This post is part of a week-long series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
Today's all about memorable moments and I feel a little overwhelmed. There's a joke in here somewhere about how I could possibly not know where to start when it comes to memorable Syracuse football moments, but, that's a joke better made by a West Virginia fan.
Like I said in the Favorite Player post, I'm sticking to my own two personal eras of SU fandom. '96 - '00 and '05 - Present. The first one is easy. The second one....well...it's actually even easier. I mean, with so much misery and losing, it's a lot easier to pinpoint those special moments when the world stopped and the only thing that mattered was an orange & blue football uniform with a block S helmet (and a NY sticker on the back, natch).
So here we go, and by all means I'm expecting you to fill in the comments with "WTF, WHAT ABOUT ______, HOW COULD YOU FORGET THAT YOU IMBECILE???" I wouldn't have it any other way.
September 7th, 1996 - The first time I ever stepped foot in the Dome for a football game. Syracuse vs. North Carolina. The building was packed. As freshman, the five guys and myself that had formed an initial friendship were scattered throughout the student section. That changed real quick when we all did the ticket-tricker and found our way into the ninth row on the side of the endzone. Sure it was rude to those around us, but, that's your fault for not being sneaky enough to move up yourselves. We didn't know most of the players and weren't truly emotionally invested in the team yet, but that hardly mattered. The game might have ended in a loss but there was no doubt in my mind I was going to be a life-long Orange fan after that.
October 9th, 1997 - Syracuse whups on Rutgers 50-3 in what was considered a close game in the series back then. The Orange would put up 70 on the Knights a year later. It was my first SU game in an away stadium, if you could count Rutgers Stadium as an actual away stadium back then. This was a crowd accustom to losing and Syracuse fans had their run of the place. Afterward we dined on Fat Darrells at the Grease Trucks, the only good thing Rutgers University has ever produced.
September 5th, 1998 - The Tennessee game. Yes, Syracuse lost. And yes, the pass interference call was dubious (if not legit). But you would be hard-pressed to find very many Carrier Dome crowds better than the one on hand that day. We had to be. The Vol contingent was many and they were loud. We had to be louder. Most of the time, we were. This game became ever better in retrospect when UT went on to win the National Title. No one played them better all season.
September 12th, 1998 - The following week, the Orangemen headed to Ann Arbor to play the Wolverines in fabled Michigan Stadium. Donovan McNabb-aside, we weren't afford much of a chance. Donovan McNabb-led, Syracuse dominated the Wolvies in their hallowed home and won 38-28. I assure you the game wasn't as close as the game really was. My friends and I watched the game at Darwin's. We grabbed the big table right in front of the pull-down big screen, chugged beers and high-fived our greasy, chicken-wing sauce-stained hands all day long. It was a good day.
November 14th, 1998 - Syracuse 28, Virginia Tech 26. Anything you can have a story that includes one of the greatest comebacks and finishes in SU football history, storming the field and my mom high-fiving Donovan McNabb, that's a memorable day.
January 2nd, 1999 - The 1999 Orange Bowl. Syracuse was not expected to be able to run with the mighty Florida Gators and, quite frankly, they couldn't. Florida won easy 31-10. Still, it was a day made memorable by all of the SU fans on hand, not to mention being able to watch the game with my Dad, who lived in Florida at the time. We hung out in the Syracuse tent all day, chatting with fellow people wearing orange. All the while we were surrounded, and I truly mean surrounded, by RVs and other various modes of live-in transportation from the Gainesville area. As a pre-game we watched the Arizona Cardinals shock the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. Afterwards, we got the hell out of there ASAP. If you ever went to the old Orange Bowl, then you know what that neighborhood was like...and you understand.
December 6th, 2003 - This one happened during my "hiatus" but it's still something I think fondly of. SU was hosting Notre Dame in the Dome as the season-capper. Even though the win would have vaulted them to 6-6, the Orange were not going to a bowl that year for reasons I forget. Notre Dame wasn't even that good either and yet the game had massive connotations. Because of the dumb BCS, USC was counting on Notre Dame, whom they had beaten, to win this game so they could assured a spot in the national title game. A loss and they would drop in the computer rankings and possibly miss out despite going undefeated. SU had nothing to play for, ND was playing for a bowl seed. It was with great relish that I sat in Sharkeez Bar by myself and watch the Orange tear apart the Irish 38-12. USC missed out on the BCS title game but did finish No. 1 in the AP Poll, causing a split championship and thereby negating the existence of the BCS in the minds of any sane person. I like to think that was all Syracuse's doing.
September 22nd, 2007 - Syracuse limped into their game against nationally-ranked Louisville as a shell of their former self. The Cardinals were favored by 34.5 points. It was a foregone conclusion that the nouveau riche Cardinals would trounce the old guard Orange. And then Syracuse scored. And again. And again. And all of a sudden what seemed impossible thirty minutes ago now seemed very possible. The second half was a test of bending but not breaking and when time expired, Syracuse had what seemed like the biggest upset in years. So what that Louisville was exposed as a fraud later on that season, for one week Syracuse football was royalty again. And Andrew Robinson was its King.
November 17th, 2008 - Greg Robinson is officially fired. A year overdue, it was beyond inevitable after losing to UConn 39-14 in the Dome. Syracuse fans could finally exhale. The worst was over. It was time. And besides, it's not like Greg was going to be Notre Dame the next week in South Bend.
November 22nd, 2008 - Notre Dame, here we are again. You need a win to secure bowl seeding. We don't have anything to play for. This time it's in your backyard. And once again, ya'll got Cuse'd. Syracuse's win over the Irish once again had farther-reaching effects than just moral victories. It was the beginning of the end for Charlie Weis, who was one of the rare coaches to get out-coached by Greg Robinson.
December 02, 2008 - Gregger's "Little Engine That Could" Farewell Speech. I am remiss to quote Anchorman because that's been done to death, but, I wasn't even made, I was just impressed.
December 12th, 2008 - Doug Marrone is introduced as the new head coach of Syracuse football. He doesn't have any head coaching experience. He isn't a known quantity. He was our 3rd or 4th choice for the position. And yet...I knew he was the perfect choice. Still do. The GRE officially died that day.
September 5th, 2009 - The Minnesota loss in the Dome. Sure, SU lost, but there was moment in the game when every Syracuse fan realized the same thing. "Holy crap, we have a chance. HOLY CRAP, WE HAVE A CHANCE!" It was something we hadn't felt in a long time.
September 19th, 2009 - LICHTENSTEIN!!!
November 2nd, 2009 - Word begins to trickle out that Mike Williams, star WR, best player on the team and arguably the best athlete to suit up for the Orange in the 00's has quit the team mid-season. Once destined to be among our greatest ambassadors, he leaves the program in disgrace. He left with almost as many "misunderstandings" to his name than TDs.
November 21st, 2009 - Syracuse beating Rutgers 31-13 would have been considered a close game ten years ago. We would have wondered why SU didn't put up at least 45 and how Rutgers managed to score double-digits. Things have...changed, since. To watch the Orange dismantle a now-proud Scarlet Knights program (and have Greg Schiano witness it, to boot) was a delightful reminder of what once was...and what will be again.