On its surface, the top 3 home wins list is all about moments. The beatdown of Penn State in 1987 earned the third spot for being the shining moment of an undefeated season. The No. 2 home win went to SU’s Big East Championship clinching victory against Miami in part because it celebrated Donovan McNabb in his last Dome game. But the top spot on the list goes to a game that transcends the moment, and had a lasting impact on the program years after the clock hit triple zeroes.
1. Syracuse Stuns No. 1 Nebraska
The year was 1984. Syracuse football was in the dog days of more than a decade-long stretch of mediocrity. When top-ranked Nebraska came to the Dome, they were expecting the same Syracuse team that they dismantled 63-7 in Omaha the previous season. That was a fair expectation. Syracuse had been shut out the week before to Rutgers, turning the ball over seven times. Nebraska had the nation’s best defense.
Quarterback Todd Norley led the Orange to the 17-9 victory by taking care of the football. The senior connected with Mike Siano for a 40-yard touchdown, giving SU a 10-7 lead in the third quarter.
But the real story came on the defensive side of the ball. Orange legend Time Green helped keep the Cornhuskers in check. Nebraska entered the Dome averaging 40 points per game, and only mustered nine because punter Jim Fox intentionally took a safety as the clock expired on the last play of the game. Green was responsible for one of SU’s four forced fumbles.
Nebraska fumbled chance after chance to assert themselves as the nation’s best team, including a crucial play on special teams. Syracuse was forced to punt from their own 25 yard line midway through the fourth quarter, but Nebraska had 12 players on the field, giving the Orange an automatic first down at the 40. That put the chokehold on the Cornhuskers’ comeback.
The upset snapped Nebraska’s 23 game regular season win streak. Syracuse did not cash in on the win immediately, but the undefeated season in 1987 can be credited in part to the program-changing upset. Syracuse’s best home win should not just be remembered as the night the stars aligned, and the Orange took down No. 1. It should be remembered as the moment SU football reset its standards.