Saturday night marked the Jewish New Year as the world celebrated Rosh Hashanah.
It may have also dawned a new era in Syracuse football as well.
When walk-on freshman kicker Ryan Lichtenstein drilled the game-winner as time expired (and ignored the pressure of a winding clock without the benefit of a timeout or a stoppage), Marrone’s Marauders got their first victory.
While defeating Northwestern at the Dome isn’t quite slaying Nebraska in ’84 or crushing Miami in ’98, it is a worthy explanation point to Marrone’s first three games.
Under Groobers, this Orange team routinely faded as the game wore on (in fact, plenty of the last four editions of SU football faded after the National Anthem).
(Quick aside on Groobers: Forget what you read about the return of Michigan football. Yeah, the Wolverines have opened the season winning. Sure, they have rebounded after last year’s disaster. But keep an eye on Groobers’ defense. In the 38-34 win over Notre Dame, the Irish gashed the Maize-and-Blue for 490 yards of offense, nearly 7 yards per play and had a 100-yard-rusher and two 100-yard receivers. Wow, what a defensive coordinator.)
As we were saying, the first three games have provided ample evidence of a different mojo at work for the Orange.
First, battling back to seize the momentum against Minnesota in the opener was new to Orange Nation. Usually, this team started poorly and ended poorly, with a lot of poorly in between.
While the Orange got squeezed in overtime, SU clearly recovered after a horrendous start and dominated for much of the game.
At Happy Valley, a vastly superior Nittany Lions squad had a slim 14-point lead at the half. While that doesn’t sound like much, last year’s game was over by the break (the image of the Dome emptying at halftime will live in infamy forever) and in front of 105,000 fans, against a Penn State team that could finish in the Top-10, the Orange avoiding obliteration was actually really impressive.
Then Saturday night, where the offense produced (including staking the Orange to a 17-0 lead), the defense made just enough stops and the Orange finished strong and with confidence? Now, that’s just a different SU team.
You don’t have to look closely to see all the improvements under this edition of the Orange.
Finally, the scoreboard reflected that too.
Happy New Year, Orange football.