Imagine Syracuse leads a football game 24-3 heading into halftime. The Orange proceed to get shutout in the second half, but hang on to win 24-21. How do you feel leaving the Dome? SU won, but the elation is absent, because they almost blew it.
Comebacks are the opposite. You think it’s a loss, then suddenly it’s a win. Nothing compares with that celebration. There’s a reason for this: it’s a psychological theory called “loss aversion.” Cheers to brain chemistry, we’re counting down Syracuse’s top three comebacks.
2. Syracuse Rallies for Perfect Regular Season (1987)
Syracuse football was pretty good in 1987. Two hours before kickoff against West Virginia at the Carrier Dome, the 10-0 Orange received an invitation to the Sugar Bowl. With postseason destiny already determined, 49,866 fans stuffed the Dome to see if SU could secure the perfect 11-0 regular season.
That undefeated record was in serious peril heading into the fourth quarter, as the Orange trailed 17-10. Later, it was 24-17. And even later it was 31-24.
That’s when quarterback Don McPherson, having thrown four interceptions in the game, got the ball, with 1:42 seconds remaining 74 yards from the end zone. He orchestrated a drive for the ages, culminating in a 17 yard over-the-shoulder catch from McPherson to Pat Kelly. With 10 seconds remaining, Syracuse was within one point.
Head coach Dick MacPherson played it for the win. He called an option play, and McPherson wisely pitched the ball to Michael Owens, who took it to the corner pylon for a game-winning two point conversion.
Thousands of fans stormed the field in elation. A perfect sendoff for the greatest Orange football team to date.
“Perhaps the most wondrous piece of football artwork this town has ever seen,” wrote Bud Poloquin in The Herald-American.