Donovan McNabb was among the last to leave the Syracuse locker room early yesterday morning. He emerged wearing an olive suit and white shoes and feeling some heartache beneath his ever-present smile.
McNabb, the option quarterback who accounted for more than 10,000 yards running and passing in his career, had spent time trading hugs and handshakes with the 11 other Syracuse seniors whose last game became a nightmarish 31-10 loss to Florida in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night.
"We're upset about the loss," McNabb said. "But mainly we're upset about leaving. Hopefully, we'll stay in touch, but it's not going to be the same."
McNabb had said he wanted the Orange Bowl to be his best game, so it could serve as a springboard for Syracuse (8-4) next season. It was anything but. He threw for 192 yards, completed only 14 of his 30 passes, lost two of the team's three fumbles and threw an interception. He rushed for 72 yards on 20 carries. Florida shut down an Orangemen offense that was averaging 42.5 points a game.
"He was off his mark," Syracuse offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers said. "Passes he usually completes in his sleep were one-hoppers."
Rogers noted, however, that Florida put more pressure on McNabb than any other team this season, or probably any season.
"I think you're going to find out three or four years from now that they probably have 10 or 11 guys on that defense playing in the NFL," Rogers said.
Florida, which finished 10-2 and became the first Southeastern Conference school to win at least 10 games for six consecutive seasons, sprinted to an early 14-0 lead that grew to 28-3 by halftime.
"It was very emotional in different parts of the game," said McNabb, a three-time Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Year. "Especially in the third quarter when we were down 28-3. We weren't playing like Syracuse. With all the firepower we have, we should have been doing more, and that was really upsetting. It's unfortunate it had to happen in a bowl game, but we have to move on."
Pub Date: 1/04/99