Orange Watch: The top quarterbacks to play against Syracuse in Carrier Dome history

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Louisville’s mercurial sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson had an offensive game for the ages in the Cardinals rout of Syracuse last week

Item:  Coming off of one of the greatest individual performances by any player against a Syracuse defense not only in the Dome era (1980-present) but in the history of the program, from Louisville’s gifted sophomore Lamar Jackson (610 yards of total offense keyed by a 72 yard touchdown pass 16 seconds into the game) in last Friday night’s 62-28 demolition of the Orange, it got us to thinking about the many great quarterbacks that have performed under the big top on campus since the building opened 36 years ago next week.  Some went on to have a Hall of Fame career as a pro; others peaked in college football, but all had amazing talent with unique characteristics to their game.  

Following his first defeat as a Syracuse coach, Dino Babers praised the Cardinals and their quarterback for their offensive dominance, and he highlighted one play that dazzled the Dome attendees and the national TV audience, Jackson’s nine yard touchdown run late in the first half in which he cleanly hurdled ‘Cuse defense back Cordell Hudson’s grasp for a tackle, permanently placing Hudson in the picture as the player victimized by a fantastic athletic play.

“You better hope (Jackson) makes it to the Hall of Fame,” Babers said in his postgame press conference referring to Hudson as the “other” player in the shot.  “(Then) you have a signature picture.”

Whether or not Jackson ends up having a Hall of Fame career remains to be seen, even though he won his second straight Walter Camp national player of the week award on Monday, and he was the most recent “name” quarterback to play against SU in the Dome.

Who are some of the other big time opposing quarterbacks to face the Orange indoors?  Like any other list, it’s open to debate; here are five names that come to mind:

» Related: Syracuse football notebook: The heat was on in the Carrier Dome

Dan Marino, Pittsburgh 1980 and ‘82 – Marino put on a passing clinic in the Dome’s first season in a 43-6 rout of SU, but wasn’t quite as effective in Pitt’s 14-0 win two years later.  Marino was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Doug Flutie, Boston College 1981 and ‘83 – The 1984 Heisman Trophy winner was 0-2 in The Loud House, but he left his college career as the game’s all-time leader in passing yardage before embarking on a respectable, if not stellar 21 year professional career in three leagues (USFL, CFL, NFL).  Flutie was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tom Brady, Michigan 1999 – While Donovan McNabb and SU got the best of Brady and the Wolverines the year before in the Big House, Brady led UM to revenge the next season 18-13.  The four time Super Bowl champion is a future first ballot Hall of Famer.

Michael Vick, Virginia Tech 2000 – Vick led the No. 2 ranked, undefeated Hokies into the Dome in 2000, and despite a highlight film game from Orange All American Dwight Freeney who had 4.5 sacks chasing down Vick, it was his 55 yard scamper for a touchdown with 1:34 left in the 4th quarter that proved to be the difference and deny the Orangemen a huge upset.

Jameis Winston, Florida State 2014 – Winston became the first sitting Heisman Trophy winner to play on the Syracuse campus when he led the top-ranked Seminoles into town midway through the ’14 season, and he played like it.  Winston threw for 317 yards and three scores, continually frustrating the SU defense by dancing out of trouble on numerous occasions to find time to throw the ball in the ‘Noles 38-20 victory.

We’ll finish the list with a little remembered fact about two other well known quarterbacks that once played in the Dome, but not against a Syracuse team.

In August 1981, financially backed by local business leader J. Stanley Coyne (whose name adorns the stadium adjacent to Manley Field House) to make sure there were more annual prestigious events in the building to continually attract sports fans to spread the economic wealth around central New York, there was an NFL preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints, a Sunday afternoon national telecast on NBC that was blacked out locally.

The starting quarterbacks in the game were a current ESPN Xs and Os guru and one time Monday Night Football analyst, Ron Jaworski for the Eagles, and the father of two players who have won two Super Bowls apiece and will both be enshrined one day in the Hall of Fame, Archie Manning of the Saints.

Jaworski and Manning actually played into the third quarter of the exhibition game in front of a disappointing Dome crowd of only 28,000, the Eagles winning 36-7.

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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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