It had to be given the kind of night it was last Friday.
It was the one and only Poppy Livers who finally made me think, Boy, Syracuse really may lose this game. Yup, Poppy Livers took that punt back for a score late in the third quarter and, despite still trailing by three points, I started to wonder if the Wildcats would win.
All of a sudden, for Orange fans, after things got real weird, things got real real.
Well, for some of the fans, anyway.
5:37 to play. pic.twitter.com/gzPGhJUWXN— Matthew McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky) August 30, 2014
Sure, it's nothing new to see fans swarming to the exits like there were free tacos to be had just outside the windblown doors of the dome even before the final horn sounded. But I'll be honest, watching that many people leave with the game truly in the balance, Nova entering Syracuse's side of the field, needing any type of score to pull off the "upset," was strange.
Which was fitting given the way things went all game long. Seriously, here's a list I made while sitting there among "41,000" people.
- The "Elmira Express" video on the boards, the smoke in the air and Syracuse hits the field! 2014 is now officially underwa...what's that? Villanova pulls a Miami and runs onto the field at about the exact same time? Oh, okay then.
- Terrel Hunt punches a dude!
Game one? Against Villanova? Remember that narrative of Hunt's maturation? How many quarterbacks have you ever seen get ejected?
- Austin Wilson, at one time a fourth-stringer, leads a 13-play drive that results in a Syracuse touchdown. In other words, quarterback controversy!
- Villanova's John Robertson looks like a cross between Joe Montana and Randall Cunningham, accounting for over 300 yards of offense on his own!
- Where is Syracuse's front seven on defense? Where is Syracuse's back seven on defense? Where is Syracuse's defense?
- Some dude called Poppy Livers, A.K.A. Tide Turner, who looked a lot like Brian Westbrook out there, took a late-third quarter punt back to the house, changing the complexion of the entire game. POPPY LIVERS! (Related: My wife kept cracking up every time "Gary Underwood" was mentioned on the P.A., too.)
- Did we mention a starting quarterback was ejected for punching a dude? I did? Well, I feel like it should be pointed out again.
- One more time, how about that crowd?!
Tie game, 1:07 left. pic.twitter.com/Pvx6JDEzrl— Matthew McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky) August 30, 2014
- Chris Gough misses a 25-yard gimmie that would have likely won the game for the Wildcats. While I said to my wife, "You never know, he could miss this and all of those people who left will be trying to get back in," I really didn't think Gough was going to shank that kick.
- Syracuse goes all Syracuse-Circa-2006-Against-Iowa and can't PUNCH IT IN FOR A TOUCHDOWN in the extra frames.
- Syracuse then decides to go ONIONS in double overtime, giving us #RileyDixonForHeisman.
- Riley Dixon has more touchdown passes this season than Terrel Hunt.
- Oh, and don't forget about the Wildcats showing us their own ONIONS, too. Going for two and the win even though they were set to get the ball back to start the third overtime. Okay then!
The entire four quarters and two overtimes had the feel of being caught in traffic: start, stop, start, stop, red light, green light. Or maybe it had the vibe of going to Church: stand up, sit down, zone out, pay attention, stand up, sit down. Less a football game and more of something else, anything else.
Ultimately it was bizarre right down to the very end. And the most frustrating aspect for fans is that you can't tell what to expect out of the Orange right now. The 'Cats are clearly a better-than-average FCS opponent. And how do you even quantify what losing Terrel Hunt meant to that game? You can't. Is SU an eight-win team? Not right now, but in two weeks from now it could very well look the part again.
Who knows? You could make the argument the Orange looked more like Greg Robinson's bunch out there, a scary thought for fans who have all but blacked that past out. Has the progress we've all seen, or think we've seen, really been made or is Syracuse football right back where it always was?
One thing is for damn certain, though, there will likely not be another game this season that has the look and feel of what was displayed last Friday night. For everyone's sake, the Poppy Livers of the world are officially off the schedule.
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- Syracuse Football Player Power Rankings, Week 1: #RileyDixonForHeisman
- Syracuse Football: Terrel Hunt Will Not Be Punished For Villanova Ejection
- Double Trouble: Syracuse Uses Fake Field Goal to Avoid Upset to Villanova