As part of our “Top 3” series at the Fizz, and with the new roof of the Dome nearly complete, it’s appropriate to rank the best home wins in Syracuse Football history. No. 2 will be revealed on Thursday, and the top choice will be published on Saturday.
3. The Orange Thrash the Nittany Lions to Stay Perfect
Heading into the 1987 season, there was a clear path for the Orange to finish undefeated for the second time in program history. No. 10 Penn State, the defending national champions led by Head Coach Joe Paterno, was the only true obstacle standing in the way. Syracuse was shelled in Happy Valley 42-3 the previous year, but 1987 was magical.
Don McPherson began the game with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Rob Moore en route to a school record 336 yards. McPherson passed for two more touchdowns and ran for a pair. At one point the Orange led 41-0 before finishing with a 48-21 victory.
It was a transformative game in the middle of a transformative season for Syracuse football. Head Coach Dick MacPherson and the Orange earned the respect of the teams that had made a living on SU in the years prior. In many ways the game symbolized the passing of the torch.
”You’re a great team and this was a great victory,” Paterno said to Syracuse after the game. ”Keep the national championship in the East.”
The win solidifies itself as one of the best in the Dome because of what it meant for such a special season. The Orange went on to tie Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, finishing without a loss. But the victory is that much sweeter because of the sentimentality of it. The Orange pounded the rival Nittany Lions in front of former SU Head Coach Ben Swartzwalder. The 78-year-old, who retired after the 1973 season, was at the helm for Syracuse’s last win against Penn State in 1970.