Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Top Five Syracuse Sporting Events That I Attended In-Person

By Dane Lopes, SU ‘95

Dane Lopes, SU '95 and Matt Brabants, SU '96
So many amazing Syracuse sporting events to choose from! I attended Syracuse University from 1992-1995 and was there for the heyday of the Syracuse Football program and the beginning of the Donovan McNabb era at SU. In those days going to a Bowl Game was expected and it was a common occurrence for SU to be ranked in the top 25 in both football and basketball at the same time. The basketball team has continued their excellence under Coach Jim Boeheim and the football team has seen a rebirth under Coach Doug Marrone. Living in the tri-state area I’ve had the opportunity to attend so many Syracuse games after graduation from SU - from SU basketball in The Garden to football games in the Meadowlands (the 1997 Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium comes to mind where #17 SU dismantled #24 Wisconsin 34-0) to Big East games versus local opponents, narrowing down my Top Five I attended in-person was a challenge, but here goes:

5. Carmelo Anthony’s Orange Debut
Carmelo Anthony’s first game for the Orange was played in Madison Square Garden in the Pre-Season NIT on November 14, 2002. In his Orange debut, Melo displayed his dominating talent knocking down 27 points with 11 boards on the big stage. Melo excelled in The Garden which would become his future home court with the New York Knicks. Okay, so Syracuse lost the game 70-63, but we got to see the much-hyped and amazingly talented Carmelo Anthony in his Orange debut. We all know how that 2002- 2003 season ended, with Syracuse going 30-5 and raising the 2003 National Championship trophy in the New Orleans Super Dome.

4. 1994 – Basketball – Syracuse vs. Kentucky
#4 Kentucky came into the Carrier Dome with an 18-4 record to face the #14 Syracuse Orange (15-3). Tony Delk led the Wildcats in scoring on the year averaging 16.6 PPG and he didn’t shy away from throwing up the rock in this game with 27 points on 16 shots. Thankfully for the Orange Adrian Autry was not going to be outdone as he scored 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting. In addition to Autry, John Wallace (18 points), Lucious Jackson (10), Otis Hill (10) and my freshman writing studio partner, and all-time Syracuse scoring leader, Lawrence Moten (18) were all in double-figures.

3. 1996 NCAA Final Four
Capping an amazing NCAA tournament run #4 Syracuse advanced to the 1996 Final Four held at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the New Jersey Meadowlands. Senior John Wallace put the Orange on his back and carried them through the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse faced a loaded Mississippi State team in the Final Four, led by Erick Dampier, and while the Orange were outrebounded by the Bulldogs 41-21, Syracuse was uncharacteristically sound from the free throw line, making 20 of 24, going on to win the game 77-69 and advancing to the National Championship Game versus Kentucky.

2.  2011 New Era Pinstripe Bowl
The inaugural Pinstripe Bowl played in Yankee Stadium marked the return of Syracuse Football to national prominence (and the return of Bronx-born Doug Marrone to his hometown). Coach Doug Marrone pulled a rabbit out of the hat with his rapid turn-around of the Orange football program leading them to a Bowl Game in just his second year as head coach. Syracuse had a huge home-field advantage with Yankee Stadium filled to the rafters with Orange faithful. Behind the backing of the fans, Syracuse went on to beat Kansas State 36-34. The game had a controversial ending when K-State WR Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown with a minute and change to go and was flagged for excessive celebration backing up the K-State 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game to the 18 yard line. K-State came up short on the 2-point conversion and SU went on to win the nail-biter 36-34. Current Indianapolis Colt RB Delone Carter capped off his SU career, winning the Pinstripe Bowl MVP based on his 199 yard rushing and two TDs. Not to be lost in the shuffle was the outstanding performance by WR Marcus Sales who caught five passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the game.

1. 1991 Football - Syracuse vs. Florida
My second home game as a Syracuse freshman saw #17 Syracuse facing undefeated #5 Florida in the Carrier Dome. Coming into the game there was talk of a Florida Gators National Championship as #5 Florida had outscored their previous two opponents (San Jose State and #17 Alabama) 94-21, including a 35-0 route of Alabama. The game was televised nationally on ABC and Syracuse set the tempo when Kirby Dar Dar ran the reverse on the opening kickoff and took it to the house. Syracuse went on to beat the Gators 38-21 handing the Gators their only loss during the regular season. Syracuse went on to finish the season 10-2 and winning the 1992 Hall of Fame Bowl and finishing the season the #11 ranked team in the country under first-year head coach Paul Pasqualoni.

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