Orange Watch: The Syracuse-LSU game chance for rare breakthrough victory

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A monumental upset over top ten ranked LSU Saturday, would likely be noticed on the recruiting trail for Scott Shafer and his staff

Item: If, and with the talent, team speed, and depth disparity it’s a monumental IF, Syracuse were to upset No. 7/9 LSU Saturday in the Dome (Noon ET/ESPN), there could be some parallels made to the 1984 home shocker against top-ranked Nebraska during Dick MacPherson’s fourth season of rebuilding the program back to becoming an annual bowl game invitee as an Eastern Independent at a time in which there were under 40 teams going to the postseason, not the 80 that will go bowling this year. Most importantly, an unfathomable victory would also turn out to be exactly the sort of development that Scott Shafer and his staff could use to swivel the heads of talented and impressionable recruits to consider, or reconsider, wearing orange in seasons to come as they compete in the ACC.

With college football Hall of Famer Tim Green his linchpin, a central New York star and as talented a scholastic player at his position as any in the country, and soon overlapping following the Nebraska upset with the arrival of a versatile and athletic Long Island quarterback named Don McPherson, also a Hall of Fame member, Coach Mac began to build the 1980s recruiting classes in his manner comprising not only athletic ability as it pertained to on field performance, and he turned out plenty of NFL players, but representing the university through academic and community achievement with high character, faith and integrity.

Sound familiar? That’s Shafer’s program building ‘MO’ today, and there’s certainly no doubt that’s the direction recruiting has taken in his three classes so far, highlighted by the program-building, and promotionally attractive marquee player in quarterback Eric Dungey. In parts of only three games of his ‘Cuse tenure, Dungey has already demonstrated he is the rare difference maker at the most important position, and following the scary and illegal hit to the head he took against Central Michigan last weekend, here’s hoping his health will improve sooner than later to allow him to continue his promising college career.

While awaiting the Bayou Bengals arrival this weekend, here are a couple of fun facts about the great Nebraska upset in comparison with the challenge of facing a formidable top ten ranked LSU team:

1984 Nebraska Game 2015 LSU Game
Date Sept. 29 Sept. 26
Time Noon ET Noon ET
TV USA Network ESPN
Announcers Curt Gowdy/Len Dawson Bob Wischusen/Brock Huard
Previous Game vs. Opponent 1983-Lost 63-7 at Lincoln 1989-Won 23-10 at Tampa (H of F Bowl)
Opponent last game in Northeast 1983 vs. Penn State (at N.J.) 1947 vs. Boston College
 Opponent Ranking No. 1 (unanimous) No. 7/9 (one first place vote)
 Opponent Week Before Beat UCLA at Pasadena 42-3 Beat Auburn at Baton Rouge 45-21
 Syracuse Week Before Lost to Rutgers at Dome 19-0 Beat Central Michigan at Dome 30-27 (OT)
 Opponent Star Player Senior RB Jeff Smith Sophomore RB Leonard Fournette
 Attendance 47,280 To Be Determined
 Final Score 17-9 To Be Determined

» Related: Reserves play key role in Syracuse’s win over Central Michigan

A couple of final interesting notes about the 1984 Nebraska game:

  • Smith, who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated the week of the game with the headline “The Big Red Machine,” was the nation’s top rusher after three weeks but did not play against SU because of an injured ankle suffered the week before against UCLA. Talk about the “SI cover jinx.” (Interesting side note: LSU’s Fournette, the current Heisman Trophy frontrunner, might have been the nation’s leading rusher coming into Saturday’s game if he had a chance to play in all three scheduled games as the Tiger’s season opener against McNeese State was canceled by lightning. Fournette is 120 yards behind Indiana’s Jordan Howard who has played three games, and on 31 fewer attempts, but does lead the nation with his 193.5 rushing yards per game average.)
  • The Orangemen special teams knocked out (in the course of the play) starting Cornhuskers fullback, and nine year NFL player, Tom Rathman, on the opening kickoff setting the tone for the upset.
  • The game ended so fast, shortly after 3:00 p.m. ET, and with no studio show to throw it back to on the fledgling USA Network that had the rights to the game through syndicator Katz Sports, the broadcasting crew of Hall of Famers Gowdy and Dawson had to fill some 20 minutes of airtime until 3:30, an eternity on live TV, with joyous interviews of Coach Mac and SU players. Many in the large crowd stormed the field afterwards to celebrate, then loudly demanded, and received, an encore from the victorious Orangemen who re-emerged onto the field.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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