Syracuse ready to try on No.1 Miami's glass slipper No. 8 Orangemen thinking upset

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The local newspapers are filled with stories about the big, bad University of Miami football team. The local newscasts talk about "The Hurricane Watch." Even Syracuse basketball has been put on hold.

JTC There hasn't been a game like this here in more than 30 years, and 50,000 fans at the Carrier Dome will be ready this afternoon for the much-anticipation showdown against the nation's No. 1 team.


But will the eighth-ranked Orangemen?

"It's a perfect Cinderella story," said Syracuse defensive back Doug Womack. "You get the big prize at the end. Why not end it this way? What better scenario can you ever dream of?"


Lots of teams have held the same dreams Syracuse (9-1) has going into today's nationally televised (ABC, 3:30 p.m.) game. For more than two years, teams have dreamed about beating up -- and shutting up -- the trash-talking Hurricanes.

And, for more than two years, it hasn't happened. Miami (9-0) has had its share of close calls, but holds the nation's longest Division I-A winning streak at 27 games. The Hurricanes have also won 18 straight on artificial turf.

"Our kids are not going to be intimidated," said Paul Pasqualoni, Syracuse's second-year coach. "We've got to worry about us. We're not worried about the Miami Hurricanes. We've got to take care of who we are."

Who are the Orangemen? They are a team with talent, speed and bravado, sort of a poor man's Miami. They held their own dreams of a national championship, until losing at home to Ohio State in the third week of the season.

They have a high-octane offense, led by junior quarterback Marvin Graves and senior wide out Qadry "The Missile" Ismail, the younger brother of former Notre Dame All-American Raghib "The Rocket" Ismail. They have a defense that has intercepted 21 passes this season, and has at least one pickoff in 15 straight games.

"Potentially, they have a lot of speed out there, more than we'vefaced in the last couple of years," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "They are really the most solid team we've faced in the last couple of years."

But does this Syracuse team have enough talent to do what just one of its predecessors have done in six previous games against top-ranked teams? The only visit by a No. 1 team to the Carrier Dome produced a 17-9 upset of Nebraska eight years ago. But, the Cornhuskers will never be confused with the Hurricanes.

Miami hasn't been challenged in more than a month. Since squeaking by Arizona, Florida State and Penn State in succession earlier this season, the Hurricanes haven't played a nationally ranked team. Their offense, helped by the shotgun installed last month against TCU, has become more consistent. The defense allows 11.5 points a game.


"It's going to be a big challenge," said Syracuse linebacker Garland Hawkins, a fifth-year senior from Washington, D.C. "We're going to have to get off to a good start. They're a fourth-quarter team. If it comes down to the last couple of minutes, I think we can do it."

"It's a chance to see how good we really are," said Graves, the nation's passing efficiency leader.

The Orangemen are going to need help to win what amounts to the unofficial Big East championship game. They will need help from the crowd, which has been known to sit on its hands. They will need help from the Hurricanes, who are less self-destructive than in past seasons.

They don't expect to get any help from Miami quarterback Gino Torretta. The fifth-year senior is still questioned about his arm strength, and his foot speed, but his 24-1 record as a starter speaks for itself. He has thrown 18 touchdowns this season, with only four interceptions.

"It's not like there's a lot of tendencies in their passing game," said Hawkins. "They might use either a quick down-and-out, or a play-action, but their receivers always run their routes a little differently. And Torretta doesn't make a lot of mistakes."

While this kind of matchup is relatively new stuff for the Orangemen, it's old helmet, uh, hat for the Hurricanes. They won in Tallahassee last year, they won in State College this season. The nastier the crowd, the better Miami seems to play.


Cinderella stories do happen in college football. But usually not against the big, bad Hurricanes.