HOUSTON -- Playing their first game in 27 days, the Gophers showed serious signs of rust in the first half of their Texas Bowl matchup against Syracuse on Friday and went to the locker room trailing 7-3.
Minnesota has now played 12 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.
With only a few thousand fans on hand at 71,000-seat Reliant Stadium, the Gophers tried two quarterbacks but could get nothing going offensively.
Philip Nelson started the game and played the first two series – a three-and-out, followed by a fumble by Isaac Fruechte.
Mitch Leidner took over for the third series and finished the half. It might have been injury related for Nelson, as Leidner had some shaky moments of his own. Nelson loosened up on the sidelines but didn’t return.
Syracuse went on an 11-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from Jerome Smith for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Chris Hawthorne trimmed the lead to 7-3 with a 41-yard field goal at the end of the half.
Update: Jerry Kill returned to the sideline for the start of the second half. Tracy Claeys remained on the sideline, too.