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Orange Out Failed Miserably, What's Left for This Season at Dome?

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When Syracuse University officials put the word out that game day Friday for the big Atlantic Coast Conference 2014 opener against Louisville was going to be marked by an Orange Out, I had hopes for something pretty cool in this city of ours.

Wear something orange to support the football team, said the media talkers on TV and radio, the stories online.

Well, I thought, the Carrier Dome usually has a pretty solid pattern of home team colors on any given Saturday or Friday night, but this plea for orange could result in, you know, a block of solidarity. I'd seen such oneness on TV as fans dressed alike -- Los Angeles Kings games and the color black as they won the Stanley Cup pops into my head for some reason, and another more elusive hockey rink and the color white, too -- and the thought of the game on ESPN bringing orange into the living rooms of college football fans from California to the New York island and how it might be a pretty nice recruiting tool for future teams danced in my head.

When I parked outside the downtown building to wait for my dear wife Karen to depart from her advertising department job at the Syracuse Media Group, I watched several solo people walk past wearing orange shirts. And then a couple of groups of fans bounced by, all dressed in orange shirts. Then Karen walked to the car sporting the Syracuse T she'd worn to work on her casual Friday.

Yeah, I was wearing my "Beat Duke, The Rivalry Begins" T-shirt, happy to bring to this football tussle some basketball success from that stunning Carrier Dome on Feb. 2. (You could look up the community blog post I wrote about watching the Orange's overtime victory with equally thrilled folks on the big screen at the packed Palace Theatre on James Street right here on waer.org.)

Good start with so much orange downtown, I thought.

After we parked on East Genesee Street and walked up the hill, the tailgate lots were filled with people wearing orange. The traditional pregame party outside the University Sheraton was packed with folks wearing orange. Further up the hill we tread, surrounded by orange, wanded by guards in a line of orange, buying food and beverages to take to our seats a few minutes before kickoff on the concourse populated with orange.

Out into the 300 level we enthusiastically burst into ... a half-filled Carrier Dome. The student section looked about a third full. At best. Sure, most people were wearing orange. But, ho and hum. Buzz kill. What I saw were huge stretches of empty seats.

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Even the SU student section was hardly filled.

I chastised myself. Why did I think that a game against former Big East rival Louisville, in its first year as a new ACC rival, in its first time back to the dome since Syracuse had knocked off an undefeated Cardinals squad quarterbacked by Teddy Bridgewater, would generate some juice in this city?   Why did I think that a Friday night game for a 2-2 Syracuse team that badly needed a victory to get its season back on track toward six victories and another bowl berth would generate a good-sized crowd? Why did I fall for it again, this delusion of mine that the days when the dome used to fill up to the brim for conference games like this could and would return regularly?

And so with an atmosphere as flat as it was for the rather incredible need for a miracle to beat FCS squad in the season opener and for the win-the-yardage-battle but lose-the-big-play-and-scoreboard-tally non-conference games against Maryland, the Orange went out and performed listlessly in a 28-6 loss to Louisville. Later in the second half, the math wizards and bean counters at SU announced the attendance at 37,569. Which to my eyes means a lot of folks bought tickets and didn't show up, because 12,000 empty seats seems mighty low-ball.

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Looking down in the Carrier Dome.

Not much of a recruiting tool on TV there, the empty seats or the team on the field.
 
Why didn't you go to the game? Was it because you already thought this was a bad team? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Defending national champion Florida State, with returning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston at quarterback, visits the Carrier Dome at noon Saturday. After a rather lukewarm start to the season of their own, including a game suspension to Winstons for ugly remarks yelled on campus, the still undefeated and ranked No. 1 Seminoles hung 43 points on Wake Forest the day after the Orange fell to the Cardinals. This is the Florida State squad that beat Syracuse 63-7 in Tallahassee last season.

Of course, it got worse when on Monday came the news that Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken bone in his leg, leaving the spot to first backup, the guy with the snaps so far, redshirt freshman Austin Wilson. Wait. True freshman A.J. Long, before this the guy who imitated the opponent's quarterback-of-the-week on the scout team, a young man thought to be headed for his redshirt, also should get action because he likely has the most talent of any of the remaining QBs. Redshirt freshman Mitch Kimble could make it a three-headed solution. And they'll be getting their plays from new coordinator Tim Lester, elevated from quarterbacks coach as George McDonald was demoted to receivers coach.

So ...

How many fans will join Karen and I at Saturday's game? Can Syracuse make it competitive for a half, a quarter, the first drive for each team? Is there any chance at all of flipping 2-4 to 6-6? Will you go to any more games this season? Will there be the sound of crickets in the Carrier Dome for the final two home games against Duke and North Carolina State? Why was the metallic orange helmet and orange socks and shoes the only namesake color in Syracuse's uniform Saturday save for the hard-to-read numbers and names on the jerseys?  

Feel free to pitch in with your try at answering any of these questions, or even ask more below.
 

Mark Bialczak has lived in Central New York for 30 years. He's well known for writing about music and entertainment. In 2013, he started his own blog, markbialczak.com, to comment about the many and various things that cross his mind daily.