Bronx, N.Y. – There was so much gained from SU’s performance in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl that wasn’t evident from the final digits that illuminated loudly on the state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium scoreboards.
Sure, the large gold numbers displayed a 36-34 Orange victory in hold-your-breath fashion over an athletic Kansas State team that ended Doug Marrone’s second season on a strong note with the program’s first bowl win in almost a decade.
The encouraging play on both sides of the ball overcame some shaky special teams play and was welcome relief after a lackluster November ended faint hopes of winning a BCS bid and had fans scratching their heads about an offense that went into an early winter hibernation.
Even before the victory that will no doubt have some of the top-rated recruits still considering an Orange college career, the university and, in particular, the football program, received the kind of exposure that would burst any advertising and marketing budget paying Big Apple rates — priceless publicity that will be more than off-set by the travel costs to send the large official contingent to the expensive city for five days.
Courtesy of a New York Yankees organization that opened its arms wide for Bronx native Marrone, while simultaneously respectfully embracing the Wildcat visitors from little Manhattan, the Syracuse Yankees vibe was pronounced through a blurry week of practices across the river in New Jersey and being shuttled in luxurious coach buses to a host of events all over the island of big Manhattan.
“He’s done a great job, and he’s from here,” Yankee managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said of Marrone, standing along the sidelines yelling over the noise of the crowd as the final minutes of the Orange victory ticked away. “It was a great way to start [in the bowl business].”
Indeed, as Marrone repeatedly stated since the invitation was extended, that other than a BCS bowl for winning the conference crown, there was no better destination than for him to lead his program back to his Bronx hometown and conveniently contribute to the mantra of athletic director Daryl Gross that the “Orange is in the Apple.”
There was the Orange sports boss and his constant companion, Chancellor Nancy Cantor, repeating a scene that has become commonplace for the two after big athletic conquests, running wildly onto the frozen Yankee Stadium field, screaming like teenagers, to hug players and coaches in celebration.
“We’re back. We’re back,” Gross enthused as he grabbed this reporter in spontaneous embrace outside the jubilant SU locker room. “Doug’s speech to the team in there was awesome. This [win and upward direction] is going to help recruiting big time.”
Afterward, in typical New York City fashion, there was junior defensive end Mikhail Marinovich — credited with six tackles and half a sack against the Wildcats — his ex-model wife of just more than four months, Courtney, and several friends returning to their midtown hotels on the D train.
He spoke in awe of his head coach’s postgame speech, and he acknowledged that his extra year of prep school at Milford Academy in 2007 means he has one more year of eligibility. Marinovich summed up the wishful thoughts of all Orange fans:
“It’s going to be a great season next year.”
Brad Bierman is a special contributor for The Juice Online.