One of the quirks of playing football at Syracuse is the absence of air conditioning in the Carrier Dome, a detail dripping in irony that received special attention this week as undefeated, third-ranked Clemson prepared for its first trip to Upstate New York.
Rather than enjoying the seasonal weather, the team will practice indoors to approximate the conditions Clemson coaches anticipate Saturday. Named for the well-known heating and air conditioning manufacturer, the dome seats 49,262 for football.
Forecasts call for partly cloudy and 77 degrees, which bodes for sauna conditions indoors because air flow studies prior to stadium construction failed to account for body heat. At the first game, according to a story published in the Syracuse student newspaper, condensation from the air and heat radiating off bodies resulted in a thin fog.
No matter, said coach Dabo Swinney.
“If any of you have been around here in August, we get some of that hot stuff in practice around here. Our indoor facility does not have any air and it can get a little stuffy in there, too,” Swinney said Tuesday during his weekly media briefing. “So we will practice in there all week and crank it up and make it as hot as we can.”
Syracuse anticipated a sellout for its first ACC game. Swinney hoped for a reasonable Clemson representation, including a fan from Toronto who called the coach’s radio show Monday and promised to bring a cadre of friends and family.
Swinney consulted several members of his staff for tips. Defensive line coaches Dan Brooks and Marion Hobby were on the Tennessee staff in 1998 when the Vols beat Syracuse in its season-opener. Tight ends/special teams coach Danny Pearman saw several games in the dome as an assistant at Virginia Tech (1998-2003) when both teams were members of the Big East. And offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell was at N.C. State in 1997 when Syracuse beat the Wolfpack 33-31 in overtime.
It’s the third trip to New York for a Clemson team, the first in 63 years, and the second game against Syracuse. In 1937, Clemson was beaten by Army, 21-6, at West Point and in 1952 tied Fordham, 12-12, at Randall’s Island.
At the end of the 1995 season, Syracuse defeated Clemson, 41-0, in the Gator Bowl. Freshman quarterback Donovan McNabb completed 13 of 23 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, seven passes to Marvin Harrison for 173 yards. It was one of the worst losses by a Clemson bowl team.
In Scott Shafer’s first year as coach, Syracuse (2-2) beat Wagner and Tulane in its first two home games this year after opening with road losses against Northwestern and Penn State.
“It is hard to win on the road in any league and in anything that you do. Everybody is more comfortable at home,” Swinney said.
Swinney also pointed out that last year the Orange won six of seven home games — beating Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater — and two seasons ago the Orange beat West Virginia and quarterback Geno Smith.
As a player, he loved road games.
“I love the hostility of it, especially growing up in the SEC,” Swinney said. “I loved to go to Baton Rouge (La.) and see grandmas flipping you the finger as we are riding on the bus. And others would pull their shirts up.
“People would talk bad about you and used to call me Skinny Swinney. I loved that. I thought that was great. That used to be a lot of fun to be a part of. I embraced that.”
Notes: Clemson designated the Oct. 19 game with Florida State as the culmination of a month-long Breast Cancer Awareness campaign … Following surgery for a groin injury, blue-chip freshman corner MacKensie Alexander appears headed to a redshirt season. Swinney said the surgery was successful, but Alexander needs two or three weeks of rehabilitation before he can begin practice, likely with the scout team.