Early Return Looks Good for Syracuse : Intersectional: DarDar takes opening kickoff 95 yards for a score and Orangemen take starch out of Florida, 38-21.
When is one touchdown as good as two?
When it is scored on the opening kickoff of a game between two undefeated, nationally ranked teams.
Almost everyone agreed that the 95-yard touchdown run by Syracuse’s Kirby DarDar with the opening kickoff set the tone for the No. 18 Orangemen’s 38-21 victory over No. 5 Florida on Saturday.
“That killed us from the beginning,” Florida defensive end Marvin Thomas said. “We just ran into a brick wall and it went downhill from there.”
The kickoff return took the pressure off Syracuse’s defense and was responsible for the way the Orangemen stopped the Gators on their first possession, Syracuse Coach Paul Pasqualoni said. Syracuse took the ball on the ensuing punt and scored again to make it 14-0 before the game was five minutes old.
“It got us going,” Pasqualoni said. “It allowed the defense to breathe a little bit. It allowed the defense to play where we weren’t in a situation where we have to play catch-up.”
Florida Coach Steve Spurrier said Syracuse established its domination on the first play and never looked back.
“Obviously we got a good tail-whipping,” he said. “They were better from the opening kickoff until the end of the game. They had better players. They were coached better. They looked like they were the No. 4 or 5 team in the country and we looked like about No. 50.”
Pasqualoni gave credit to his coaches for Syracuse’s game plan, which relied on a thunderous rushing attack once the lightning of the first two touchdowns faded.
Syracuse alternated quarterbacks Marvin Graves and Doug Womack in the second half as the Orangemen (3-0) pulled away after Florida (2-1) drew to within 28-21 with 4:56 to play in the third quarter.
The Gators had minus 17 yards rushing while Syracuse was grinding out 250 yards on the ground.
With Graves and Womack alternating every few snaps, Syracuse put together an 11-play drive to put the Orangemen ahead, 35-21. Graves completed passes of nine and 20 yards to Qadry Ismail and Marcus Lee rushed for 30 yards on the key drive, which was capped by Womack’s three-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Syracuse held the ball for 8:09 on its next possession, again mostly on the ground, as the Florida defense tired. John Biskup kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
Shane Matthews completed 27 of 43 passes for 347 yards for the Gators, who all but abandoned their running game after falling into the first half hole.
Matthews also threw three interceptions against Syracuse, which won against a Top 10 team for the first time since defeating No. 1 Nebraska in 1984.
DarDar gave Syracuse momentum from the start.
Terry Richardson caught the opening kickoff and began sweeping to his right, but handed the ball to DarDar, who was looping behind him. DarDar raced untouched up the left sideline for the score, the first of his college career.
After a Florida punt, Syracuse drove 43 yards in six plays for another score, this one on a 10-yard option pitch from Graves to David Walker just 4:11 into the game.
Florida drove 80 yards to make it 14-7 on the ensuing possession, with Matthews hitting Tre Everett in the left corner of the end zone from the seven.
Graves threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter as Syracuse moved ahead, 28-7--13 yards to Antonio Johnson and 36 yards to Ismail with 1:27 to play. Florida hurt itself on the latter drive when it let Walker get loose for a 27-yard run from the Syracuse 24, then tackled him into the Gator bench for a 15-yard penalty.