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Greg Paulus Comes Up Short In His Syracuse Debut

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Eric Ellestad kicked a 35-yard field goal in overtime to give Minnesota a 23-20 victory over Syracuse on Saturday, spoiling the debut of Orange quarterback Greg Paulus in the opener for both teams.

Paulus was 19-for-31 for 167 yards and one touchdown, but the former Duke point guard threw his only interception in the extra period to give the Gophers the big break they needed.

Adam Weber was 19-for-42 for 248 yards and Eric Decker had nine catches for 183 yards to lead Minnesota.

Paulus had not played football since he was honored as 2004 national player of the year at Christian Brothers Academy in suburban Syracuse. New coach Doug Marrone, who played for the Orange in the mid-1980s, made Paulus the starter less than two weeks into the preseason.

Paulus showed great poise for somebody who had never played the position in college, and his offensive line provided good protection - Paulus was sacked just twice, one of which ended in a roughing the passer penalty against the Gophers.

Paulus appeared calm and collected for most the game, but his ill-advised pass on a scramble on the first possession of overtime sent the Orange to defeat.

Paulus, who received an NCAA waiver to play football at Syracuse with his one remaining year of athletic eligibility, seemed at home after the Orange's first snap of the game sailed way over his head and led to a quick Minnesota touchdown. He looked off defenders and scrambled when he had to, displaying the flair that made him a record-setting high school quarterback five years ago.

With Syracuse trailing 14-3 late in the first quarter, Paulus electrified the near-capacity crowd of 48,617, which included former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb, with his first collegiate scoring pass.

Facing a second-and-6 from the Minnesota 29, Paulus fooled three defenders with a pump fake and hit a wide-open Mike Williams near the goal line to move the Orange within 14-10. It marked the 10th straight game Williams has had a TD catch, a school record.

Not even penalties seemed to faze Paulus. Despite a false start and a hold whistled against the Orange late in the second quarter, he guided Syracuse 67 yards in eight plays, accounting for all but 10 yards with four completions in four attempts.

Paulus hit Alec Lemon for 10 yards, Williams for 18 yards on a first-and-20 play, Antwon Bailey for 15 yards on a screen, and Williams again for 14 yards to set up Delone Carter's 1-yard touchdown run.

That gave the Orange, who were 10-37 in the previous four years under Greg Robinson, a rare 20-14 halftime lead. Syracuse scored 20 or more points in a game only eight times under Robinson.

The game started badly for the Orange. Center Jim McKenzie's first snap sailed over Paulus' head and was recovered by Minnesota's Cedric McKinley at the Syracuse 16. Two plays later, Duane Bennett scored untouched on a 16-yard run around the right side.

Ellestad forced overtime with a 26-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in regulation after a lob by Weber for Decker in the right corner of the end zone sailed high.

The last time Paulus, who grew up in the Syracuse suburbs, played in the Carrier Dome, he led Christian Brothers Academy to its first state title.


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