The date was September 29, 1984. The venue was the Carrier Dome in front of 47,280 fans. The opponent was the top ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.
On that magical day in Syracuse, the Orangemen pulled the greatest upset in team history with a 17-9 victory over the #1 team in the nation. Syracuse had lost to Nebraska the previous season 63-7, and were coming off a loss in the previous week to lowly Rutgers 19-0. Before the victory, then offensive lineman Doug Marrone wrote a letter to Head Coach Dick MacPherson talking about what he was going to have to do in order for the Orangemen to be successful. From the September 30, 1984 edition of the Herald-American:
As it turns out, Doug Marrone is not only a fine offensive lineman for the Syracuse Orangemen, but also an oracle of sorts. And he claims he submitted written proof of the latter.
“I wrote a letter to Coach (Dick) MacPherson last night and told him what I had to do to have us win this game.” Marrone said after SU’s unlikely 17-9 victory over top-ranked Nebraska Saturday. “I told him I knew it was up to me to fire up the offensive line. I told him all about the Nebraska defense.
“I ended it by telling him that by Saturday night we would have experienced a great day for Syracuse football both for now and the future.”
Asked if he were a confirmed letterwriter, Marrone said no.
“It was just something,” he said of his missive to MacPherson. “that I thought I should do.”
His next letter? That was to have been written this morning to somebody back home in the Bronx. “And, no,” Marrone said. “It won’t be to my mother.”
Marrone stated on his radio show last night that he is very heavily relying on his experiences in the major 1984 upset to help teach these guys the mentality to have to achieve success in New York City on Saturday. The Orange enter the game as 26 point underdogs, and will need flawless execution in order to contain the vaunted USC offense. The Orange dropped a 38-17 decision last season, in a game that yielded little mistakes but rather showed the athleticism of Trojans.
The mentality of the team heading in to the game is enormous if they are going to have a shot at the upset. Marrone has been harping this all week, and it appears that the message has been getting across to the players. From an article by John Kekis:
”There is a little less intimidation in the fact that they are USC,” said Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who leads the nation in completions (45), passing yards (482) and total offense (512 yards) after his stellar performance last week against the Wildcats. ”There’s no doubt about that. Playing in their Coliseum was definitely a little intimidating, but at the end of the day we are playing football. At any given day, the team can be beat regardless of who they are and how intimidating they can be.”
Not only are the Orange not intimidated, but they are also motivated as well:
”It would mean a great start to something even greater,” Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill said. ”We have been working on getting this program back on the top, and that would be a very, very great way to start.”