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College football: SU looking for Texas-sized win against Minnesota

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SYRACUSE — If things are truly bigger in Texas, imagine what Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley have in store for Friday’s Texas Bowl.

Smith and Gulley — Syracuse University’s running back duo that combined for 365 rushing yards in last year’s Pinstripe Bowl victory — appear poised for a repeat performance.

“I know the backs are going to put on a show,” said the junior Smith, one of four elected team captains.

Syracuse (6-6) will play Minnesota (8-4) at 6 p.m. at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The game will be televised on ESPN.

It is SU’s third bowl game in the past four years, and second in Texas. SU captured its first bowl victory over Texas, 23-14, in the 1960 Cotton Bowl.

Gulley, a senior with an extra year of eligibility for next season, is expected to make his return from a lower-body injury that kept him out of SU’s final two games.

Gulley was the Most Valuable Player of last year’s Pinstripe Bowl after tallying 264 total yards and three touchdowns.

His 208 rushing yards in that game ranks second in SU bowl history, behind Floyd Little’s 216 in the 1966 Gator Bowl. It was the eighth-highest rushing total overall in SU history. The shifty senior also broke off a 67-yard touchdown run, the second-longest ever in a bowl game for the Orange.

“Just to have him back and see what he’s going to do, it’s going to be exciting,” Smith said. “He’s definitely going to put a show on.”

Gulley broke just about every rushing record in the Pinstripe Bowl’s three-year history. Smith, who ran for 155 yards in last year’s bowl, set a Pinstripe record with 30 carries.

Smith said the duo has its eyes on Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure’s Texas Bowl record of 184 yards, set in 2010.

SU running backs coach DeAndre Smith was LeShoure’s position coach that season.

“We’ve had some thoughts about trying to top it,” Smith said. “I think (Gulley) might have looked it up, or coach Smith might have looked up the bowl game record for most yards in a game and he coached that back… He was talking to us about that so we got that in the back of our minds.”

Smith — named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference third team by media and coaches — leads SU in rushing with 840 yards.

He could reach 1,000 for the second straight year, extending SU’s streak to six seasons with a 1,000-yard back. The Orange would be tied for the third-longest stretch in the country.

“I would hate to break tradition,” Smith said. “As long as we walk out with a win and we’re all healthy, I’m good.”

The last five SU players to win a bowl MVP or Offensive MVP award were running backs.

The last non-back to earn bowl MVP honors was Donovan McNabb in the 1996 Gator Bowl.

SU is averaging 193.8 rushing yards per game this season, on pace to be its best mark since 2000. That total ranks fourth overall in the ACC and 39th nationally. The Orange averaged a league-best 210 yards per game against ACC teams.

Smith had 2,145 career rushing yards and is 16th on the program’s all-time list.

Gulley is eighth in SU history with 5.35 yards per carry and ranks sixth in receptions by a running back with 52. His average of 7.3 all-purpose yards per play is tied for seventh in school history.

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