In eight days, the Syracuse Orange and Kansas St. Wildcats will meet in the first ever New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium (3:20 p.m. on ESPN).
We're lucky here at SB Nation New York because not only does the game have a NY-sports aspect, but it brings together Syracuse University and the New York Yankees, who, believe it or not have, a history together -- more on that later in the week.
It's been almost a decade since the Orange actually had a football program that received national attention.
That season (2001), Syracuse, ironically, beat Kansas State in the Insight.com Bowl to cap a 10-3 campaign which featured the Orangemen finishing No. 14 in both the AP and Coaches' Polls and closing their 15th straight winning season.
A lot has happened to each program since that game in Phoenix.
During the next few days, SB Nation New York will examine each school's story from that day at Bank One Ballpark to their invites to the Pinstripe Bowl.
On Wednesday, we take a look at SU. On Friday, we tackle KSU.
Syracuse Orange From Bank One Ballpark To Yankees Stadium
Remember Troy Nunes and RJ Anderson at quarterback? Defensive linemen Dwight Freeney sacking opposing QBs at will? Senior running back James Mungro running hard and proud, keeping the tradition of outstanding orange-and-blue RBs alive?
That was 2001, almost a decade ago.
That year, Syracuse started out 0-2 but won 10 of its last 11 games to finish 10-3 overall. The only loss during that 11-game span came against the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes -- do you remember that team? -- which beat visiting SU, 59-0.
SU then beat KSU, and all things were good.
But in '02 and '03, head coach Paul Pasqualoni failed to lead Syracuse to a bowl game and fans became impatient.
Even though, Pasqualoni coached the program for 13 seasons, posted a 101-53-1 overall record and went 6-2 in bowl games, the SU faithful became restless. They wanted a national contender on the Carrier Dome turf, just like they had on the dome hard court.
In '04, Syracuse capped its regular season with a victory over Boston College and collected a share of the Big East title going 6-6 overall.
Syracuse earned an invite to the Champs Sports Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who featured a freshman wide receiver named Calvin Johnson, who scored a TD in a 51-14 clobbering of the Orange.
A few weeks prior to the bowl loss, SU chancellor Nancy Cantor said Pasqualoni would return for his 15th season, win or lose.
Eight days after Cantor's announcement, SU hired Southern California assistant Darrell Gross to be the school's new athletic director. The tides then turned on Pasqualoni.
"New athletic director Daryl Gross saw SU collapse in every phase of the game and fall behind 35-6 at the half to a Georgia Tech team that was only 6-5," wrote Syracuse Post Standard writer Dave Rahme last December in a look back at Syracuse football's recent low lights. "He saw enough to announce Pasqualoni’s dismissal eight days later."
Gross spoke to the media about ending Pasqualoni's long run with SU.
"Obviously, there has been some success here, but as of late it hasn't been on a consistent basis," Gross said. "In looking at the past few seasons, there were some inconsistencies in there. At the same time, there were some opportunities to do some great things that didn't materialize, and that's unfortunate. And that's part of coaching. Sometimes it's just bad luck."
Gross made it clear he wanted a defensive-minded coach and that's what Texas Longhorns defensive coordinator Greg Robinson was supposed to be.
Unfortunately during his first season, SU went 1-10 and its defense couldn't stop anyone but the Buffalo Bulls, who lost to the Orange, 31-0, in Week 2.
Fast forward three more seasons -- if you'd like a not-so painful look at Syracuse during the five-year bowl drought, read my draft of the Pre-Pinstripe, All-Orange "fantasy" team -- and Gross fires Robinson.
"We've been very fair to coach Robinson," Gross said after the firing. "Everyone wanted the guy's head last year. I said I didn't want Syracuse to become one of those three-years-and-out schools. I said, 'Let's calm down and (if needed) we'll get the first pick of the draft (of coaching candidates) next year.' That's where we are."
And with the first pick of the 2008 Draft (of coaching candidates), the Syracuse Orange selected: Doug Marrone. New Orleans Saints.
The hiring of Marrone was an attempt to have the program return to its legendary football roots by choosing an alum, who was approved by alums -- former players Tim Green, Art Monk, Don McPherson, Floyd Little and former head coach Dick MacPherson were a part of a search committee that selected Marrone.
"This has been the job I have always wanted," Marrone said at his inaugural presser. "Not a lot of times in your life can you actually accomplish your dream. Today is the greatest day of my life. This is my school and these are my people. You're going to be proud, and we're going to win football games."
Last season, the Orange finished 4-8 but showed a different attitude towards the game. That attitude was similar to one of the past.
Syracuse also gained some attention when Duke's senior point guard Greg Paulus announced his attentions to play quarterback at SU.
The story grew to a national level once Marrone told reporters that Paulus, who was voted captain by his peers, was going to be the opening-day starter.
In Week 1, SU lost in overtime at home to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 23-20, but made it exciting for fans again.
The Paulus Experiment had skeptics but the four-star quarterback recruit from Syracuse's Christian Brothers Academy, performed well for the home crowd and helped the orange-and-blue earn a 37-34, last-second victory in Week 3 against the Northwestern Wildcats.
A week later, Paulus helped the Orange collect their first two-game winning streak in almost three seasons by beating Maine, 41-24.
Paulus' play didn't get the hype from ESPN's Mel Kiper but it allowed SU supporters to get excited about 2010.
Paulus graduated and junior QB Ryan Nassib, who saw some playing time in 2009, took over the huddle this season.
Helped by an outstanding defense, which allowed just 18.1 points-per game (ranked No. 13 in the nation), Nassib and senior running back Delone Carter propelled SU to its best year since '01.
|2010 - Delone Carter||12||204||1035||86.3||5.1||7||8||45||3.8||5.6||0|
On Nov. 13, the Orange defeated Rutgers, 13-10, to place them at the seven-win mark and snap a five-season bowl drought.
And just that quickly, the second season under Marrone, SU was in the hunt for a conference title.
Unfortunately, the next week, the Connecticut Huskies ended any Fiesta-Bowl dreams by beating Syracuse 23-6. However, SU's record was good enough to earn them an invite to NYC.
For a lot of Syracuse supporters it's been a long journey from Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix to Yankees Stadium in the Bronx.
A win next Thursday, would help the SU faithful forget about the last nine seasons. It would also allow fans to go back to old times; when Troy Nunes Was An Absolute Magician and beating Kansas State in a postseason bowl was expected.