By Michael McAllister
It was arguably the loudest the Dome has ever been. With 11:11 remaining in the game, McNabb was taken out of his last home game in a Syracuse uniform. The Orange crowd rose, cheered, yelled, and screamed to show their appreciation for one of the best players in Syracuse football history.
What a way to go out. With the Big East title on the line, McNabb led the Orange to a dominating victory of the 19th ranked Miami Hurricanes. The final score was 66-13, but it really wasn't even THAT close. The Orange stormed out of the gate with a quick touchdown run by Dee Brown. They followed that up with a field goal, and a McNabb touchdown pass to Kevin Johnson. Just as Miami appeared to settle in with a touchdown drive of their own, Kevin Johnson returned a kickoff 100 yards to give the Orange a 24-7 lead. That was as close as Miami would be the rest of the game.
The Orange poured it on with three straight rushing touchdowns by McNabb. The second of which was of the 51 yard variety. It was a quarterback draw where McNabb broke a tackle right at the line of scrimmage and was off to the races. He out-ran everyone as the middle of the field was surprisingly vacant. The Hurricanes simply could not handle him.
McNabb finished with 99 yards on 8 carries, and was 12-19 passing for 80 yards. He accounted for five total touchdowns, three rushing and two passing. It was one of the most dominant performances in Syracuse history, and worst defeats in Miami history.
From Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News:
All the Syracuse quarterback had to do was read the incendiary quotes from Hurricanes players, who suggested last year's loss to the Orangemen at the Orange Bowl was a fluke because the school was on probation and didn't have 1,000-yard running back Edgerrin James in the lineup.
"That just added a little bit of hunger," McNabb said. "Just because they say they're back, that doesn't mean they can come in here and kill us in our own house."
McNabb, who danced onto the Carrier Dome turf for Senior Day introductions, gave a loud sellout crowd of 49,521 something to remember in his final home game. He accounted for five touchdowns as emotionally charged Syracuse embarrassed Miami, 66-13, to clinch a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
It was the worst loss for a Miami team since Texas A&M punished the Hurricanes, 70-14, Dec. 8, 1944. "I couldn't imagine it would turn out that way," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni admitted.
Neither could his counterpart, Butch Davis. "This is one of those games that has no explanation," Davis said.
No. 21 Syracuse (8-3, 6-1) will wind up in either the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl. If there are no upsets among BCS contenders, a Syracuse-Florida matchup in the Orange appears the most likely possibility since the Gators have never played in that Miami-based game.
"Judging from this game, Syracuse fans will follow McNabb down to Miami to see his last game," said Orange Bowl representative Art Hertz.
If there is any justice, McNabb should wind up at the Downtown Athletic Club as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He is arguably the best player at his school since Jim Brown, the most exciting since Floyd Little. When McNabb scrambled out of the pocket on a draw play for a 51-yard touchdown with 3:05 left in the second quarter to give the Orange a 38-7 lead, it epitomized the electricity he has brought to this indoor arena the last four years.
McNabb rushed for 99 yards on eight carries and scored three touchdowns. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 80 yards and two more scores. His statistics belied the real damage he caused before leaving the game with 11:11 to play.
With 11 minutes 11 seconds left in a 66-13 thrashing of the Miami Hurricanes today, Syracuse Coach Paul Pasqualoni let his quarterback take leave of an adoring crowd of 49,521 at the Carrier Dome for the final time.
They roared as though they remembered every victory, throw and touchdown of McNabb's glorious career. As he hugged each member of the offense, the crowd grew louder. When he stepped up on the bench and raised his helmet, they turned it up again.
Who needs the Heisman Trophy when you're in the beloved tradition of Jim Brown, Floyd Little and the late Ernie Davis?
''This is something I'll always cherish,'' McNabb said with the same vibrating emotion that coursed through the Orangemen all afternoon. ''It's something you see on TV -- Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire hitting a home run. I just want everyone to know how much I've enjoyed it here.''
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