My Day At The Dome: Syracuse Drops A Thriller To Northwestern

Ryan Nassib was the man for Syracuse, setting school and Big East records in a one point loss to Northwestern.

When the esteemed Mr. Keeley decided to request press credentials for TNIAAM for the 2012 Syracuse Orange football season, I found myself volunteering to cover the home games on behalf of Troy and the rest of us Magicians across ‘Cuse Nation. I have seen countless football and basketball games as a fan at the Carrier Dome, but never from the press box, so I jumped at a chance to rub elbows with some of my fellow keyboard jockeys and plant the Nunes flag in press row for all to fear and admire.

Here are some of the things I witnessed as the Orange staged a valiant comeback, but ultimately fell short in a 42-41 opening day loss to Northwestern.

- A little after 11:00 a.m. I arrive on campus by way of Interstate 81 and the Adams Street exit, and parked in the Standart Street lot. The SU athletic communications office provides a parking pass with the press credentials, so I have that going for me, which is nice. I walk up the hill between Sadler and Lawrinson Halls and toward the Carrier Dome.

- I enter the Dome via Stadium Control, which is basically the back door. It is across the street from the TV truck deck and Sadler. I can see my old Lawrinson dorm room, on the 20th floor corner facing the Dome. Yes, fire drills REALLY sucked.

- Since the Dome is pressurized to keep the roof from falling in on our heads, the Stadium Control entrance consists of two separate doors forming a type of airlock. Having work studied at the Dome some 15 years ago I remembered to close the first door before opening the second, lest I be swept up by the wind gust and deposited somewhere on the ESF campus. It’s kind of like when they keep the exit doors open after games, but a dozen times stronger.

- I make my way up to the second level and find the press box. I find a seat and hobnob with some other media types while I situate my laptop and phone. More than a few of you will nod your head sadly when I say that cell phone service in the Dome is spotty at best, but the school does provide wi-fi for writers to tweet, blog, email, MySpace, or whatever else the kids are doing these days. I think I even saw Bud Poliquin using a telegraph to Morse code his column back to the paper, but I may be mistaken.

- The first thing I notice when I look out at the field are the new ribbon screens which ring the Dome, and they really look nice. I think they will add a lot to the in-game experience for fans, and they definitely brighten up the drab Dome concrete.

- Not a full house by any stretch. 35,000 fans at kickoff, maybe? I made this guess a little after noon.

- The crowd was really taken out by that 1st quarter Venric Mark punt return for a TD. More on him later. The fans then proceeded to rally by lustily booing the Northwestern cheerleaders as they celebrated with some flag waving. That was enjoyable.

- It was really warm in the Dome today, and got warmer as the afternoon progressed. I made the rookie mistake of showing up in a long sleeve shirt, slacks, and tie for this swelter-fest. I know this joke has been made a million times, but how can the CARRIER Dome not have air conditioning? Does Alliance Bank Stadium not have ATMs? Is Madison Square Garden not square? Um, forget that last one.

- On that note, Pete Moore, the SU Director of Athletic Communications, just walked by and told some people on press row to stay hydrated. I was way ahead of him. I was like Forrest Gump and drank somewhere around 15 sodas. If I had met Chancellor Cantor I probably would have told her that I had to pee.

- The Northwestern crowd tries to celebrate the Mark TD in the second quarter and gets drowned out by the PA system blaring AC/DC. Nice work, Dome.

- The Dome gets really quiet and murmury when Nassib is laying on the turf in the 2nd quarter, as if they know how much he means to the team. Nice round of applause as he gets up.

- Mark is in a class by himself out there. He was almost single-handedly beating SU in the first half with his offensive and special teams work.

- Pregame and halftime is snack time in the press box. SU definitely takes care of the people who cover the game. Props to Sue Edson and her staff.

- The SU marching band sounded great at halftime, and makes an excellent alternative to canned DJ music. That’s not a sarcastic dig - I’ll always take the student bands over DJs at college games.

- Some national media types in attendance in the press box: Darren Rovell, Tim Kurkjian, the ESPN game crew… plus local Syracuse-area media like Brent Axe, Steve Infanti, Niko Tamurian, John Evenson, Chris McManus, Mike Lindsley, and Ray Rich. Lindsley and Rich were my seat-mates, and Lindsley was wearing a path to the nearest TV to watch the replay after every big play.

- As the second half started, I wondered what it would be like if SU football fans did the basketball ‘stand and clap’ routine at the start of halves. There could be fatalities.

- Syracuse RB Jerome Smith makes a huge mental mistake and lets a live screen pass be picked up by a Northwestern defender for a TD. Terrible play, but then some dude on Twitter suggests Smith "GO DIE IN A DITCH SOMEWHERE" (yes, in all caps). Um, go Orange?

- Advertisers in the new ribbon screen: Hyundai, Pepsi, Tops supermarkets, Aspen Dental, AT&T, Papa’s Sports (local t-shirt company), McDonald’s, and a number of others. It's safe to say that thing will pay for itself VERY soon.

- Syracuse kicker Ross Krautman misses a 44 yard field goal in the 3rd quarter. Yep, 44. Even the football gods are against them today. That miss will become HUGE later.

- Lindsley, midday host at The Score 1260 in Syracuse, asks - in all seriousness - if SU will get within 50 of USC next weekend. I laughed at first… and then started to cry a little.

- Every time SU gets a first down I hear SNL’s Andy Samberg say "That’ll move the chains" in my head. So I’m easily amused. Leave me alone.

- Attendance announced at 37,830. I think that’s a little optimistic, and kinda disappointing for a home opener. Would you blame the nice weather, or the on-field product?

- After Nassib hits Jeremiah Kobena for a 50 yard bomb to bring SU within 8, the entire Dome crowd sings Journey's Don’t Stop Believin'. Nassib sets a school record with his 30th completion in one game. I don’t know which is harder to believe.

- I don’t think I have seen a crowd get up and then be deflated as many times in one game as this one. SU’s big plays are constantly tempered by mental errors and fundamental mistakes. It only gets worse as the game goes on.

- The middle of the 4th quarter got exciting as SU pulled to within two, but then a sketchy pass interference non-call that denied SU a two point conversion (and a tie) really deflated the crowd.

- Some new rules affected the game today: Kickoffs start five yards closer, making touchbacks easier. Also, players have to come out of the game if their helmets come off. Northwestern’s Colter had to leave the game before a big 3rd down and 3 in the 4th quarter with about 6:00 left.

- SU makes a furious comeback to take the lead 41-35 with 2:40 left. They were down by 22 at one point in the game.

- Ryan Nassib’s records for completions and yards in a game are more impressive to me considering SU’s long football history. It's interesting to note that an SU player will hold the Big East record for passing yards considering... you know.

- 2:15 to go in the game. I have heard the Dome very loud for basketball, but never this loud for football. Those who showed up today are really into it.

- Another mental lapse on an out of bounds roughing penalty gives Northwestern new life on what looked like a big 3rd down stop by the Orange. That effectively ends the game as Northwestern scores a TD soon after.

- This loss will go down as a heartbreaker for Newhouse alums and students alike, as SU loses to a hated journalism school rival. Well, maybe not 'hated', but perhaps mildly disliked. At least we have Missouri later this season, right?

- For all of Nassib’s great play today, he seems to have trouble throwing the ball downfield. More than one of his long passes to Sales forced the receiver to slow down and wait for the ball to arrive, allowing the defensive back to catch up and make a tackle. SU also had problems looking downfield on the last drive when they needed about 40 yards to get into field goal range, but every play was dumped short.

- The post-game press conference is in a back room on the first floor of the Dome. Marrone spoke first, for maybe 5-10 minutes, then a handful of players spoke after him. Check my Twitter feed @JeremyRyan44 for a recap. The highlight was Kobena giving us our first "Humble and Hungry" of the season, and Marrone promising "We’ll be better." With #1 USC on the docket for next week… I hope so.

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

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