By Michael McAllister
Syracuse vs Penn State was a rivalry mostly in the eyes of Syracuse fans only. Yes the played just about every year, but the Nittany Lions largely dominated the series. 1987 was different. The Orange entered the game 5-0, and Penn State was the defending national champions. The tone of this game was set from the first play of scrimmage.
We all remember the play. The Orange snapped the ball, ran a perfect freeze option that caught Penn State off guard. Quarterback Donnie McPherson stepped back and launched a perfect bomb to Rob Moore, who completed the 80 yard touchdown by galloping into the end zone. Syracuse never looked back.
From the New York Times:
After suffering one of the worst defeats since he took over the head coaching job at Penn State in 1966, Joe Paterno went to the Syracuse locker room.
''You're a great team and this was a great victory,'' Paterno told the Syracuse players. ''Keep the national championship in the East.''
Syracuse improved its season record to 6-0 before 50,011 screaming fans in the Carrier Dome who were set off by the opening play and were not expected to stop celebrating until the wee hours of Sunday morning on the streets and in the homes and hotels of Syracuse.
The Orangemen are off to their best start since 1959 when Syracuse went undefeated and won the national championship under Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. The 78-year-old Schwartzwalder, who retired after the 1973 season, was in the dome to see Syracuse beat rival Penn State for the first time since one of his teams defeated the Lions in 1970.
Paterno, whose worst fears were realized in a hurry, said: ''The biggest concern we had going into the game was the bomb. McPherson is an excellent long thrower.''
McPherson, who undoubtedly passed and ran Syracuse into the top 10 for the coming week, connected on 15 of 20 passes for a Syracuse game record of 336 yards. In addition to the 80-yarder to Rob Moore on the opening play of the game, McPherson passed 29 yards to Tommy Kane for a touchdown, ran 6 yards on an option right for a touchdown, connected with Kane again on a 27-yard scoring pass and ran 20 yards on an option left for another score.
''The opening play was decided on at Thursday's practice,'' McPherson said. ''No matter when we got the ball the first time or where we would throw the long one.''
There are several highlights from the game in the video below.
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Photo credit: bleecherreport.com