We resume our countdown of the best football seasons in program history at No. 2. Without a doubt, several tremendous Syracuse teams were shown love in the honorable mentions, and at No. 3 with the 1992 squad.
It was certainly a close race for that No. 3 spot. Depending on who you talk to, compelling cases can be made for a number of the teams to come up just short.
Now, however, as we reach our top two, this upcoming pair of Syracuse teams might just stand alone in the annals of program history. Let’s get right to it with No. 2.
No. 2: 1987 (11-0-1)
One of just two undefeated teams in program history. The 1987 team finished the year with 11 wins, no losses and one tie – an 11-0-1 record that certainly could have been 12-0 instead.
Long-time fans of the Orange likely remember vividly. Younger fans have probably heard all about it.
When SU played Auburn in the 1988 (1987 season) Sugar Bowl, the Orange led 16-13 until the bitter, bitter end. With just four seconds left, the Tigers had marched all the way down to the Syracuse 13-yard-line, and now faced a game-deciding decision. Down to the game’s final play, Auburn Head Coach Pat Dye could have chosen the all-or-nothing move, which was to go for the end zone – a Tigers touchdown would have won them the game while falling short would have given SU the win.
Sure enough, he elected for the other option… a field goal (lame!).
On the final play of the game, Dye sent out kicker Win Lyle (notice, his name wasn’t TIE Lyle… was it?) to boot a 30-yard chip shot, effectively ending the game in a 16-16 tie. This being the case with no overtime in college football until the 1995 bowl season.
Syracuse fans obviously did not take kindly to Dye’s decision. A number of fans even later came together to send a reported 2,000 ugly ties to Dye, to which the former Auburn coach signed and sold each one for $100 a piece – ultimately raising over $20,000 and donating the proceeds to Auburn’s school scholarship fund. I guess, a win for all in the end? Yeah, yeah… I know. Whatever.
The decision was even said to have gone against what Dye’s own players wanted to do on the game’s final play. Former Auburn running back Stacy Danley is on record saying a number of Tigers offensive players tried to convince Dye to let them take a shot at the end zone. Apparently, Dye already had his mind made up.
Had overtime existed back in the 1987 season, who knows how the game would have ended. Regardless, Dye’s decision to finish things off with a field goal – and force a subsequent tie – will forever reside in Syracuse football infamy.
Finishing the year 11-0-1, the Orange came in at No. 4 in the season’s final rankings – the second-highest finish in program history. The ’87 team ranked tenth in the nation in points per game (31.6), led by quarterback Don McPherson and receiver Tommy Kane in the passing game as well as a two-headed monster in the backfield – featuring Robert Drummond and Daryl Johnston. On defense, the Orange was highlighted by the great Markus Paul and 1987 All-American selection Ted Gregory. The group’s 11 wins that year was also the most by any Syracuse team coached by the legendary Dick MacPherson.
No. 1: ???
Our No. 1 team in Syracuse football history will be revealed on Thursday. It may or may not come as a surprise of many. You’ll simply just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, see you then.