Great Moments in SU Sports
Major-league moments for players and fans.
Syracuse University’s athletes have created some of the most monumental, mesmerizing, and magical sports moments ever seen, with their fans witnessing scores of unbelievable performances and reveling in many glorious post-game celebrations.
SU's Stunning Upset Over #1 Nebraska (1984)
There was little reason to believe that the SU football team stood a chance on that September Saturday in the Carrier Dome. Nebraska was the No. 1-ranked team in the country, favored by 25 points, and had defeated SU the year before 63-7. But this game turned out to be the biggest shocker in Orange football history.
Nebraska scored twice: a touchdown in the first quarter and a safety in the final seconds of the game. In between, Orange quarterback Todd Norley threw a spectacular 40-yard pass to Mike Siano, who out-jumped two Huskers at the goal line for a touchdown. Later, with just 1:29 left at the Nebraska 1-yard line, SU fullback Harold Gayden got the ball and carried it straight into the end zone. The game ended with SU’s 17-9 victory over Nebraska; its first win against a top-ranked team in the history of its program.
After the momentous upset, fans swarmed onto the field and celebrated for more than an hour, with SU players coming back out for a curtain call.
Pearl Washington's half-court buzzer-beater (1984)
He dazzled fans, teammates, and opponents alike during his freshman season, but Pearl Washington became a bona fide SU sports legend during the Orange’s matchup against Boston College. On that cold January night inside a relatively new Carrier Dome, Washington threw the ball into the air, sending the Dome crowd into hysterics.
The game was tied at 73-73, BC had just missed a free-throw, and time was winding down. The ball was passed to Washington. Just before the final horn and about a step over half-court, Washington launched a two-handed jump shot. The 45-foot toss sailed through the air, hitting nothing but net and unleashing mayhem in the Dome.
While the crowd was going wild over the stunning 75-73 win, Washington just kept on running off the floor and all the way to the locker room.
Hakim Warrick's Epic Block (2003)
With just over three seconds left and a three-point lead over Kansas, the NCAA Championship was within Syracuse’s reach, and “reach” is exactly what Hakim Warrick did. As Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich flung the ball to teammate Michael Lee, Warrick came out from the paint and swatted away Kansas’ last hope for sending the game into overtime, securing Syracuse University’s basketball team its first-ever national championship.
"Air Gait" is Born (1988)
It wasn’t just Syracuse’s dramatic 11-10 win over Pennsylvania in the Division I lacrosse semifinal game that made May 28, 1988, such a memorable day. Twin brothers Paul and Gary Gait were playing with their usual flair and up-tempo style when it happened. During the second quarter, Gary looped around behind the six-foot-high goal and went airborne, extending his stick and jamming the ball over the crossbar and into the front of the net. In that moment, “Air Gait” was born.
It was an acrobatic stunt never before witnessed in lacrosse. Even though the spectacular move was eventually banned in NCAA play, the Gait brothers have been heralded for revolutionizing the way lacrosse is played and credited with creating a generation of other high-flying, inventive lacrosse players.
The Six-Overtime Game (2009)
Three hours and 46 minutes. That’s how long it took the SU Orange and UConn Huskies to play the Big East Tournament quarterfinals game that started on Thursday night and ended at 1:22 on Friday morning.
The overtime madness began when Eric Devendorf pitched the ball from about 28 feet, sending it into the basket just as the buzzer went off and appearing to win the game for the Orange. Officials watched replay after replay and finally ruled that the shot was late, sending the game into the first 5-minute overtime.
By the sixth overtime the players were exhausted, but most of the 19,375 fans were still in their seats, with thousands more watching on TV. Syracuse’s “Marathon Men” eventually took control and beat the Huskies in the early hours of the morning, 127-117.
Storybook Ending for SU Lacrosse (2009)
The game could have ended much differently. With 5:31 left in regulation play and Cornell in possession, SU’s lacrosse team was trailing the Big Red 9-6. That’s when Coach John Desko hailed for a timeout and the tempo shifted in Syracuse’s favor. Attackman Stephen Keogh pulled SU within two points, followed by a goal from Cody Jamieson, and then a behind-the-back feed from Matt Abbott to Kenny Nims with four seconds left to tie the game, 9-9.
Jamieson’s national championship-clinching tally was prompted after a great check delivered by Sid Smith in Orange territory. SU cleared the ball and the rest was history as Syracuse won 10-9 and secured its 11th title, the most of any program in Division I lacrosse.
Three Techs for Thompson (1990)
One of college basketball’s greatest rivalries, the Syracuse-Georgetown matchup hit critical mass during a game in the Dome when Georgetown coach John Thompson earned not one, not two, but three technical fouls in a row.
Late in the first half of the game, Thompson was awarded his first technical after becoming livid over a reach-in foul against the Hoyas. He then left the coach’s box and was issued his second foul, and then proceeded to stomp onto the court, earning foul number three and his automatic ejection from the game.
Within 15 seconds, a 36-33 Hoya lead had become a 43-36 deficit. Thompson famously waved his trademark white towel to the crowd as he left the floor, and Syracuse went on to win a thrilling overtime game and clinch the Big East regular season title.
SU's First Football National Championship (1959)
The 11-0 Syracuse football team defeated Texas, 23-14, in the Cotton Bowl to win the 1959 college national championship. The names associated with Syracuse’s powerhouse team are legendary: Coach Ben Schwartzwalder, an ex-paratrooper who developed Syracuse into the best college team of 1959, and eventual Heisman winner Ernie Davis, the first African American to win the trophy, who scored twice in the Cotton Bowl and was voted the game’s MVP.