There’s no doubt that Syracuse Orange quarterback Terrell Hunt deserved to be the MVP of the team’s Texas Bowl victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Hunt was as sharp as he’s ever been throwing the ball and also wreaked havoc on the Minnesota defense with his legs by scoring two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final minute of play. However, a close second for MVP should be Syracuse receiver and kick returner Brisly Estime.
The true freshman Estime did not have a good start to the Texas Bowl. The Orange offense looked poised to score on its opening possession and take an early lead before Estime fumbled a ball on a wide receiver reverse that looked like it would go for a big chunk of yards. After that, the Syracuse offense struggled to finish off drives and run away with the game.
Despite the early mistake, Estime stayed focused and determined to make up for his mistake. He ended up leading the Orange in receiving for the game with five catches for 47 yards, but Estime’s most important play came late in the fourth quarter when he returned a punt 70 yards to set up Hunt and the offense at the Minnesota 14-yard line for what would become the game-winning drive.
Without that punt return, Syracuse would have had to travel nearly 70 yards for the game-winning touchdown in under two minutes with no timeouts as attempting a game-tying field goal was not an option for head coach Scott Shafer at any point in that drive. The Syracuse offense pulled off a similar feat in their regular season finale against Boston College just to get into a bowl game, but it would have been asking a lot for Hunt to lead the offense on another long game-winning drive against a much stingier Minnesota defense.
Hunt will get all the glory and the praise — not to mention the cowboy hat that’s given to the Texas Bowl MVP — but Estime deserves a significant chunk of the credit as well. He made Hunt’s last-minute heroics possible with his punt return, and for a true freshman to shake off an early mistake and make a game-changing play in the final minutes is nothing short of remarkable. For that, Hunt and Estime should be 1-A and 1-B for Texas Bowl MVP.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.