Bad Flag Helps Make Syracuse’s Pinstripe Bowl Win Flukey

William Perlman/Star-Ledger

Unfortunately, the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl will be known by one question: Was Syracuse’s win flukey?

The answer: Hell yes! But that shouldn’t detract from what SU accomplished last night.

Predictably, no one can stop talking about the excessive celebration call at the end of the game – the “Bronx salute.” It was the last memorable play that had a major impact on the outcome. The flag was an abysmal call. If athletes need to understand time and situation, referees should too. No one wants to see that call there. We’re all ecstatic ‘Cuse won, but we’d all feel better if the Orange stuffed K-State’s Daniel Thomas in the defining moment.

However, the flag was just the start of the fluke. Remember earlier in the game when Marcus Sales got hugged and it wasn’t called? How about all the other whistles that – as Fizz friend Sean Keely suggested –  had Doug Marrone’s Ref Murder-O-Meter chalked up to 80% at halftime?

Unbiasedly, SU got the short end of the zebra’s stick all day long. The hold on Chandler Jones and the moronic hit by Phillip Thomas were the right calls, but in general the refs were atrocious.

While battling the Wildcats and the officials, Syracuse kept focus and pulled out its first postseason win in a decade. Does that occur under a coach who doesn’t preach discipline (almost to a fault)? Me thinks not.

This was more about the players and coaches. At K-State, Bill Snyder is the only successful coach in the program’s history which dates back to 1896. When Snyder was hired in 1989, the Wildcats were the worst program in the history of Division 1 Football. K-State had only 299 wins in its first 100 years of football. For perspective, Joe Paterno has won over 400 in his career at Penn State.

But the man who’s name is on the stadium in Manhattan, Kansas made one of the most bone-headed coaching decisions of the year just across the river from Manhattan, New York. His ill-fated fake field goal on 4th-and-5 late in the game cost the Cats dearly.

How obvious was it? Sitting at the ESPN Club in Orlando, even my mom called the fake as the kicking team trotted out on the field. The field was a flipping ice skating rink. The time, score, down, and distance, said to go for the first down. Yet Snyder sat on his offense which had produced in big numbers all night long.

The fake field goal was preceded by the most ignored play in football: the PAT. Ross Krautman hadn’t missed one the entire season and that he was kicking at all was itself a fluke. All of a sudden, things felt about as shaky as last March when we realized Ronald Norad was shutting down Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson was off and Butler would stun the Orange.

Yet, with the game on the line, and SU needing a field goal to feel comfortable about surviving into at least overtime, Krautman lined up from 39 yards away and split the uprights.

Last but not least, there was Marcus Sales. Yes, that Marcus Sales. The one who was 7th on the depth chart to start the year. The one who then disappeared from the roster like snow melting into Lake Onondaga. Sales had one TD catch all year, and hadn’t seen the end zone since October, yet found it found 3 times on Thursday. His 174 yards was only 70 less than his regular season total.

And of all people, these yards came on passes came from the beleaguered Ryan Nassib. The quarterback started the game no different than many of his underwhelming regular season games. Happy feet in the pocket, while his favorite target was the ground. And then the flea flicker happened.

Out of nowhere, Nathaniel Hackett opened up the playbook, and that was apparently all Nassib needed. Suddenly, he looked composed and sharp and ran the offense damn near perfection.

While the Bronx salute was a hideous call, the better team won. The Wildcats clawed back the entire game, yet the Orange calmly responded to every score, seemingly knowing it had things under control.

If the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl was filled with flukes, it was how SU reacted to those moments which defined the night. Doug Marrone stamp is already on this program – a disciplined team which doesn’t give up, and believes inherently in the direction.

This is why the Syracuse Orange are bowl champions. Visors off to you Coach Marrone. Bologna sandwiches on us.

Posted: Craig Hoffman


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