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Syracuse Football Remembers The "Program-Changer"

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A couple weeks back, OrangeInJersey asked if a win over Washington would have been a signature win for Marrone and the program. The implied thought is that a win over a top program like UDub would be a "program changer," propeling Syracuse football back into the world of bowl games, conference titles and even more.

It didn't happen, and it's fair to say that even if we had won, it still probably wouldn't have been "the game that changed everything." In fact, I'm pretty sure that game isn't on our schedule this season.

A Program-Changer almost certainly has to be against a non-conference opponent. Not just any non-conference opponent, but an elite one. The No. 1 team in the country would be best. And you have to be a massive underdog. Double-digits, at least. +20, even better. And the game has to be at home. There's just something about winning a game like that at home, seeing the crowd believe and hearing them cheer...that's when you know you've got a Program-Changer.

Before the 1984 Syracuse-Nebraska game in the Carrier Dome, SU football was a national afterthought. 5-6, 4-6, 2-9...the Orangemen were just another Northeastern football program down on its luck. When the No. 1 Cornhuskers came to the Dome on September 29th, there was no reason to think the team that had won 23-straight games wasn't going to roll outta here with another massive victory. They were favored by 20+ points and had defeated SU 63-7 in 1983.

Instead, Syracuse fans witnessed a Program-Changer. Syracuse 17, Nebraska 9. It sounds even cooler when you know the backstory.

By now you know the story. Coach Ben Schwartzwalder predicted a win in his post-practice talk to the team. Dick MacPherson got the guys fired up with an assignment to write letters detailing how each of them would contribute to an improbable win. Current head coach Doug Marrone, then a starting offensive tackle, foretold in his that the program "would have experienced a great day for Syracuse football both for now and the future."

In the short-term, the program carried on as it had been. The next couple years were good but not great. But then, not be coincidence, the program broke out of the mediocre mold three years later, going 11-0-1. They followed that up with a 10-2 year and the rest is history. Syracuse football was a different program.

If you're looking at the current version of the Syracuse Orange and wondering if we can ever return to that place, take comfort in knowing it's possible. There's plenty of possibilities ahead of us on the schedule. All we need is one. One win to confirm to the nation that we're not a pushover anymore. It's coming. Maybe not this season, and certainly not this week, but soon.

The 1984 Syracuse Football team, which includes Doug Marrone, will be honored on Saturday for their Program-Changer victory. Who knows, maybe one day we'll be doing the same thing for the 2011 or 2012 Orange. has a bunch of fan memories from the game.