ORLANDO, Fla. - Maybe Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey will ease up on Reggie Ball now.
Ball threw two touchdown passes, ran for another score and led the Yellow Jackets to a 51-14 victory over Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday night.
Gailey has been critical of his sophomore quarterback all season, and he reiterated this week that Ball will have to win back the starting job next spring.
Ball certainly stated his case against the Orange, finishing 12-of-19 for 207 yards with an interception, and had 38 yards rushing.
''I just let loose,'' Ball said. ''I wasn't worried about proving anything. I know what I can do. I know what kind of leader I am.''
Ball also got plenty of help.
P.J. Daniels ran 17 times for 119 yards and two scores, Calvin Johnson set a school record for touchdowns by a freshman with his seventh, and the defense set the tone by returning an interception for a touchdown on the second play of the game. The unit added a safety with 1:42 to play.
Even special teams played a role, blocking a punt in the first quarter that the Yellow Jackets (7-5) converted into a touchdown.
The loss was the worst in a bowl game for Syracuse (6-6) since the 1953 Orange Bowl, a 61-6 drubbing by Alabama. It also means more questions about the future of embattled coach Paul Pasqualoni.
Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor gave Pasqualoni a vote of confidence earlier this month, saying he would be retained for a 15th season. But the school also named longtime Southern California administrator Daryl Gross the new athletic director last week.
Gross replaces Jake Crouthamel, one of Pasqualoni's biggest supporters.
Gross dispelled rumors that he was already thinking about a replacement. However, he also said he would evaluate the athletic department after he completes his move in late January.
Syracuse was making its first postseason appearance since beating Kansas State in the Insight Bowl to finish the 2001 season with a 10-3 record and No. 14 ranking. That improved Pasqualoni's career bowl record to 6-2.
Since then, the Orange have struggled to break even. They had to win three of their last four regular-season games to become bowl eligible this year.
Georgia Tech's dominance Tuesday certainly won't help Pasqualoni.
Chris Reis intercepted Perry Patterson's first pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
''From the first pass of the game, things seemed to go against us,'' Pasqualoni said. ''It was just one of those days where nothing we did went well.''
Syracuse looked to even the game when Patterson scored from 21 yards out, but Collin Barber pushed the extra point attempt wide right.
Georgia Tech then scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to pretty much put the game away before halftime.
''We punched them in the mouth, but they punched right back,'' Syracuse safety Diamond Ferri said. ''They deserved to win.''
Ball found Johnson for a 10-yard score to make it 14-6. After getting the ball back, Ball rolled right and found Nate Curry down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown - the longest play of the season for the Yellow Jackets and the longest pass of Ball's career.
''He went out and performed extremely well, especially early in the ball game,'' Gailey said. ''He's had a lot of criticism this year and suffered through a lot of adversity. I'm happy for him.''
Syracuse went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Xavier McGuire blocked the punt to give his team the ball at the 14.
Ball completed a third-down pass to the 2, and Daniels took it in from there.
Johnson burned cornerback Tanard Jackson and made a spectacular 51-yard catch over Ferri. He scored six plays later on an end around from the 5-yard line. The Yellow Jackets led 35-6 at halftime, and Ball's 11-yard TD scamper made it 42-6 with 3:48 to play in third quarter.
He was done for the night.
So was Syracuse running back Walter Reyes. He sat out the second half after re-injuring his right shoulder.
Reyes, the second-leading rusher in school history, was hurt following an 18-yard reception early in the second quarter. He was forced out of bounds and landed awkwardly after vaulting an aluminum bench on the Georgia Tech sideline.
Besides his catch, Reyes also had 3 yards on five carries.
Reyes missed the previous two games after tearing three muscles behind his right shoulder on a vicious hit in Syracuse's double-overtime win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 6.
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