Syracuse vies for bowl victory
Bronx native Marrone seeks to lead Orange to win
Syracuse and Kansas State are each back in a bowl, and so is Yankee Stadium.
The Orange would like to make the Pinstripe Bowl one to remember for coach Doug Marrone when they face the Wildcats on Thursday in the first postseason college football game in the Bronx in 48 years.
Syracuse (7-5) is ending a bowl drought that dates back to a 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The Orange won't be traveling nearly as far this time, with Yankee Stadium located roughly 250 miles away in the heart of their key recruiting region.
Syracuse has 24 players on its roster from the state, and Marrone is a Bronx native and Yankee fan. The sentimental and strategic importance of having his team participate in the first bowl at the new stadium isn't lost on the second-year coach. The old Yankee Stadium hadn't hosted a bowl since the 1962 Gotham Bowl.
"When the announcement was made that a bowl game was going to be played in Yankee Stadium for the first time, my thought was that if we were not going to play in a BCS game, then how great would it be to play in the first college bowl game in Yankee Stadium in my first head coaching job?" Marrone said.
"New York state is our foundation," said Marrone, whose grandfather was an usher for Yankees games. "This is another step in our return to prominence."
Syracuse is 12-9-1 in bowls and 3-2 against the Big 12, with two meetings coming against Kansas State (7-5).
The Orange beat the Wildcats in the 2001 Insight Bowl, but lost the 1997 Fiesta Bowl when both teams were ranked.
Neither team cracked the AP poll this season, and Kansas State hasn't appeared in a bowl since losing to then-No. 16 Rutgers in the 2006 Texas Bowl to fall to 6-7 in the postseason.
"Our goals have been the same forever," coach Bill Snyder said. "Getting back to a bowl game would certainly be high up on the list."
Kansas State will likely rely heavily on senior Daniel Thomas, second in the Big 12 with 1,495 rushing yards and tied for the conference lead with 16 touchdowns.
He closed the regular season with a career-high 269 yards and two TDs on 36 carries in a 49-41 win at North Texas on Nov. 27. In his two years at the school, the Wildcats are 1-7 when Thomas rushes for less than 90 yards compared to 12-4 when he crosses that mark - 7-0 when he has 137 or more.
Thomas should get plenty of carries against the Orange. Besides giving up an average of 172.5 rushing yards during a season-ending 1-3 stretch, Syracuse owns the stingiest pass defense in the Big East with 157.6 yards allowed per game - 106.3 in the last three.
Plus, Kansas State's Carson Coffman hasn't been much of a threat in the passing game, throwing for 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 77 yards against North Texas.
While Kansas State is likely to keep the ball on the ground, Syracuse will probably have a more balanced approach behind quarterback Ryan Nassib. The sophomore threw 16 touchdown passes but had none over the final two games - both losses - while throwing two of his eight interceptions.
Orange leading rusher Delone Carter will be available after leaving the regular-season finale with an injury, finishing with 30 yards on six carries in a 16-7 loss to Boston College. He's third in the Big East with 1,035 rushing yards and has scored seven touchdowns, but four came in a 42-7 win over Colgate in September and he has none in the last three games.
Carter, though, may be in for a big performance against Kansas State, which allows a Big 12-worst 229.1 rushing yards per game - 260.3 over the last three contests.
"Once we get out there and I'm healthy and my o-line is healthy and our receivers are healthy, we're going to dominate," Carter said. "I know defenders don't like to get hit when it's cold out, and that kind of gets me excited. I won't mind the cold. Coming from Akron, Ohio, I'm used to it. It's not going to bother me. I'll go a little harder."
Carter has an active streak of 215 carries without losing a fumble.
The Pinstripe Bowl may have an added emotional element for Syracuse, which will play without punter Rob Long. The senior, a team captain, underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor earlier this month.
The Orange will also be without defensive tackle Andrew Lewis and linebacker Brice Hawkes, who are suspended for violating team rules.
A defensive tackle and two-year starter, Lewis had 28 tackles, including 4 1/2 for loss, one sack, and one forced fumble. Hawkes, a linebacker, played in 11 of 12 games, primarily on special teams.
Kansas State (7-5) vs. Syracuse (7-5), 3:20 p.m. ET on Thursday on ESPN
• Series Record: Series tied 1-1.
• Last Meeting: Syracuse 23-6 in 2001 Insight.com Bowl.
What's at Stake
Two programs that haven't been to the postseason in a while will try to finish off resurgent seasons on an upswing. The Orange haven't played in a bowl since 2004, but under second-year coach and Syracuse alum Doug Marrone, they've pulled themselves out of the Big East basement. Bill Snyder, in his second season as Kansas State coach, has the Wildcats back in a bowl for the first time since 2006.
Kansas State's run defense, ranked 118th in the nation, vs. Syracuse's two tailbacks, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. The Wildcats' top two tacklers are defensive backs David Garrett and Tysyn Hartman, which doesn't say much for the front seven. Carter is a power back who averages 5.1 yards per carry. Bailey is quicker and averages 4.7. The Orange average only 130 yards rushing per game, but they'll try to push around a Kansas State defense that has received more than a few beatings this season.
Players to Watch
Syracuse -- LB Doug Hogue. The former running back has become one of the best linebackers in the Big East and the leader of a unit that ranks fifth in the nation in total yards allowed. He's second on the team in tackles at 89 and leads with 9 1/2 tackles for loss.
Kansas State -- RB Daniel Thomas. The senior is far and away the Wildcats' best offensive threat. He ran for 1,495 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. At 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, Thomas has an NFL future.
Facts & Figures
The last bowl game played in New York was the Gotham Bowl in 1962. Nebraska beat Miami 36-34 at Yankee Stadium. ... Kansas State has run the ball 518 times and thrown only 268 passes. ... Expect the Wildcats to play two quarterbacks. Senior Carson Coffman has completed 64 percent of his passes, but doesn't go down field much. Sophomore Collin Klein is almost exclusively used as a runner. He's second on the team with 430 yards rushing. ... Syracuse P Rob Long, who had a malignant brain tumor removed earlier this month, will be with the team on the sideline.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.