Orange Watch: Part I, The most memorable Syracuse games in Carrier Dome history

About to begin its 36th season of operation, the Carrier Dome era has produced so many games that revive memories throughout Orange Nation
About to begin its 36th season of operation, the Carrier Dome era has produced so many games that revive memories throughout Orange Nation

(Editor’s note: Over the summer, leading up to the 2015 football preview series in late August, Orange Watch will highlight various antidotes related to Syracuse athletics.)

The September 4th football season opener against Rhode Island (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN3) will mark the beginning of the 36th year that the Big Three Syracuse sports have called the Dome home.

With plans and ideas percolating among Chancellor Kent Syverud, new AD Mark Coyle, university VP and Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala and others, the effort is on to spearhead plans to maximize revenue within the building’s existing footprint, while also investing in renovations to bring the facility more in line with other contemporary entertainment venues across the country as it inches closer to its 40th season in the 2019-20 school year.

In an unusual scheduling quirk, for the first time in Dome history the ‘Cuse will open with four straight home games (the 2005 team opened with the first three at home, and the last time the first four were played at Archbold Stadium was 80 years ago in 1935), giving Orange Nation hope that a 3-0 start is doable for the first time since 1991 with Wake Forest and Central Michigan following the URI opener, and preceding the visit of SEC power LSU, picked as the fourth best team in that annually strong conference in its recently released preseason media poll.

That’s all in the near term future, for now, here’s our look at five of the most memorable Dome games in reverse order, and that includes at least one game from the Big Three sports, so let the disagreements begin:

» Related: International tournament an opportunity for Syracuse basketball’s Joseph, Obokoh

5. Syracuse vs. Pennsylvania lacrosse – May 28, 1988

The first of the three straight, Gary and Paul Gait-led NCAA championship teams, although after an 11-0 regular season, including games in which the Orangemen scored 26, 23, 20 and 19 goals in victories, including a first round NCAA rout of Navy 23-5 in which the Gaits combined for 16 of the 23 goals, unheralded Ivy League champ Penn proved to be a big obstacle in the NCAA semifinals played conveniently enough at the Dome (one of two Final Fours SU hosted, the other 1991).

In a tense back and forth affair that featured two Gary Gait famous “Air Gait” shots leaping from behind the Quakers cage to stuff the ball into the net behind goalie John Kanaras with 5:20 in the second quarter to tie the game 2-2, then again early in the third quarter to tie the game 4-4, a pair of shots that had the partisan SU crowd of 25,933 shaking it collective heads and was a said to be an “unprecedented” manner in which to score a goal in the field version of the game to anyone’s recollection.

Despite Gait playing like the “Air Jordan” of the sport, Syracuse still trailed 10-9 with 3:00 to play until a nifty goal by attackman John Zulberti tied the game, and Paul Gait’s quick one-on-one move to the goal off a pass from his brother, freed him up for an in-close shot that whistled home with 0:03 left to propel the ‘Cuse to the championship game two days later in which they would defeat Cornell 13-8 for the second NCAA title in program history.

4. Syracuse vs. Georgetown basketball – January 28, 1985

Big East basketball was in its formative years of increased popularity coast-to-coast thanks to its mega successful TV contract with ESPN during the 1984-85 season, a season in which the conference would shock the nation by becoming the first and only league to send three teams to the Final Four, and a season in which the SU-Georgetown rivalry was never so heated.

The defending national champion Hoyas led by Patrick Ewing, David Wingate, Reggie Williams, Bill Martin and Michael Jackson were ranked No. 1 for the first nine weeks of the season, before being shocked by No. 2 St. John’s 66-65 at the Capital Centre, and now two days later had to play in the Dome against the 11th ranked Orangemen led by Pearl Washington, Rafael Addison and a young Rony Seikaly, in front of a then-record crowd of 32,229 on the ESPN Big Monday broadcast.

In the predictable close game, Georgetown had the ball up 63-62 in the final minute, only to turn it over. After a timeout with 0:34 left, SU inbounded with a play for Washington to win it. He dribbled right from the side court to the foul line, pulled up and hit a 15 footer with 0:16 to put SU on top, and a late free throw followed by a desperation heave that missed by Jackson gave Syracuse the 65-63 win that so riled up those fans spilling onto the court, several famously crashed into the late ESPN courtside reporter Tom Mees during his postgame appearance, causing Mees to spontaneously elbow back defending his turf.

Come back next week for the top three moments in Carrier Dome history.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth 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.