The Purple and Gold of LSU's Invasion Shows Orange a Thing or Two
They came, they drank, they saw their Top Ten football squad wear out the valiant hometown team.
The 7,500 visitors dressed in the purple and gold of Louisiana State University certainly looked as if they accomplished what they'd set out to do on this trip to Syracuse, even if the taps around our city did not go dry, as one university representative warned a reporter for a story about the throng that ran in The Post-Standard and on syracuse.com in the week leading up to Big Game Saturday.
A sign outside Harry's bar on the hill made light of that threat in the hours before the noon kickoff Saturday. And the sunny day was perfect for Tigers fans up from SEC country to rub elbows with Orange fans three seasons now with their hearts given to the ACC.
It seemed peaceful as my friend Steve and I walked past Faegan's, where from inside the wrought iron of the fence, one purple-wearing LSU fan gave me one of the hardiest high-five's he could muster. Yes, I was wearing a bright orange Syracuse Football T-shirt, plus an Orange baseball cap that happened to have Otto on it in addition to the blue "S."
When I texted my dear wife Karen, called away from her usual game duty beside me for work overtime, she texted that the downtown blocks around the building that houses the Syracuse Media Group on Warren Street were filled with LSU fans apparently walking from the new hotels up toward the campus hill, too.
Purple and gold were prevalent, right up to the quad. We noticed a few folks wearing the LSU colors lined up amid a group of folks high up behind a bride and groom posing for a professional photographer by the famous steps bordering campus. Photo bombing? Perhaps. When I called to the groom if he realized what this date also held when they scheduled their wedding as we walked past, he grinned and answered that he had no clue about any football game.
On the quad, LSU fans respectfully watched the Pride of the Orange perform on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. One man told me that his traveling party was enjoying Syracuse, city and campus, since arriving with the team's entourage the day before. They were staying at the Doubletree at Carrier Circle, and had been treated well and with respect, he said. And all around us, all day, drinking or not, that courtesy seemed to be a two-way street.
Inside the Carrier Dome, the two upper deck corners that catered to the LSU fans were full 30 minutes before game time while the Syracuse seats everywhere else were still sparse with bodies.
The out-of-towners cheered their Tigers loudly and proudly. They brought their band, too. This is what big-time football is like, I reminded myself, as 43,101 people got there eventually, a big jump from the first three sub-30,000 crowds of this 2015 season.
It was fun.
So too was the game, with the Syracuse players perhaps performing up to the atmosphere, a fourth-string walk-on quarterback by the name of Zack Mahoney coming up with some big throws and a freshman running back by the name of Jordan Fredericks scooting free under pressure and receiver/returner Brisly Estime showing all of that speed he can turn on in a flash. The defense even gave Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette a lick or three, even though he did bust big ones to end up with 244 yards -- how appropriate the last two digits were in his final total in this city -- and two touchdowns in 26 carries.
Yes, LSU won the game, 34-24, to make all those tipsy fans even happier. I saw no incidents of ill behavior as all that purple filed back out of the dome to go back to the Bayou.
Instead I noted what Syracuse fans can hope to see more of the rest of this football season, come the remaining home games, Oct. 24 against Pittsburgh, Nov. 14 vs. big boy Clemson and the regular-season finale Nov. 28 against rival Boston College. With the restive powers of this bye week, freshman quarterback Eric Dungey and sophomore hybrid Erv Phillips are said to be on schedule to return for the next game, come 3:30 p.m. Oct. 10 down in Tampa against South Florida, former foe in the Big East.
Yes, now you may now throw in the phrase regular season before finale, more hopeful that this Orange team can reach six victories and a bowl game. It's not quite the swagger of LSU. No, Orange fans probably won't be drinking any visiting locales dry any time soon. But this shooter of optimism? It's a start.