The members of the SU football traveling contingent awoke in their hotel in the Southland Friday morning, the vast area of Southern California covering nine counties and home to the nation’s second largest metropolitan area with some 17 million residents, and certainly a long way from central New York both geographically, culturally, and meteorologically.
The Orange, looking to go to 3-0 for the first time since Paul Pasqualoni’s first season in 1991, are centered in Los Angeles proper, not far from the storied Coliseum where they face potent USC Saturday afternoon as a two touchdown-plus underdog to one of the sport’s more famous programs, now facing an immediate future that’s been riddled by a post-season ban and recruiting reductions from the fallout of improper benefits provided to forfeited Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush in the mid-2000s.
The famous stadium in Exposition Park that’s hosted two Olympic Games, two Super Bowls, and a World Series among a myriad of events in its 89-year history also happens to be the site of the last regular season victory by a SU football team on the west coast, a 32-14 win over UCLA and its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gary Beban in the 1967 regular season finale, a week after second-ranked USC edged then number-one UCLA 21-20 in that season’s “Game of the Century” (the ‘Cuse did blank Arizona in that far Western outpost Honolulu in the 1990 Aloha Bowl, Dick MacPherson’s last game as head coach).
Syracuse has even played at Southern Cal before, way back in 1924 the stadium’s second season, losing 16-0 in head coach John F. Meehan’s fifth and final year guiding the Orangemen on the gridiron. That game occurred around the same time the program began traveling regularly by train around the country as the sport’s popularity increased nationally with intersectional games starting to pop up on bigger school’s schedules.
By our count Syracuse football teams have played opponents in 36 states and twice outside the country (Canada and Japan). The Orange first visited California in 1915 defeating Occidental 35-0, a game that resulted in the school declining a Rose Bowl invitation following a 9-1-2 season as it didn’t want to make a return (several days) train trip to Pasadena after a three-game Western swing that had concluded less than a month earlier.
From Alabama to Arizona, California to Connecticut, and Washington to West Virginia, SU football has made the rounds nationally in its 122 seasons of play, establishing a reputation for playing college football’s major programs no matter when or where, and that’s still a major recruiting tool to players that not only will you face a very competitive conference schedule, but the non-league games will be among some of the very best programs in America.
With an upset win over one of the sport’s premier programs Saturday night, that ‘Cuse traveling party might not even need a plane to fly back home.