Item: Not a better time than Friday night in Houston for the ‘Cuse to win consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1995-96.
In the modern era of Syracuse football, that being from Ben Schwartzwalder’s debut in 1949 to present, there have been three separate periods in which Syracuse football was a regular participant in bowl games.
The initial time frame occurred following a first-ever bowl game appearance in the 1953 Orange Bowl in which the Orangemen were shellacked by Alabama 61-6, followed by three more appearances that decade up to the 1960 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas and the validation of a national championship season.
From 1961-66 there were three bowl appearances including the final games in SU uniforms for Ernie Davis (1961 Liberty Bowl) and Floyd Little (1966 Gator Bowl), then a long gap until Frank Maloney finally took a more-talented-than-its-6-5-record team to a 1979 Independence Bowl win over McNeese State.
The Dick MacPherson program-saving and bowl game resurgence lasted from 1985-90 with five appearances, two on New Year’s Day, followed by Paul Pasqualoni teams playing in nine bowls over 14 years up to 2004, with five of those major bowls or New Year’s Day dates.
Six long seasons followed before what looks to be the latest era of knowing the program can legitimately compete for an annual bowl game spot, and there will, after all, be four more bowl games next year accounting for 78 of the 125 FBS teams. It’s an absolute must for an ACC program not to be shut out, as witnessed by 11 of the 14 leagues schools going bowling in this inaugural expanded season.
The genesis of Scott Shafer’s initial bowl success this season started with Doug Marrone’s rebuilding work leading to the 2010 and 2012 Pinstripe Bowl victories, and continues Friday with the match-up against Minnesota for the third time over the last five years at Reliant Stadium.
A bowl qualifying record (albeit assisted by scheduling FCS member Wagner) but also importantly a 4-4 league mark, tied for a third place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson is a story to sell recruits. A bowl game victory won’t hurt either, and Coach Shaf and his staff are heading into having almost a full calendar year cycle under their recruiting belts heading into National Letter of Intent Day Feb. 5.
Beefing up the talent as both MacPherson and Marrone did in rebuilding modes, puts Shafer in the same situation as Pasqualoni 20 seasons ago, build on recent success with an eye towards moving the program closer to more appearances in the Top 25 poll, something that hasn’t occurred since 2001.