Friday, December 31, 2010

PINSTRIPE BOWL CHAMPIONS!!


It was an adventure just getting all of the Syracuse Orangemen athletes into New York City, but in the end it was all worth it. Doug Marrone, in just his second year as head coach of his alma mater, delivers the Syracuse University Orangemen their first Bowl game victory since 2001. Behind 198 rushing yards and two touchdowns by senior and game MVP Delone Carter and an unbelievable 172 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns by junior Marcus Sales, Syracuse knocked off the Kansas State Wildcats 36-34 in Yankee Stadium in front of 38,274 fans. Ironically, Syracuse's previous bowl win was also against the Kansas State Wildcats in the Insight.com Bowl.

On just the third play from scrimmage Daniel Thomas took a hand off 51 yards to the end-zone to put the Wildcats up 7-0 just nineteen seconds into the game. It appeared as if Syracuse wasn't fully prepared to start the game, which was peculiar since they won the coin toss and opted to defer possession until the second half.

After Syracuse's offense went three and out, Ryan Lichtenstein got his first chance to punt in place of Rob Long, who is recovering from surgery. Kansas State took the punt back to the house to seemingly give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead and an absolute tremendous edge in momentum. However, a block in the back foul was called on the return team and Kansas State took the ball on the 28 yard line with the score remaining 7-0. It was a tremendous moment in the game for the Orangemen.

Two possessions later for the Cuse, Doug Marrone opened up the playbook. After a 24 yard scamper by Delone Carter brought Syracuse to the 48 yard line, Marrone called for the flee flicker. Ryan Nassib unloaded an absolute bomb to Marcus Sales which was right on the money. Sales caught the pass in stride 52 yards down field for a huge touch down and momentum-changing score for Syracuse, tying the game at 7-7. The Orange fans in attendance were sent into absolute pandemonium at Yankee Stadium, and they would not settle down for the remainder of the game.

About eight minutes later in the 2nd quarter Ryan Nassib would hook up with Marcus Sales again, this time for 36 yard touchdown pass, giving the Orangemen their first lead of the ballgame, 14-7. Marcus Sales, who had 1 touchdown catch all season (the difference-maker in West Virginia), now had two touchdown catches in the Pinstripe Bowl, and he wasn't done yet.

Kansas State would score on a 10-yard rush by Daniel Thomas with 1:51 to go in the first half to knot the score at 14-14. The score, the second of the game for Daniel Thomas, set the stage for the most exciting half of football Syracuse has played all season.

The second half would be an absolute shoot out. Syracuse took the opening kickoff of the second half and pounded the ball on the ground seven straight times against the 4th worst rushing defense in the country. Delone Carter rushed 47 yards on the drive, and Antwon Bailey chipped in a 13-yard carry to help bring the Orangemen down to the KState 7 yard line. Carter bounced into the end-zone on a 7 yard run to give Syracuse a 21-14 lead.

Kansas State responded to tie the score at 21 on their next drive, a 10-yard touchdown pass to Chris Harper, who had a terrific day in the Pinstripe bowl. He made numerous difficult catches, many of them drive extenders, to finish the day with 56 yards on 5 catches and 1 touchdown.

Delone Carter would find the end-zone again with just 2:11 left in the 3rd quarter. It was a balanced drive, featuring 37 passing yards by Nassib to three different receivers and 35 rushing yards by Delone Carter, including a 15 yard touchdown run to give the Orangemen the lead again, 27-21. With the fourth quarter looming, there was a bad snap on the extra point which Charley Loeb (filling in for Rob Long) barely got down. Ross Krautman did the unthinkable, and missed his first extra point of the season, leaving the Orangemen up just 6 points.

Kansas State answered the drive with a trick play of their own. Daniel Thomas took a direct snap and found his quarterback Carson Coffman down field for a 29 yard completion down to the Syracuse 16 yard line. The Wildcats would go for it on 4th down twice, including the final play of the drive, a 1 yard touchdown run for Daniel Thomas, his third of the ballgame. They would not miss their extra point try, and now KState was up 28-27 with 11:03 left on the game-clock.

In true shootout fashion, 3:08 later Ryan Nassib again threw an absolute bomb up into the Bronx sky. Running free was Marcus Sales, and the two hooked up for their third touchdown on the night, Sales' fourth on the year. This one to the tune of a 44 yard touchdown blast to put the Orangemen back up top 33-28. Syracuse would miss the two point conversion, and their lead would remain just five points.

Kansas State's ensuing drive would be the first time an offense was held without a touchdown in the second half. The Wildcats had been pushing the envelope all night on 4th down, and this drive would be no different. After a quick drive which began at their own 43 yard line, Coffman hit Aubrey Quarles for a 41 yard gain to the Syracuse 16 yard line. The Orangemen defense finally held, and the Wildcats lined up for a field goal try, down 5 points, with 5:09 left to play.

Syracuse, who was not fazed by the lineup, did not all out attempt to block the ball, and instead stayed home protecting the tackle box. Freshman linebacker Marquis Spruill was the first snuff out the fake, and the Wildcat's futile effort to fake field-goal run into the end-zone was thwarted, as the Orangemen clung to their 5 point lead.

On the very next play, Delone Carter exploded out of the gates for a 60 yard gain down to the KState 26 yard line. The rush set up a 39 yard Ross Krautman field goal, who has been money all season long, and pushed Syracuse's lead to 8 points with 3:13 on the clock. 36-28 Orangemen.

What happened next will be remembered by Wildcat fans in Kansas for as long as the victory will be remembered in Syracuse. With 1:24 on the game-clock and Kansas State driving, Coffman found Adrian Hilburn for a 30 yard touchdown pass to put the Wildcats down just 36-34 with a two-point conversion looming. Hilburn, who clearly has some military appreciation, opted to take the time to salute the crowd, and immediately two officials threw the yellow flag for excessive celebration. Fifteen yard penalty which will be added to the 2-point try. Instead of attempting the 2-pointer from the 3-yard line the Wildcats were lining up at the 18-yard line.

The two point conversion failed as did Kansas State's onside kick attempt, which was touched by a KState player before the ball went 10-yards, and Syracuse retained possession. A couple kneel downs later and with 00:00 showing on the game-clock, the Syracuse Orangemen were 2010 Pinstripe Bowl Champions!

Many KState fans will cite the excessive celebration penalty for years to come. As Syracuse fans
that's really not our concern. It's not a given that the Wildcats punch in the two-point conversion from the 3-yard line, and had KState kicked the field goal with 5 minutes on the clock to cut Syracuse's 5 point lead to 2, they would have won the game on that late touchdown rather than attempting a 2-point conversion to tie it.

After giving up a 51 yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage to Kansas State star running back Daniel Thomas, Syracuse's defense put the clamps on the big back. Although he did scamper for two more touchdowns to give him 3 total on the day, he was held to just 90 total yards in the game. That's a mere 39 yards on 21 carries the rest of the game after his first carry of the game, which comes out to 1.8 yards per attempt. A tremendous job by Syracuse's rushing defense.

Doug Marrone, the kid from the Bronx. The kid who's grandfather was an usher at the true Yankee Stadium for 20 years. The kid who went to Syracuse University, and then to the NFL, and then returned as head coach at his school's darkest hour. Doug Marrone has taken the first step towards national respectability, and after five years of humiliation at the hands of Greg Robinson, Syracuse Orangemen football fans can kick-back, put their feet up, and bask in the warmth of an 8-5 season and a 2010 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Championship.

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