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SU football - how far up again?

Syracuse football fans, don't deny it - admit that you were despairing in the early minutes of that Pinstripe Bowl.

Yes, it was nice to be in any bowl game after a six-year exile. But the Orange was merely 7-5, and playing in the Bronx in the middle of winter.

Snow from that gigantic Christmas storm piled up on the sidelines. Kansas State was the opponent, not a program that causes the average college football fan to stir. And this was the new antiseptic billion-dollar version of Yankee Stadium, not the old House That Ruth Built with all the requisite ghosts.

So when the Wildcats' Daniel Thomas took off on a 52-yard touchdown run 28 seconds into the contest, SU partisans (even this one) were lining up the concession speeches - nice season and all that, but not ready for bigger things.

Then they played the other 59 minutes and 32 seconds. And in one scintillating performance, a program's entire trajectory might have altered, ever higher.

There was Delone Carter tromping for nearly 200 yards on the ground. There was Marcus Sales, the hometown product from CBA, having the game of his life with 172 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

And the defense, gashed much of the night, made the two-point stop at the end - admittedly aided by a horrendous "excess celebration" penalty on K-State. Adrian Hilburn saluted the crowd, that's all - nothing more, no taunting of the opponent, nothing close to unsportsmanlike.

So it ended Syracuse 36, Kansas State 34, one of the best games of the bloated bowl season. SU has every right to feel proud - and wishes that the 2011 season could start tomorrow, for good reason.

It wasn't just that the Orange prevailed. It was the way they won, with high emotion, big plays on offense, lots of points. It was almost like Don McPherson, Marvin Graves or Donovan McNabb had come back to remind the nation was SU was like in its 1980s-90s prime.

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