Syracuse, NY (U-WIRE) -- ORLANDO, Fla. - Less than a minute into the game, Georgia Tech delivered its opening punch to the Syracuse football team.
Just 41 seconds into the Champs Sports Bowl, the Orange's first bowl game since 2001, junior linebacker Chris Reis intercepted a Perry Patterson pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
It marked the beginning of a bitter end for the Orange, which fell to Georgia Tech, 51-14, in front of 28,237 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Tuesday night. Syracuse gained just 281 yards of offense while surrendering 514.
"How you can put so much effort into something and get beat 51-14, I have no explanation for," SU head coach Paul Pasqualoni said.
Despite earning a bowl bid, the Orange (6-6) failed for the third straight season to finish above .500.
Though weeks ago Syracuse Director of Athletics Jake Crouthamel and Chancellor Nancy Cantor announced Pasqualoni would stay another season, Tuesday's loss only raised more questions.
New Director of Athletics Daryl Gross said Pasqualoni and the football program would be re-evaluated in the coming months, a routine process after hiring a new athletic director.
But for now, the game marked a bitter ending for a group of 13 SU seniors. Ironically, their careers ended nearly identically to the way they started - with a loss to Georgia Tech. SU opened its 2001 season with a 13-7 loss to the Jackets.
"If anyone's ever see the movie 'The Replacements,' Keanu Reeves says it's like quicksand," senior center Matt Tarullo said. "That's what it was. It was quicksand. We just couldn't get anything going."
At times this season, Syracuse's defense, offense and special teams failed individually. On Tuesday, each tailspined collectively.
The offense moved the ball well at times, driving five times into Georgia Tech territory during the first half, but failed to score often enough.
SU drove after Tech's first score, answering with a 21-yard Patterson touchdown run. But Collin Barber then missed the potential game-tying extra point. From there, the deficit grew. SU's play worsened.
"We played hard, they played a little harder," senior safety "Diamond Ferri said. "We punched them in the mouth, they punched us a little harder."
The defense had no answer for the Jackets rushing attack, particularly junior tailback P.J. Daniels, who finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns.
With options, pitches and screens picking apart the Orange on the ground, Tech - which entered 104th nationally with 164.8 passing yards per game - opened the passing game. Quarterback Reggie Ball finished with 207 passing yards, hitting receivers for passes of 80 and 51 yards.
(C) 2004 Daily Orange via U-WIRE