All a Syracuse fan could do was shake his or her head and grin. The long wait was over.
When freshman kicker Ross Krautman split the uprights on a go-ahead, 24-yard field goal with 1:07 remaining in the game against Rutgers, Orange Nation could finally be proud of their football team again. For the first time since 2004 their team was bowl eligible.
"Are you getting this? Are you fully appreciating the history that has been written by this gritty outfit whose ancestors had gone 30-65 in the eight campaigns preceding this one?" wrote Bud Poliquin of the Syracuse Post-Standard after SU's 13-10 victory over Rutgers on Saturday. "Simply, it's time to call the neighbors because -- with the Orange having claimed its seventh victory during this year of resurrection -- the bowl-less streak in our town will end at 71 games (and, at least, 48 losses) when the SU dips its toe into the postseason pond next month."
It wasn't easy. It sure wasn't pretty. But after being a punch line to many sport-related jokes in Central New York for six years, it didn't matter how it got done. A win is a win. A bowl game is a bowl game.
"The long-suffering have-not's are finally have's again," wrote Dave Rahme of the the Syracuse Post-Standard on Monday.
The goal of making a bowl seemed to be disappearing late in the fourth quarter. That's when Scarlet Knight wide receiver Jeremy Deering was doing what he did all game, carving through the SU defense using the same play out of Wildcat or Wild Knight formation.
Deering, who rushed for a career-high 166 yards on 29 carries, had basically placed a dismal Rutgers offense on his back and it seemed like the SU defense, which knew what the receiver was going to do, couldn't stop him.
Tied 10-10 with about 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Deering rushed five times for 41 yards to help the Scarlet Knights creep into field-goal range at the SU 17-yard line.
At this point, Syracuse faithful were on pins and needles probably yelling at the television, "HE'S GOING TO RUN UP THE MIDDLE! STOP HIM!"
Syracuse couldn't. What the Orange could do was stifle the Rutgers offense -- SU's defense allowed just 280 total yards -- when Deering wasn't in the game.
That's what they did on a First and 10 when Syracuse defensive lineman Andrew Lewis tackeled Rutgers running back Kordell Young for an eight-yard loss; and on Third and 12 when Scarlet Knight quarterback Tom Savage was sacked by Derrell Smith for another eight-yard loss.
On Fourth and 20, kicker San San Te missed a 45-yard field goal. Syracuse took the ball, marched 66 yards on 11 plays to setup a game-winning field goal.
"I can think of no better way to do it than how it happened..." wrote Sean Keeley of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician on Sunday. "Not only did the Orange beat the Knights in their own house to officially remake the program as a winner, they did it in a fashion that broke the heart of Scarlet Nation, chopped those hearts up into strips, rendered the fat, dipped them in panko bread crumbs, placed them on top of a sandwich that also included mozzarella sticks, french fries, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise and called it The Fat Orange."
Syracuse fans have seen the improbable before.
In 2003, freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara led the basketball team to a national championship. In 2006, McNamara led a miracle championship run in the Big East Tournament.
But those accomplishments were on the hard floor not field turf.
Saturday's win made the football team 7-3 overall, a win away from doubling its total from last season, and depending how things work out possibly earning a Big East title.
Big East Conference Standings
For Rutgers fans all they could do was shake their heads and grimace. Their glory days are sadly gone.
"(Schiano) gave this campus its fast tase of big-time football, but in the process, he has left people hungry for more," wrote Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi on Sunday. "A .500 record against a soft schedule isn't good enough anymore."
Their undoing on Saturday was the play of quarterbacks Chas Dodd and Savage, who replaced Dodd at halftime.
|vs Syracuse / 11.13.10||Passing||Rushing|
|vs Syracuse / 11.13.10||Passing||Rushing|
When Deering didn't have the ball, Dodd or Savage were halting drives by making bad decisions, which was helped by questionable play-calling.
"If Rutgers was even halfway competent on offense, they would have won going away, which just stings," said the Scarlet Knights blog On The Banks. "If that were the case though, the Scarlet Knights would be 8-1, and not 4-5 and on the verge of missing their first bowl game in six years. At this point, it's fair to declare 2010 to be a sad reminder of the 2004 season."
In one season, SU and Rutgers did a Big East standing role reversal -- SU could possibly finish in the middle of the pack or better while the Scarlet Knights will battle Cincinnati for last place on Saturday.
Want more irony?
"Krautman -- from Ramapo, N.J., and the same high school as (Rutgers head coach Greg) Schiano -- drilled a 24-yarder to win it," wrote Sam Hellman of the Daily Targum, a student-written and student-manager newspaper for Rutgers University.
"... Doug Marrone went to 11-11 in his second year as Syracuse head coach, with the win Schiano dropped back below .500 for his 10-year head coaching career."
But Schiano, who could see his five-year bowl streak end if Rutgers doesn't win two of its last three games, isn't panicking just yet.
"As long as I'm the head coach you won't see us hit the panic button here," Schiano said in his day-after teleconference on Sunday. "We have a way of doing things. At times, it has worked very well, other times medium and other times not so well."
"But that's the way we do it. I really do hope that in doing that it'll help us be a successful against Cincinnati. As we've seen, there are no guarantees. But I know one thing, if we try any other way it won't work."
Scarlet Knight supporters shouldn't worry, you're still a long ways away from matching Syracuse's recent lousiness. One season doesn't make you a college football doormat.
Who knows, the Orange success could just be a one year phenomenon. Marrone may just have one season of magic in him and Schiano could be just hitting a rough patch. All programs go through them.
But if Orange fans are going to take one lesson away from this week's win -- Rutgers fans will agree with this statement -- enjoy it. You never know when you'll get this feeling again.