We set the TNIAAM time machine to go back 25 years to follow the Syracuse Orange’s 1997 season. Each week we will recap the game and look at what was happening around the team that year. Let’s kick things off with a recap of that year’s season opener.
The Orange entered the 1997 season off a 9-3 season the previous year. That team lost their first two games then reeled off eight wins in a row before losing to Miami. The Orange went to the Liberty Bowl and beat Houston 30-17 to close the season. Entering the 1997 campaign, Syracuse was ranked 17th in the pre-season AP poll.
Syracuse faced off against the 24th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands. It didn’t take long for Syracuse to get the season going as Kevin Johnson returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. Those were the only points the Orange would need on the day as the defense bottled up Wisconsin Heisman hopeful Ron Dayne. The Badgers star gained 46 yards on 13 carries as the Syracuse defense spoiled his homecoming. Safeties Donovin Darius and Tebucky Jones had double-digit tackles on the day as they shut down the Wisconsin attack.
The Orange offense was the definition of a balanced attack. Syracuse had 227 yards rushing and 243 yards passing. Rob Konrad had 76 yards and a touchdown on only 8 carries while Kyle McIntosh carried 11 times for 66 yards. Junior quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 11 for 14 for 211 yards and one score while adding a rushing touchdown.
Syracuse moved up to 13th in AP poll as they prepare to welcome NC State to the Dome for the home opener.