumbled the kickoff and Rutgers recovered at the Syracuse 27, setting up a 26 yard field goal.
Pasqualoni wasn't too upset with Ferri and Reyes fumbling.
"All I ever say to them is don't try to do too much," he said. "There's a point where the twisting and turning and fighting, trying to get that extra yard isn't worth the risk of exposing the ball. That's a very hard thing to coach."
Rutgers wasted no time at the start of the second half, effortlessly driving on the Syracuse defense. The Scarlet Knights marched from their own 14 yard line, and Justi Hairston capped the drive, plowing ahead for a 1-yard touchdown run with 8:56 left to give Rutgers a 17-13 lead.
Syracuse answered right back with a touchdown of their own. Patterson, with Syracuse facing a third and six, was flushed out of the pocket and ran ahead for 30 yards to the 23 yard line – the longest rush of his career. One play later, Reyes punched the ball in to give the lead back to the Orange.
After Hart threw his second touchdown to Harris give Rutgers a four-point lead, Patterson fired his first touchdown of the day, a four yard strike to Greg Hanoian for a 27-24 lead. The play was set up by Reyes' second 30-yard plus run – this time for 62 yards.
"Anytime you have a back rush for 200 yards and then another back rush for 100 yards, someone's doing something good," Reyes said. "The line definitely gets the credit."
Reyes redeems himself, Orange top Knights
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