Orange Watch: Last four times Syracuse football was 4-0 covers nearly 60 years

Andrew Armstrong
Syracuse linebacker Andrew Armstrong lines up against UConn. Mandatory Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online.

Item: it’s a week to savior Syracuse football fans. Only 16 FBS teams including the ‘Cuse are undefeated after four games played (five teams are 3-0), Eric Dungey was the ACC quarterback of the week, Alton Robinson the D-Lineman of the week in the conference, and Sean Riley the top specialist after the rout of Connecticut. In addition, the four–for-four start, with the 2018 season joining 1959, 1987, and 1991 as the only Post World War II campaigns in which Syracuse football won its first four games in a season, (1942 was the next 4-0 start to a season going backwards), spotlights just how tough it is to accomplish the feat. You need the right schedule order of home/away games, a little luck, and a lot of talent which this week snared quite of bit of Orange-colored ACC weekly hardware.

As Syracuse (4-0, 1-0) looks to knock off conference power and No. 2/3 ranked Clemson (4-0, 1-0) for the second straight year, an incredible statement to make in its own right, with an upset as four touchdown plus underdogs Saturday afternoon at the usual raucous Memorial Stadium, (12:00 p.m. ET /TV-Audio: ABC-Sirius XM) it would not only be the first 5-0 start since the undefeated 1987 team’s 11-0-1 finish, but would certainly place the program in the Top 25 for the first time since 2001, ending the second longest poll-less streak (Indiana-Sept. 1994) among Power 5 schools.

Here’s a look at each of the four 4-0 Syracuse seasons dating back to the 1959 National Championship season, which will celebrate a 60th anniversary next year (along with it being the 150th anniversary of college football’s 1869 inaugural game):

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1959 – Four weeks before Syracuse ascended to the top of Eastern Football with back-to-back shutouts of West Virginia and Pittsburgh by a combined 79-0, and a subsequent thrilling 20-18 nail-biter at archrival Penn State, Ben Schwartzwalder’s all-time team gave up just 34 points in wins over Kansas, Maryland, Navy and Holy Cross (the Crusader’s return to the 2019 schedule).

1987 – Coming off a 5-6 season, the opening win at Maryland completely set the tone for this team’s mindset of a special season. Wins over Rutgers, Miami (Ohio), and Virginia Tech grew the bandwagon each week, before a win at Missouri and a two week break until the historic Penn State rout cemented the fact that this was going to be a special season, ending with a No. 4 ranking.

1991 – The Kirby Dar Dar opening kickoff return for a touchdown for Paul Pasqualoni’s team to upend Steve Spurrier’s No. 5 Gators, will always be remembered in Orange football lore. It was also the third of the four opening wins that included another SEC member, Vanderbilt, and Maryland and Tulane. As we wrote in previewing the Florida State upset two weeks ago, the 4-0 start came to a crashing halt in a rain-soaked Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee in week five.

2018 – Eric Dungey certainly set the tone for his senior season and his role as team leader at July’s ACC Football Kickoff media event in Charlotte. The now two-time conference QB of the week this season, Dungey displayed his displeasure hearing those supporting the program talking about the minimum six victories needed to qualify for a bowl game, when he was quickly reminding everyone that would listen that he wasn’t stopping at the number six. As former athletic director (1978-2004) Jake Crouthamel would have said through that magical 1987 season in summing up this week, “Four down. One to go.”

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 544 Articles
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.