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No. 23 Syracuse 30, Houston 17

December 28, 1996

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ Malcolm Thomas rushed for a career-high 201 yards and a touchdown and Donovan McNabb added two TDs as No. 23 Syracuse ran over Houston 30-17 on Friday in the Liberty Bowl.

Syracuse (9-4) won its eighth straight bowl game by playing keep-away from Houston (7-5). The Orangemen piled up 396 yards rushing and 472 yards total offense.

Thomas provided most of Syracuse’s offense in the first half, rushing 11 times for 128 yards.

Thomas easily topped his regular-season best of 168 yards against Minnesota this season.

When Houston did get the ball, the Cougars didn’t keep it long. The Orangemen, ranked 10th nationally in defense, allowed Houston 341 yards but held the Cougars well below their 31.3-point scoring average.

Thomas set the tone on Syracuse’s opening drive, carrying three times for 79 yards. McNabb capped the four-play drive with his first TD, a 1-yard keeper.

Houston tied it 7-7 when Chuck Clements who found Antowain Smith in the end zone on a 21-yard TD toss to end the Cougars’ opening drive.

Syracuse took control by holding onto the ball for more than 11 minutes of the second quarter and for 9:20 in the third.

Thomas picked up 38 yards in a 13-play drive, all on the ground, as Syracuse went ahead to stay. Rob Konrad scored from 2 yards out.

Antowain Smith, who finished with 19 carries for 119 yards, pulled Houston to 16-14 as he broke up the middle 51 yards to set up his 3-yard plunge just before intermission.

Houston had a chance early in the third quarter to take the lead when the Cougars moved to the Syracuse 37 in eight plays. Rod Gadson ended the threat by intercepting Clements’ pass in the end zone. Clements finished 14 of 28 for 217 yards.

Syracuse responded with a 16-play, 80-yard play that ate up nine minutes. McNabb scored his second touchdown, this from 2 yards behind a block from Thomas that gave Syracuse a 23-14 lead.

Houston came close twice more, settling for a 23-yard field goal from Sebastian Villareal with 10:50 to go and getting nothing when Clements overthrew Damion Johnson in the end zone on fourth-and-2.

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