Syracuse is 5-2 after a thriller over UNC, and Orange fans are starting to remember what having a good football team feels like. It’s been awhile since SU could consider itself with the best of college football, but once upon a time it was a given. From the 1950s through the late 1990s, Syracuse was one of the elite Eastern programs. The legacy of running the football at SU stretches back that far, and Larry Csonka carried that tradition to a place in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football one too.
The bruiser they called “Zonk” is enjoying watching SU football climb back to national relevance.
“They were a great running power house. Jimmy Brown, Floyd Little, myself. Their list goes on and on. There’s always running backs featured there and they were because Ben Schwartzwalder said that only three things going to happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad. So he wouldn’t do it. Yeah, and an offset line? That was a great place to go if you aspired to be a running back and visions of the NFL in your mind. That was a great place to go because everyone got an opportunity to run the ball and run it a lot, so that that paid off. Watching them today, I’m delighted to see the balance they have in a running and passing attack. Syracuse football’s coming back to kind of reminiscent of what it was back in the old days.”
NFL fans remember Csonka as the physical force behind the undefeated Dolphins team of ’72. But that attitude of doling out punishment to defenders? That started in Syracuse, when he had experience playing on the other side of the ball.
“Remember when you go back into the late 60s and early 70s, particularly in college, you had to play both ways. the platoon system. So you were only allowed to substitute so many people. So most of the players played both. So I played defensive end and middle linebacker. I also played some outside linebacker, so I had a pretty good understanding what it was like on both sides of the ball before I became a full term running back in my junior and senior year. Back then Floyd Little was at Syracuse, and he was a pretty good little halfback (laughing). They needed somebody to come over there and block for him. I came over to block for him but not good enough, because he still got hurt about the third game when I was over blocking for him. So I ended up getting an opportunity to carry the ball and it worked out pretty well.”
Syracuse hosts #22 NC State on Saturday. A win inches the Orange closer to being ranked for the first time in years. It would also clinch a likely bowl bid. The Wolfpack come in favored slightly by Vegas, so this is a chance for SU to put its stamp on the confidence many around the country have in the Orange.