Is an upset an upset if nobody is there to witness it? That sure wasn't the case Friday night inside the Carrier Dome when the Syracuse University football program upset nationally-ranked and visiting West Virginia University, 49-23, in a Big East Conference game that was played in front of 45,265 screaming fans. The victory helped the Orange (5-2, 1-1 Big East) beat the national-ranked Mountaineers (No. 11 in the AP Poll, No. 14 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the Bowl Championship Series standings) for the second straight year.
However, this year's victory was a bit different than last year's 19-14 squeaker. Last season, the Orange, who also beat a nationally-ranked Mountaineers squad, won on the road in Morgantown, WV, while this season's W was done at home, a place where big men's basketball, not football, victories have become the norm.
"I think the fans were a big part in helping us win," said Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone after the game. "If I was to sit here and say, 'hey it mattered', it mattered. It matters to these kids. These kids care about this community. This university cares about this community and, you know, it's great to have people out there. We feel our core values of our program reflect not only our university, but the community. Credit to those fans. They helped us win this game and its a game ball to them too."
During the singing of the national anthem, the Carrier Dome bleachers had plenty of empty seats and there was some doubt that the total attendance was going to even reach its four-game average of 39,631. But, just before kickoff spaces slowly started to fill and there were whispers in the media press box saying that fans were actually still stuck in traffic. By midway through the first quarter, the Dome was just a few thousand short of capacity (49,262).
"Going into the game we knew that was going to be a big crowd," said senior tight end David Stevens, who's first collegiate touchdown reception, which helped gave SU a 28-16 lead, came midway through the third quarter and created a deafening roar from the Orange faithful, "but I don’t think some of the young guys have seen a crowd like this or heard a crowd like this. They were really loud."
There's no arguing that Syracuse's flawless performance came at the perfect time. Not only was the Dome nearly packed full of fans that probably hadn't been to a football game in along time, but a primetime sports crowd was able to witness the Orange rout a national-ranked program. I am sure Syracuse watering holes were packed with rowdy Orange fans that were wishing they were screaming their face off at "The Loud House".
In three weeks, Nov. 11, SU will host the University of South Florida (4-2, 0-2) and if the Orange can stay in contention for the Big East title, there's a good chance that the Dome could reach its capacity, because of football, for the first time since Nov. 18, 2000 when No. 2-ranked Miami University defeated SU, 26-0.
Can it happen? Syracuse fans, not Doug Marrone or Ryan Nassib, have the power to pull that off. And, from what SU faithful learned Friday night anything, now, is truly possible.