PHILADELPHIA – Just like that, 22 seasons and 151 games of Big East football competition for the Syracuse program is finished.
One final 38-20 Orange victory against Temple Friday, highlighted by an emphatic fourth quarter display on both sides of the ball, came in front of a sparse crowd (22,317) at cavernous Lincoln Financial Field on a perfect late November football afternoon, and enabled SU’s all-time conference mark to finish a game above .500 (76-75).
More importantly, it served as another sign of the two directions the program is headed – north in the won/loss column, and south to the ACC.
Five wins in six games to finish 7-5 and simultaneously close out the conference season 5-2 after being picked second-to-last in the preseason poll last summer, is, as head coach Doug Marrone declared afterwards, “a story better told by them (the players), rather than their coach.”
Topping that list is the quarterback who’s had the best career on The Hill since Donovan McNabb (1995-98).
By luck of the schedule draw, Ryan Nassib was rewarded with his final regular season game to not only come geographically close to his suburban West Chester, Pa. hometown enabling family and friends, many who also traveled because it was the Thanksgiving weekend, to see him in-person wind down his ‘Cuse career, but also summed up the a key to this year’s success, team unity.
“This was going to be an emotional game for myself coming back home,” Nassib explained afterwards when asked about returning to play in the stadium housing his longtime favorite Philadelphia Eagles
“So I made sure, along with a lot of the other Philly guys, (we) got on everybody else because you know maybe it didn’t mean as much to them because it wasn’t their hometown, but we made sure we got on them, made sure we were ready to go, and that we would be on top of our game.”
With Nassib’s stock rising who knows, the lifelong Eagles fan may be playing regularly at ‘The Linc,’ one day, becoming another Syracuse QB drafted by the building’s main tenant following McNabb’s Syracuse legacy.
“In my mind, we haven’t even seen the best of Ryan Nassib,” Marrone said when asked about the steady three-year rise of his offensive leader. “His development is going to take off; I truly believe that from what I’ve seen.”
After the bowl game allowing this year’s never-quit group to match up one more time against a quality opponent, it’s off to the newness and strange-sounding world of the ACC.