Much of that success is attributable to the seamless transition over which Coach P, as he is known on campus, presided. Pasqualoni, who had been the Orange men's linebacker coach for four years, was known to be strict but fair, tireless and intense. A 43-year-old bachelor, Pasqualoni admits to being wedded to his work.
His master plan for Syracuse football is the same as MacPherson's was—namely, recruit primarily within a six-hour radius of central New York and in talent-laden Florida and Texas, and attract the speediest players with a pitch that goes something like this: Six times a year you will be able to showcase your skills on the fastest playing surface in the country. Unlike outdoor artificial surfaces, which are slightly convex to allow for drainage, the floor of the Carrier Dome is as flat as the top of a pool table.
Of course, that's not an advantage for the Orangemen when high-octane Miami comes to town. Syracuse was looking for a bomb on the Hurricanes' first play from scrimmage. Torretta obliged by throwing a bomb—and completing it, to Horace Copeland for 48 yards. Said Pasqualoni, "We put our best guy on him—Dwayne Joseph—and Copeland still ran by him. We knew Miami was fast, but they're even faster than we thought."
Although that play did not lead to a score—Conley picked off Torretta's next pass—it was fruitful. "After that," said Pasqualoni, the Orange defensive backs "backed up even deeper." Those fat cushions allowed Torretta to complete 28 of 43 passes, most of them dinks and intermediate throws, none for touchdowns.
The other supposed advantage of playing at home in the Dome is the din created by the Syracuse crowd. The racket, however, did not throw the Hurricanes off stride. Indeed, while the fans booed Miami during pregame warmups, some Hurricane players egged the crowd on, waving their arms and cupping their ears as if to say, What, that's as loud as it gets? In the second quarter, while Orange fans strained their vocal cords, Torretta—strolling up and down the line of scrimmage to make himself heard—calmly audibled a running play on which fullback Larry Jones went 11 yards untouched to put the Hurricanes up 10-0.
Asked after the game if the prospect of playing in the Dome worried him, Miami linebacker Micheal Barrow answered, "Have you been outside today?" It was rainy, windy and cold. "We appreciate the opportunity to play in the Dome."
The Hurricanes' attitude is this: We'll do the intimidating, thank you. Last week Bell had gotten a call from Syracuse linebacker Garland Hawkins, who provided some advice on play selection. "Don't even think about running those weak-ass counters and draws against us," Hawkins told Bell. Having talked the talk, however, Hawkins couldn't quite walk the walk: He came up with a lot of air on Jones's scoring run—a draw.
It would be the Hurricanes' only touchdown. The balance of Miami's scoring came from kicker Dane Prewitt's three field goals. As it has in each of Miami's other tight games this year—against Florida State, Arizona and Penn State—the defense played custodian, tidying the offense's messes. Before Saturday, Syracuse's multiple offense was averaging 447.5 yards per game. At halftime it had minus one yard with one first down. Graves had been sacked seven times, and the Orangemen trailed 13-0. Of the 28 plays Syracuse ran before intermission, 17 went for zero or negative yardage.
That futility couldn't last—Syracuse is too talented. In the first half, Miami had taken the option away from the Orangemen by overplaying to the outside. In the third quarter, Graves started handing off to his fullbacks, who tore off nice chunks up the gut. Syracuse scored on its first two possessions of the half, on a 31-yard John Biskup field goal followed by a 92-yard touchdown drive. On first-and-goal from the one, Graves became a human pogo stick to get the ball into the end zone.
Graves had entered the game leading the nation in passing efficiency. A three-sport star at Archbishop Carroll High in Washington, D.C., he won the starting job as a redshirt freshman. George DeLeone, the Orangemen's bespectacled, tweed-jacketed nutty professor of an offensive coordinator, found Graves's versatility irresistible. Here was a kid who could run the option and throw the drop-back pass. Plus, he was sharp. The Orange coaches call Graves a one-timer, meaning they don't have to tell him anything twice. "The problem is, we can do so much with Marvin, we probably go into each game with more offense than we need," says DeLeone.