The attendance issue surrounding Syracuse football has been debated, discussed, rehashed and beaten to death for years, especially so during the first three weeks of the 2015 season. The crowds were poor during those games, with announced attendances in the 25,000-27,000 range, and far fewer actually in the stadium.
But on Saturday, it was a strong crowd. Announced attendance of 43,101. The in-butts count seemed to be every bit of that, and they were loud throughout. It was a welcome site in the Carrier Dome, and further proved that it can be one of the best home field advantages in college football. The nickname "The Loud House" was given to that place for a reason. On Saturday, it proved why.
Those who have attended each of Syracuse's four games have been privvy to some high quality football and very entertaining games. The Orange started with a 47-0 win over Rhode island, followed that up with a 31-20 come from behind win over Wake Forest, and then pulled off an overtime win against Central Michigan.
Game four, on Saturday, saw Syracuse goe toe to toe with top-10 SEC powerhouse LSU featuring Heisman Trophy frontrunner Leonard Fournette. There were plenty of opportunities for Syracuse to cheer. The Riley Dixon fake field goal where he leaped over a defender to pick up a first down. The long touchdown pass from Zachary Mahoney to Brisly Estime. The sacks, tackles for loss and third down stops by the Syracuse defense.
Combine that with an LSU contingent of around eight to 10,000, and you had a big time college football atmosphere in Syracuse.
The game was fun as an observer. A game with the outcome in doubt well into the fourth quarter featuring two good football teams. One that kept the crowd engaged throughout.
That used to be the norm for the Carrier Dome. Large crowds, a loud environment, and an electric atmosphere. But when the program took a turn for the worse towards the end of the Paul Pasqualoni era and into Greg Robinson's tenure, a large portion of the fan base left. Syracuse has been trying to win them back ever since.
Saturday was a bit of a throwback. Back to the 90's when Syracuse was a team that could compete with anyone in the country and beat many of those teams in the Carrier Dome. Teams like Florida, Virginia Tech, Miami, Penn State and many others fell victim to the Orange. While LSU did not suffer that same fate, Saturday showed that Syracuse can get back to that type of football and so can the Carrier Dome.
Yes it was a big name opponent, but the way Syracuse played should encourage the fan base. It should get many that left a reason to come back. A quality product on the field, a winning team and an exciting brand of football. This Syracuse team is checking those boxes.
The crowd helped force LSU into mistakes. There were false start penalties and communication issues that were a direct result of the noise inside the Dome. It had an impact on recruits in attendance and watching from their homes. As Scott Shafer gears up to get the program back to being a consistently competitive one, crowds like Saturday's will only help his cause.
Sure Syracuse lost to LSU, and that was disappointing to some given the opportunities there for the Orange to pull off the upset. But it was fun on Saturday. The crowd, a star on the other team Syracuse was trying to stop, big plays on both sides, a somewhat back and forth game. It was entertaining. It was fun. It was electric.
Here's hoping there are more Saturday's like that in Syracuse's future.