From the Press Box: Syracuse Squeezes Past Pittsburgh

Mark Konezny-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

In front of the largest home crowd of the season and a national television audience, the Orange wanted to make a statement that the 2012 season wasn’t over.

What a win! Much of the talk leading up to the Syracuse-Pittsburgh game was how with the start of the Big East portion of the schedule the team was “0-0” and could compete in a watered down conference this year. Well, that wasn’t going to happen if they laid an egg right out of the gate. So in front of the largest home crowd of the season and a national television audience, the Orange wanted to make a statement that the 2012 season wasn’t over.

I think they made their point.

Syracuse looked great on its opening drive, marching 70 yards down the field in eight plays and 3:01. Unfortunately only about 15,000 people saw the Orange’s best offensive display of the game because of a VERY late-arriving crowd. I was one of them, having parked at Manley Field House and taken a shuttle van to the Dome. I got to my seat just a couple of plays after kickoff.

I’m not sure which was the bigger factor in the late-arriving crowd: The 7:00 start on a Friday night, a lane closure on Interstate 81 that backed up traffic for miles, or just the larger attendance overall. Whatever the reason, I think there were more fans outside of the Dome than in their seats at kickoff.

The crowd did not like the reviewed call for the 1st quarter Pitt bounce pass that was ruled a catch. It looked like the ball hit the turf from our point of view too.

After a clutch 3rd down stop by Deon Goggins, Pitt missed a 42 yard field goal to keep the score 7-0 SU. For once it was someone other than Syracuse leaving important points on the board.

I have received the blessing of none other than Brent Axe of The Score 1260 to be the official stat keeper for kiss cam success rate. I couldn’t be more proud. I think we were at about 90% on Friday night, although there’s always one pair who refuses to kiss and makes it awkward for everyone else.

Between the first and second quarter one of the male cheerleaders comes out in the middle of the field and tries to lead the crowd in a ‘Go Orange’ chant. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well. I’d say maybe a quarter of the crowd participated. Can’t we just have the band play for two minutes? Isn’t that what they’re for?

By the way, the public address system plays the “Jeopardy” theme whenever there is a play under review. An oldie but a goodie.

During the ‘fan cam’ segment the PA plays “Gangham Style” while the marching band dances a choreographed routine. It’s nice, but it’s no “Cotton Eye Joe”. Just saying.

So during timeouts the Dome treats us to a ‘fan cam’, ‘kiss cam’, ‘say cheese cam’, and ‘boogie cam’. Now if there was a ‘punt the ball more than 30 yards downfield’ cam I’d be excited.

This SU team is so hard to figure out. They can have such great plays and such boneheaded plays in the same game. Hell, sometimes on the same PLAY. Case in point: The unnecessary roughness personal foul on Dyshawn Davis’ fumble return for a TD. If that happened a few seconds sooner it could have wiped the points off of the board. It's those types of mental mistakes that keep a team like SU from stringing some wins together.

At one point in the second quarter the referee blew his whistle while he still had his microphone on. I can’t put into words how loud and ear-shattering it was. I think my ears are still ringing.

Art Monk was honored at halftime for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. I think he’s one of those Syracuse alums whose name isn’t immediately mentioned among the all-time greats because his pro career overshadows his college career. But clearly he was really good at SU, and it was nice to see him honored for his days on the Hill with a framed jersey and a banner hanging from the top of the Dome.

I wasn’t going to mention it, but since we all know “mcsteve” is dying to know… the press box meal was pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans. You’re welcome.

Something I noticed at the start of the second half: Keon Lyn and Shamarko Thomas on one knee praying together in the end zone away from the rest of the team.

The crowd went dead silent when Shamarko Thomas was spun around in the air on a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter. It’s always eerie when that happens and you’re live at the game, like 40,000 people silently willing him to get up and be ok. I’m glad that he was able to walk off under his own power.

The same goes for Pitt QB Tino Sunseri, who took an awkward hit in the second quarter and almost folded in half the wrong way, spasming and clutching his back as he lay on the turf. The entire stadium cringed on that one.

You could feel the tension in the air as the Orange were running out the clock late in the fourth quarter. A couple of “Let’s Go Orange” chants during timeouts helped ease things a bit, but most fans stuck around until the very end as if they were afraid of upsetting the football gods by getting too cocky too soon.

Marrone even referenced the last few minutes in his post-game press conference, saying it’s “gut-wrenching” when a team can’t take care of business and run out the clock.

The subject of Ashton Broyld’s playing time came up early on, and Marrone said matter-of-factly that the players who give the team the best chance to win will play.

You can read more direct quotes from the post-game presser here.

Jeremy Ryan is a writer/editor for CNYcentral.com in Syracuse. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyRyan44.

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