Home at last: Previewing the 44th meeting between SU and Rutgers

Home at last: SU Football vs. Rutgers preview

The Orange will play in front of home fans for the first time since 2019 on Saturday.
Published: September 9, 2021 | Updated: September 10th, 2021 at 5:46 pm
Syracuse Football
Seniors Andrejas Duerig and Clayton Welch thank the fans after the game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. Syracuse beat Wake Forest 39-30 in overtime.

Fifty-thousand-seat football stadiums aren’t supposed to be empty on Saturdays in the fall.

But as New York State COVID-19 regulations prohibited Syracuse football fans from watching the Orange in-person last year, that was the Dome’s reality.

This Saturday, Sept. 11, the Orange will play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at 2 p.m. The Dome will open its doors to SU fans for the first time since the 2019 season.

Athletic Director John Wildhack and SU’s Vice President of Facilities Pete Sala believe fans will appreciate the Dome’s upgraded concessions, light features and air conditioning.

“It’s time to let the fans back in the building,” Sala said. “When you’re in here every day you don’t appreciate some of the improvements we’ve done. But it is just unbelievable.”

Knowing fans are eager to cheer on the Orange again is one thing; getting them into and out of the Dome while Syracuse University’s mask level is at RED is another.

To prevent congested entrance gates before kickoff, Wildhack and Sala encouraged fans to get to the Dome early on Saturday. All fans five and older must show proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test administered 72 hours before entry or a negative antigen test taken within six hours before entry along with matching identification, Sala said.

The university will offer pre-screening for fans at Manley Field House, Skytop Lot, Sadler Hall and off of the quad near the Ernie Davis statue on campus. Fans are expected to wear masks inside the Dome when not eating or drinking, Sala said.

“It’ll be great to have our fans experience this for the first time,” Wildhack said. “I think the impact that our fans can have on this team, not only this Saturday but throughout the season, can be even more impactful than normal after what our team experienced last year with no fans.”

Junior wide receiver Taj Harris, who moved to number four on SU’s list of all-time receptions leaders last week in the Orange win over Ohio, remembered from previous seasons how impactful a full Dome is on the team’s performance.

“It’s a different energy. Energy that we didn’t have last year,” Harris said. ” I can’t wait to get in that Dome and look out and see orange.”

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Garrett Williams said he’s excited to play in front of Orange fans at home for the first time. Last year, he put on an All-American freshman season in front of SU’s vacant bleachers.

“The vibe on campus is that everyone’s going to be there, so I can’t wait to play,” Williams said. “The energy you get from the crowd can boost you to a whole different level than you thought you even had before.”

The Scarlet Knights team visiting the Dome this weekend is also 1-0. Last week, they outscored the Temple Owls 61-14 with touchdowns from five different players.

Saturday will be meeting number 44 on the football field between the two former Big East Conference foes in a rivalry that started in 1914. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network for fans watching from home.

“I know the community is going to be excited to get back into The Dome and we can’t wait to have our twelfth man back with us,” head coach Dino Babers said.

A win on Saturday would give the Orange its second 2-0 start to a season in the last six years. Syracuse has started three of five seasons 1-1 under Babers.

“The mood of the team is really, really good,” Babers said. “We understand that we have a BIG 10 opponent coming into our house and it’s a big game. Guys are trying to get healed up because they know it’s going to be extremely physical.”

The Dome at Syracuse University
The renovated Dome days before the 2021 Syracuse Football season.
Avatar for Dean Zulkofske

is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse and a magazine, news and digital journalism graduate student from Stony Brook, N.Y.