Prepping for Syracuse Already

Believe it or not, we are just a scant 149 days away from Northwestern opening the 2012 football season in Syracuse, N.Y.

Man, the offseason flies by quickly. OK, so maybe it is not going by so quickly. After all, Northwestern still has a little more than a week of spring practice left. That does not mean the focus is not on the Orange already.

The trip to the Carrier Dome is very clearly in the back of Pat Fitzgerald’s mind as he runs his team through it paces this spring. This is the longest week of the year after all, and you only get one chance to go 1-0 on the first try each season.

Perhaps some of the early early early preparation for Syracuse is a remembrance of what happened the last time Northwestern traveled to Upstate New York. That was Mike Kafka’s big coming out party as he set a Northwestern record for most consecutive completions. Yet, the game is remembered more for the team’s failures on defense.

The Wildcats struggled to contain quarterback Greg Paulus and wide receiver Mike Williams throughout the day. Williams made 11 catches for 209 yards. And, of course, the game was decided by the rare Mike Kafka interception that was returned into Syracuse’s field goal range.

This loss stuck with us because of this crazy finish even though the team ended up going to the Outback Bowl that year.

Opening at Syracuse is not going to be much easier. Doug Marone has turned the Orange program around and pushed them back into the Big East picture (well, before that conference completely fell apart). Syracuse finished last year 5-7 but scored some big home victories and were 4-1 at the Carrier Dome before a five-game losing streak derailed their season.

At this point, it does not seem like Northwestern is installing any specific gameplan to deal with the Orange. But the trip is certainly present.

For the third straight year, Northwestern will start on the road against a BCS-conference school. Northwestern was ready for trips to Vanderbilt and to Boston College the last two years. But Syracuse offers a much different challenge.

Commodores fans are not known for their crowd noise and the Eagles’ Alumni Stadium was invaded with a healthy dose of purple. Syracuse’s Carrier Dome is known as the Loud House and the confines will not be so friendly.

It is not like Northwestern has never won in loud environments. The Wildcats own wins in their last visits to Ann Arbor and Lincoln. It is something every Big Ten team has to deal with in playing in the Big Ten. But NU is cognizant of the task ahead of it for that opener that is five months away.

As part of Tuesday’s practice, Northwestern had noise piping in to the field to simulate some of the crowd noise the team will experience this year. That certainly will be part of the challenge in Game One this season.

The other part is that Syracuse has largely kept their practices closed and is actively advising its players not to talk to the media before its spring game on Saturday. There is not much to know at this point about Syracuse that Northwestern can prepare for. The Orange are, like the Wildcats, getting back to fundamentals to erase a horrid end to their season.

An eye, though, is clearly already on the September 1 opener. Man, it cannot get here soon enough.

  • Chasmo

    Psychological studies have shown that the siege mentally is one of the hallmarks of the conservative mindset and since football is nothing if not a conservative institution, it is not surprising that football coaches are fond of closing practices as it fosters an us-versus-them mentality that can be used as motivation.
    The Syracuse coach is taking the siege mentally to a new level by closing all but two spring practice sessions to fans and media.
    Yet football fans themselves tend to be a conservative lot, so most Syracuse fans probably will support his obsession with secrecy at least until the end of the 2012 season. If Syracuse posts a winning record, the fans will continue support him if he does this again in the spring of 2013. If he does not win, they may not.
    For aside from watching the games, the greatest joy of sports fan is discussing their team’s players, game plans, hopes and dreams. The Syracuse coach is depriving his fans of fun. We’ll see how long it lasts.

  • Steve Z

    I am just a little curious – with piping in noise into the practice facility: Does it actually get as loud as an opposing team’s stadium (especially in a particularly hostile environment)? I’ve had the pleasure of attending a practice before, but never with noise, so I was just interested in how realistic it can be.

  • Dennis Wolfberg

    It appears as if Isaiah Thomas is available after leaving FIU while running a clean program. I hope Coach Bill feels the heat turning up….

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Is that a serious comment? Thomas went 26-65 at FIU in three years. Not to mention, hiring him would be turning our back on one of our alumnas and greatest players in Northwestern history (Anucha Browne Sanders accused Thomas of sexual harassment when she worked for the Knicks).

      Yeah, Thomas is just a massive failure.

    • cece

      do you read this blog on a regular basis? this is at least the third time I have posted that Isaiah is a shameful figure to Anucha Browne, a NU hoops star, who was the recipient of Isaiah’s sexist behavior at the Knicks shop. for which the Knicks had to pay, apparently, big time, as in the millions for the behavior.

      get it, get it fully, Isaiah has no business being near NU. he is a disaster.

  • mustard’s unbridled westward expansion

    Sounds like he’s due for a good run.

  • The Hin Man


  • willycat

    And just how many practices does NU open up to it’s fans?

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I think the article said that they are not even opening practices to the media and are just kind of closing all the doors until the spring game (which was today).

      • cece

        spring game is on April 14.

        • vaudvillain

          I think PRR was referring to Syracuse’s spring game being on the 7th. I don’t know how many NU opens to its fans, but I know several are open to the media.

  • Cat91

    The noise is piped in via a loud-ass speaker with the sounds of the opposing team, like the fight songs. it makes communication more difficult, but there is a difference simply because you can’t simulate 100K fans yelling from a far at you vs a loud ass speaker right in your ear. i’d say its similar but not the same.

  • I went to the last game in Syracuse and it was a hoot. The fan base is reminiscent of games in Madison or Ann Arbor: incredibly dedicated, very vocal, extremely loud. Very little purple, lots of orange. Before, during, after the game, the fans were all over us. If I find the specific photo of me and the wife at our seats in the Carrier Dome, you’ll see six or seven Syracuse fans flicking our camera off in the background. However, we found a great group of people that invited us into their tailgate, where we had a fill. Great group of diehards. 

    Loud is an understatement – its a football cacophony. Fun for us, bad for the visiting team. Great time for sure, AND THEY STILL SELL BEER IN THE CARRIER DOME! Made for an even better time at the game.

    Highly recommended for anyone looking for a good road game.