No matter who you were rooting for in Sunday’s NFC and AFC Championship Games, it’s easy to call the day’s losses gut-wrenching for the teams on the receiving end.
The New Orleans Saints, obviously, have at least a few qualms about an uncalled pass interference penalty against the Rams. In Kansas City, the Chiefs have some choice complaints of their own that played a part in a defeat at the hands of Patriots.
But putting attention back on the fans: Losses like that are absolutely awful to go through. We’ve seen at least a few of them ourselves as Syracuse Orange, with the biggest and most obvious one involving Keith “Fucking” Smart in 1987.... for those that were around for it, anyway.
Though we claim the hurt no matter when we started rooting for SU, many of us weren’t around to see the ill-fated game against Indiana. Instead, we have our own game(s) that define pain as an Orange fan.
The TNIAAM staff weighed in on their own selections below:
St. John’s 93, Syracuse 60 (2016)
While the stakes weren’t high as my Syracuse basketball perspective isn’t long, the St. John’s 30-point loss in the Carrier Domes strikes me as a low point for Orange basketball. Syracuse suffered some frustrating losses to marginal competition in recent years, Old Dominion and Connecticut stick out this season, but that St. John’s loss reeked of “alright, what are we doing here?” Sure enough, the Orange didn’t make the NCAA Tournament that year despite three sensational upset wins in ACC play — and it can all be traced back to that horrific effort. And effort is the right word, because it didn’t exist for SU that day.
At half they trailed by 10 points to a team with a losing record that hadn’t been relevant nationally in many years. Then Tyler Lydon and company exited the locker room tossing the ball around for 19 turnovers and getting run off the court in transition. To lose by 30 at the Carrier Dome is unheard of for even long-time Syracuse basketball fans. To do it against that team, especially with old Big East ties, must’ve made it ten times worse. i don’t think I’ll see one quite that bad for many years to come.
Oklahoma 30, Syracuse 29 (1994)
I was only five when Keith Smart’s shot went in and Syracuse failed to quickly call a timeout in the ‘87 title game, but I remember crying while trying to figure out what the heck happened--I’ve successfully avoided the replay of that loss to Indiana ever since. Another Syracuse-related loss that sticks with me is the defeat to Oklahoma at the Dome in ‘94. The Orangemen were left for dead at halftime down 24-0, and I remember a group of Oklahoma fans, about five to ten college-aged guys, storming the concession area near our seats chanting “OU! OU! OU!” and ripping jokes about Syracuse. I would bet a lot of people left before the third quarter even started. Still, somehow Syracuse managed to come back and even grab lead with just over a minute to play when Kevin Mason found Marvin Harrison for a 48-yard TD pass.
The Dome was as loud as it had been in a couple of years when Harrison crossed the goal line; 48,000-plus screaming fans made it feel like my ears were bleeding. To most everyone watching, it really appeared as though Syracuse was going to take down mighty OU, which came into central New York as a 7 to 7.5-point favorite. It wasn’t to be though, as SU was called for an “unsportsman like” celebration penalty after the touchdown and then subsequently missed the PAT that would have given the Orangemen a three-point lead. Instead, the penalty ended up giving OU great field position on its ensuing drive, which ultimately resulted in a game-winning field goal.
Pittsburgh 33, Syracuse 20
If we’re going true, gut wrenching, couldn’t live with it loss, my freshman year when a 5-6 Cuse lost on the road to a 5-6 Pitt. The game Cuse needed to snap a losing skid, get back to a bowl game, and keep a few of us idiots who actually traveled to the game happy. It was a close game that Cuse never really had control of, but the environment inside of Heinz was non-existent. It wasn’t a road game, and Cuse was definitely the better team. Instead I was left to wander downtown Pittsburgh clad in Orange being asked by drunken Yinzers if “I knew Troy Nunes.”
Butler 63, Syracuse 59 (2010)
I’ll go with the loss to Butler in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. I still think that team was one of the best Cuse squads that I’ve seen and that year was wide open for them. There are other games that sting but knowing that team was just a healthy Onuaku from winning stings. Not only was it a talented team, it was a very likable group of Syracuse athletes.
Michigan 61, Syracuse 56 (2013)
For those expecting a football game here, the 2012 Northwestern game, 2018 Clemson game and 2006 Iowa game were also considered. Hoops had some other contenders as well (Dayton 2014, Duke 2014, Butler, Vermont...) but the stakes in this one make it the most brutal of all.
Michigan was favored going in, and made good on that with an 11-point lead at half. But Syracuse battled back and was down 58-56 with under 30 seconds left — yet had the ball. You know the rest... Brandon Triche drove the lane, and was called for a nonsensical charge. The Wolverines hit a free throw on the other end, then Trevor Cooney was blocked driving the lane.
The 2016 Final Four was lucky and we knew it, so losing wasn’t as bad. But in 2013, the Orange were every bit a championship contender and yet the refs took their shot away from them. I still hate Michigan hoops as a result. I’ll also never go back to the Long Beach Yard House where I watched the game.
How about you? What’s your most gut-wrenching Syracuse loss?