Syracuse may have been 9-2 entering the game and recognized as one of the better teams in college football, but many still expected a supremely talented Colorado squad to run all over them in the 1993 Fiesta Bowl. The Buffaloes spent nearly the entire season ranked in the top-15, and only had one loss entering the bowl.
That team had Kordell Stewart, Rashaan Salaam (who would win the Heisman Trophy two seasons later), Michael Westbrook, Deon Figures and many other talented players. Syracuse came in as clear underdogs.
But the Orange were physical and showed they were up to the task with a 26-22 victory to stun many. The Syracuse players, however, didn’t view it that way.
”The thing was, we didn’t look at it like an upset,” Syracuse starting quarterback Marvin Graves said. “We felt like the score was too close. I think they underestimated us. We went down there to handle business because we didn’t feel like people respected us. Especially the bigger schools. We had a chip on our shoulder that we could play with the best. We had played with the best. We felt like we let one against Miami go.
”We felt like those guys were cocky when we would see them out and about. We felt like we wanted to let them know that we were going to put it on them. When you put on the tape before that game, we were at midfield ready to go at it. It was a big time college football game. I think we out-physicaled them that game and made plays that they didn’t expect us to make.”
Syracuse went into halftime trailing 7-6. But the Orange used a 20-point third quarter to break the game open. It was two drives in the third quarter, capped by a David Walker 13-yard touchdown run and Graves 28-yard scoring scamper, that gave Syracuse a 19-10 lead.
But after Colorado trimmed the lead to just three after a Kordell Stewart touchdown pass, Kirby Dar Dar took a Qadry Ismail handoff on the ensuing kickoff and went 100-yards to the house that all-but sealed the victory.
It was the two scoring drives in the third quarter that Graves believes really showed that Syracuse could play with Colorado.
”I remember it was in the second half,” Graves said. “We knew we could play with them. I mean they were good. They were big, they were fast and they were actually better than what we saw on film. We thought they were good and definitely respected them. But the film didn’t really tell the whole story about how physical these guys were, how fast these guys were and how talented these guys were.
”I remember in the second half we put together a couple back-to-back drives. We basically just went down the field on them and took all the momentum. We went back and forth, but we came out and were able to make a few more plays. Then the defense sealed the deal at the end.”
Graves won offensive player of the game for his efforts, and the team got a win that they would remember for the rest of their lives.
”We were excited,” Graves said. “We came down there to win. The locker room was very excited. It was just a joyous occasion because we set up to accomplish a goal and no one thought we could do it except our S.U. fans. We knew if we played our game, we were going to put on a show and that’s what we did. That’s a very good football team so we were excited.
”The coaches were excited. We had a great time. That was a memory from the equipment guys to the last guy on the roster will share those things for the rest of our lives. We wanted to let people know that Syracuse wasn’t just a basketball school but a powerhouse to be reckoned with in football as well.”
Syracuse finished the season 10-2 after the win and were ranked 6th in the final Associated Press Poll.