There was a lot to say after the Syracuse Orange lost to the Liberty Flames on Saturday. One of the most common words used was “embarrassment,” often followed by some declaration about just how historically bad this game was.
I am here to tell you that is hyperbole. Not because Syracuse football played the Cumberland College role in the 1920s. No, I’m telling you it’s hyperbole because since 2000, Syracuse has been on the receiving end of some terrible beatings, some even while they were ranked among the country’s Top 25!
I’ve picked 10(!) games that within the last 20 years have some claim to the worst Syracuse game played in that time, falling into one of two categories: Embarrassing (Straight up blowout) or Syracuse Game (you know it when you see it) for your sadist pleasure. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
Georgia Tech 56, Syracuse 0, 2013 - In a game head coach Scott Shafer had said they were practicing for since before the season began, the defense shifted to a 3-4 look and was decimated. The offense was somehow worse, rushing for less than 100 yards as a team and passing for just 133.
Akron 42, Syracuse 28, 2008 - A home loss to a non-Power 5 opponent sunk the Orange to 0-2 on the season. Cameron Dantley threw for 3 scores, but was outdone by Chris Jaquemain (260 yards, double Dantley’s output with 3 scores as well) and the Zips added over 200 yards on the ground as well.
Miami 59, Syracuse 0, 2001 - The Top 15 program helmed by NCAA sack leader Dwight Freeney was ready to take on a Hurricane squad that had just thrown 4 picks the week before against BC. Instead, Miami put an emphatic stamp on their passport to all time greatness in this blowout win.
Purdue 51, Syracuse 0, 2004 - The unranked Orange went on the road for the season opener, and Joe Fields struggled, only passing for 93 yards while his counterpart Kyle Orton slung 4 touchdowns on the day.
The “Syracuse Games”
Rutgers 19, Syracuse 16 (OT), 2011 - If the Orange had won this game, they would have been bowl eligible in back to back years. Instead, Syracuse fumbled twice and threw three interceptions, attempting to gift the game to Rutgers. Instead, Rutgers fumbled 3 times and threw a pick of their own, and in overtime, Antwan Bailey’s fumble gave the Scarlet Knights a win neither team deserved. Afterwards, Ryan Nassib gave this kid a ride home from the Catholic Center in the pouring rain because I said “he didn’t play that badly.”
Syracuse 27, Villanova 26, 2014 - The only win on this list, it’s because a mostly healthy Orange lost Terrel Hunt for punching a player. Austin Wilson came in to backup, but the only Orange touchdown pass was thrown by Riley Dixon. A reminder, Villanova is an FCS school.
Minnesota 17, Syracuse 10, 2012 - Arguably the most Syracuse game on this list, the team that would go on to lose only more game in the season and finish with a share of the Big East Title fell to 1-3 on the season by losing to a 6-6 team at home, trailing the entire game. Throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles ensured ‘Cuse could never gain any footing, even though the Gophers offense couldn’t get much going on the Syracuse side of the field.
Temple 34, Syracuse 24, 2004 - Perhaps the origins of “Syracuse can’t stop mobile quarterbacks,” Temple QB Walter Washington ran for 185 yards and 3 scores, setting a Big East season record in the process. Were the Owls good? Not even remotely! This was their second win on the season and first in conference play.
Liberty 38, Syracuse 21, 2020 - As we’ve covered here enough this week, an insane amount of injuries (less than 60 scholarship players dressed!) against a team who’s new to big boy college football (albeit with a ton of money to accelerate the learning curve) that is guaranteed a slot because it was at home.
Stuck around this long? You must be a ‘Cuse fan. This isn’t to excuse anything that happened Saturday, but just a reminder that being a Syracuse Football isn’t about glory or winning. If you’ve been around here long enough, you’ve seen some dark games. I’m sure I left a few off, and there are probably plenty pre-2000 I’m too young to remember, so let me know which games are worthy of inclusion on this list in the comments.