Syracuse is back in a bowl game. Coach Doug Marrone is back at home.
The Orange (7-5) will play in the first ever Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against Kansas State on Dec. 30, the first time a postseason football game as been played there since the 1962 Gotham Bowl.
It also marks the return of the Orange football program to the postseason, something they haven’t done since 2004, when they were blown out 51-14 to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl.
“It’s been such a long time since we’ve been to a bowl game,” Marrone said. “The fans. The players. We’re really excited for this.”
Marrone is especially excited for the game. He is a Bronx native and grew up just minutes from Yankee Stadium. To this day he is a huge Yankees fan.
“I grew up being in the bleachers,” Marrone said. “The only way I was going to get on the field was to run on the field, but then I’d get arrested. It’s a big honor for me to be here having grown up in the Bronx.”
They will face a familiar foe in Kansas State (7-5). The two teams have met twice before in the postseason, with the Wildcats winning the 1997 Fiesta Bowl, and the then-Orangemen winning the 2001 Insight Bowl.
Kansas State is led by tailback Daniel Thomas. The senior was second in the Big 12 with 1,495 rushing yards and tied for first in the conference with 16 touchdowns.
Lining up on the other side will be Syracuse tailback Delone Carter, who is third in the Big East with 1,035 yards and seven touchdowns.
But despite Carter’s success, Syracuse’s offense has struggled recently, scoring just 23 points over the past three games. That has led to criticism that most of Syracuse’s resurgence is attributed to its defense.
“I take that to note,” Carter said. “It makes me angry. But once we go out there and I’m healthy, and the O-Line is healthy, and the wide receivers are healthy, we’re going to show what we can do.”
Unfortunately for Syracuse, the month that the football team has had to prepare for the Bowl game hasn’t been all football related.
Syracuse punter and captain Rob Long recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Although the early reports are the surgery was successful, Long will not play in the game.
“We’re going to go out with there with him in mind,” said Carter, who was Long’s roommate last year. “The way he’s handled the situation was strong, and we’re going to be strong for him.”
But that wasn’t the end of the distractions. Over the weekend, freshman linebacker Malcolm Cater was arrested and charged with several robberies and burglaries. Later in the week, he was dismissed from the team.
How has Syracuse responded with all that’s been going on?
“We always think of it is that there is no bigger distraction than the team,” quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “All you have to worry about is practice and a game coming up. We’re trained to not worry about distractions on the field so we’re not worried with the distractions off it.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.