SYRACUSE N.Y. - When you've got a horse, you take him out of the barn and you ride him. Syracuse doesn't have a horse - it has a thoroughbred - and it likes to ride him.
Walter Reyes, a product of the Ohio high school system, is the leading rusher in the nation, averaging more than 170 yards per game. Toledo held him slightly below that average, but Reyes, who played sparingly in the second half, did not hurt his reputation last night.
He carried the ball 17 times for 162 yards in the Orangemen's 34-7 win over Toledo. Reyes had 148 yards by halftime when Syracuse was sitting on a 24-0 lead.
“He's a very good back, and you can't let him get going against you like we did tonight,” Toledo defensive end Frank Ofili said. “You have to contain him near the line of scrimmage, and then wrap him up, and we didn't get that done. We didn't do a very good job of tackling tonight, and against one of the best running backs in the country, that's going to cost you.”
In their week of preparation for the game in the Carrier Dome, the Rockets (3-2) had focused a lot of attention on at least slowing Reyes, who had 241 yards rushing and four touchdowns against Central Florida last week. Reyes, from Struthers High School near Youngstown, has scored at least one touchdown in nine consecutive games dating back to last season.
It is the longest such streak at Syracuse since Jim Nance scored 13 touchdowns in 10 games in the 1964 season. Reyes has scored at least one touchdown in every game since the 2002 meeting with West Virginia.
Reyes is running his way into some pretty elite company at Syracuse. He is currently 16th on the all-time rushing list for the Orangemen, a list heavy with former NFL greats. Reyes has 1,955 yards. In the 13th spot is Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown (2,091), while Ernie Davis is eighth with 2,386. The all-time leader is Joe Morris with 4,299 yards, while Larry Csonka is second with 2,934 yards.
STEVENS AT HOME: Toledo junior quarterback Cedric Stevens, who backs up starter Bruce Gradkowski, is the only player on the Rocket roster from Syracuse. Stevens played just one play last night when Toledo shifted out of a punt formation and unsuccessfully tried for a first down.
He attended Corcoran High School, where he was an all-state selection and played in the New York-New Jersey All-Star Game. Stevens also played tennis and basketball at Corcoran.
Following high school Stevens played one season at Butler County Community College in Kansas and led that team to the state championship. This season he has played in two games for Toledo, and completed 12 of 19 passes for 75 yards. Stevens played in four games last season, completing 9 of 14 passes for 112 yards.
CLARETT IS EVERYWHERE: Even in Syracuse, in a meeting between the Orangemen of the Big East and the Toledo Rockets of the Mid-American Conference, the name of Ohio State's prodigal son, running back Maurice Clarett, came up.
UT AGAINST THE BIG EAST: Following last night's loss at the Carrier Dome, Toledo is 5-8 overall against teams from the Big East Conference. Four of those wins have come against Temple, which will leave the Big East following this school year. The Rockets have split two games with Pittsburgh, and dropped their lone meetings with Boston College, Miami, West Virginia, and now their two meeting with Syracuse.
LAST MEETING: The last time Toledo and Syracuse met, it was to open the 1999 season (Sept. 2) at the Glass Bowl. Toledo's starting quarterback in that game was Dan Cole, who soon lost the starting job to Tavares Bolden. Cole left the UT team after the 1999 season. Toledo was coached in that 1999 game against Syracuse by Gary Pinkel, who left at the end of the next season to take over the program at Missouri. Syracuse won that game played in Toledo 35-12. That was the first meeting in a seven-year, two-for-one deal that will send the Rockets back to the Carrier Dome in 2005.
DEFENSE DEPLETED: The Rockets entered last night's game at Syracuse without junior safety Patrick Body, who injured his ankle in last week's win over Pittsburgh. Toledo then lost starting linebacker Brock Dodrill with an ankle injury in the first half, and he was replaced by Seth Thitoff, a redshirt freshman from Delphos. Following last night's loss to Syracuse, UT coach Tom Amstutz said he expects Body and Dodrill to be back in the lineup when the Rockets play host to Eastern Michigan on Oct. 11. The Rockets have a bye next week