Coming Home to a Familiar Foe

It’s been nine years.

Almost a decade since Syracuse has played in a meaningful bowl game. Putting aside the embarrassment against Georgia Tech in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl, the Orange will take the field at Yankee Stadium on December 30 looking to take one more step towards breathing life back into a once tradition-rich program.

And they’ll do it against a familiar postseason foe.

The last time Syracuse walked off the football field victorious in a bowl game Ryan Nassib was 11 years old. Doug Marrone was wearing Orange, but at the University of Tennessee. It was even still politically correct to call Syracuse, the Orangemen. Regardless of those differences, one thing between then and now remains the same: their opponent and its coach.

When Kansas State lined up against Syracuse at the 2001 Bowl, they were stifled defensively and managed just three points in 60 minutes of play.

James Mungro ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns, tying Jim Brown’s school record for rushing touchdowns in a bowl game, and the Orange went on to shut down the Wildcats, 26-3. The Orange were looking to avenge a 35-18 loss from the 1997 Fiesta Bowl back when Donovan McNabb was still under center.

Bill Snyder, who returned to the helm of the Wildcats in 2008 after a three-year absence, oversaw both the Fiesta Bowl rout and the Bowl flop. And despite the struggles in recent years, Coach Snyder recognizes that the 2010 Orange have more of the feel of the prior Syracuse teams he’s faced than those of the Greg Robinson era.

“There’s a toughness that goes with that program, and I think they’ve redeveloped that in the right way,” said Snyder.

Perhaps Snyder would be better compared to Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim. The football stadium on campus bears his name and will be seeking his 150th career win against the Orange, is the winningest football coach in Kansas State history.

The Wildcats haven’t been to the postseason since 2006, a 37-10 loss to Rutgers in the Texas Bowl. To say when the 2010 New Era Pinstripe Bowl kicks off next week, a win will mean more than a final score is an understatement. It will mean more than the $2 million pot of gold. It will be the next step in the right direction for each of these programs.

Consider that since taking over in 2005, Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross has looked to make New York State’s only BCS school, New York’s college team. He’s lit up the Empire State Building orange and packed Madison Square Garden in March.

For Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone, it’s just as much about recruiting in the Northeast as it about coming home to the Bronx. His father was an usher at the old Yankee Stadium.

“I don’t think it’s ever gonna hit me until years down the road,” Marrone said. “I know I talked to my parents and I was telling them that I’m getting ready to do a press conference at Yankee Stadium, and it truly is a dream come true.”

Not to mention, Syracuse played the first football game ever at Yankee Stadium, a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh on October 20, 1923. The legendary Ernie Davis played his last college football game there.

Date Opponent Score
October 20, 1923 Pittsburgh W 3-0
October 12, 1940 NYU W 47-13
October 18, 1941 NYU W 31-0
November 5, 1960 Army L 6-9
November 11, 1963 Notre Dame W 14-7
November 7, 1964 Army W 27-15

Now, the Orange return to the Bronx, looking to continue their winning ways. A new stadium awaits, but the Orange is hoping for similar results.

And while it might not mean much, they just better remember the other team is from a place called Manhattan.