Kansas State and Oregon fans know college football can be crazy. Those two programs had it all one the line Saturday night against very beatable teams, and both lost. The two didn't just lose a game, they most likely dropped a chance at playing for the national title. Soul-crushing defeats for players and for fans.
Syracuse Orange fans are all too familiar with those types of Ls. Football for SU hasn't been crazy. It's quite the opposite actually. The Orange has been down right predictable. A drubbing in a double-digit loss or a last second, come from ahead loss. And over the last decade SU fans have expected to lose. The only fear being what kind of gut-punch to expect. A loss is a loss is a loss is a loss.
So when the Orange fell behind 14 - 3 early at Missouri on Saturday, it just looked like another one of those typical "Syracuse didn't show up" Ls. A game where SU makes a mostly inferior opponent look like a top tier team.
But this 11 point difference wasn't what it used to be for Syracuse. Could the Orange take a step back next year? Sure. Was 11 points too much for last year's team? Yes. But this year? There is just something special about Syracuse football. Not quite like a team headed for a national title, but special like, no matter the opponent, or the atmosphere, or the situation, this Orange team can never be counted out.
Credit Jay Bromley and Deon Goggins and Brandon Sharpe and the rest of the defense (especially the secondary) for clamping down after looking lost in the first quarter. Credit the entire offensive line, along with Ryan Nassib and Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales for doing just enough when needed.
Actually, let's spotlight Lemon for just a second. 12 catches for 244 yards and two scores, including the game winning touchdown. The spectacular senior averaged, AVERAGED, over 20 yards a catch. Lemon caught seven passes and his two TDs in the fourth quarter alone. Ryan Nassib to Alec Lemon was the entire game-winning drive. There is zero question the Orange needed Lemon and Nassib found him and, inexplicably, the Tigers lost him. Period. Lemon was amazing -- a potential NFL star on the rise.
But the bigger picture here is Syracuse football is fun again. And not just, Hey SU isn't down 20 this is fun! fun. Syracuse has proven it can compete with anyone, a team that can score on anyone, a team that can beat anyone. Just ask Northwestern and USC about stopping the Orange. Just ask Louisville and Missouri about beating the Orange. This isn't that typical pushover team with the block S on the helmet.
In fact, this isn't Paul Pasqualoni's Orange, or Greg Robinson's Orange, this is truly Doug Marrone's Syracuse Orange. A program that is never out of it, a program that has now qualified for two bowl games in three years. A program that has become competitive in just about every atmosphere -- including a "black-out" senior night environment on the road in the SEC. Mizzou isn't Alabama SEC, but the Tigers are SEC worthy and Syracuse won. On Missouri's home field. Unreal. Marrone's stamp is officially on Syracuse football
Trying to understand what SU did at Missouri, and what it has made of this season, may be difficult. Especially after all those losses all those years. But it's probably time to let it sink in; Syracuse football can compete with just about anyone. Let's take that a step further. Syracuse football can beat just about anyone. There's a reason its only 6-5, SU is not a top tier team, but it is going back to a bowl and has a chance at finishing with 7 wins overall and 5 wins in conference. Things are different.
Just a few days ago, hell, just a few hours ago, the Ducks of Oregon were thinking about playing the Wildcats for a BCS title. Just a couple of weeks ago, Syracuse fans were starting to openly question Doug Marrone's ability to lead the Orange program. The team, at one point, was 1-3 in a 12 game season! And now, we're not totally sure who will end up playing for the national title, but we are sure Syracuse football is headed in the right direction.
A crazy season in the always crazy world of college football. A refreshing change for Orange fans.