I’ll be cheering for Torpedo and the Syracuse Orange

I’ll be cheering for Torpedo and the Syracuse Orange
Syracuse Orange

This is kind of a dangerous stance for a guy of Irish descent to take.

It is going to get me disowned by several family members, and I probably won’t be allowed into my dad’s house for Christmas or any other holiday.

But I am cheering against Notre Dame Saturday when the No. 3 Irish play No. 12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium.

For one thing, I make it a policy to never cheer for the home team in Yankee Stadium, and the Irish will be wearing their home jerseys.

Also, even as a guy who was forced into be a lifelong Notre Dame fan, I have a really hard time cheering for Irish coach Brian Kelly, who hates old people, children and dogs.

Even more, Mike Lynch coaches for Syracuse.

Every football fan from Montana — or at least every Montana Grizzly fan — should be cheering for the guy they call “Torpedo.”

I’m a little partial to Lynch because I wrote a feature story about him for The Montana Kaimin, the University of Montana student paper, when he was the back up to the third-string center. I also drank several hundred beers with Mike as we solved the world’s problems — but forgot the solutions by morning — during the offseason.

Mike is the offensive coordinator and running backs coach for Syracuse, and he has the team’s offense humming.

Last week, the Orange rolled Louisville for a 54-23 Senior Night victory at the Carrier Dome.

That, as you know by now, led to the firing of Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, son of legendary Butte coach Bob “Putter” Petrino.

The younger Petrino’s second tenure at Louisville did not work out so well, but do not worry for the coach who was born in Butte but raised in Helena. The school still owes him around $14 million in a buyout.

He will be just fine.

Lynch also has some ties to the Mining City, and they go well beyond his love for coming to town for St. Patrick’s Day.

While he has coached under head coach Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois, Bowling Green and Syracuse, Mike is originally from the Mick Dennehy coaching tree.

Lynch won over the hard-nosed Butte native when he was earning his nickname as a scout-team player for the Grizzlies a couple of decades ago. Mick liked what he saw in the undersized kid from Roseville, California, because he played every snap at practice like it was the Super Bowl.

He really did that, too. If you ask the first-string defensive linemen from back then, they would tell you Torpedo never took a snap off. They would tell you his heart was the biggest part of his body.

Even though Mike knew there was little chance of him taking a meaningful snap for the Grizzlies, he gave everything he had and sacrificed his body every day at practice to help make the Grizzlies better.

Torpedo was “Rudy” of the University of Montana, only Mike’s story was not fabricated for Hollywood like Dan Ruettiger’s was at Notre Dame.

Maybe it will someday, because Mike’s life story really is an inspirational one. From the minute I met Mike at a party at Butte native Mike Orizotti’s house in Missoula (at least half of Mike’s friends were Butte guys), I knew Mike had a passion for football like none I have ever seen before.

He didn’t just like football. He loved it.

He didn’t just love football. He lived it.

Ever since he was a ball boy at San Francisco 49ers training camps as a young kid, Mike knew his future was football. You better believe he will be a head coach of a major college football team someday, too.

It will probably be someday really soon. Especially if Syracuse knocks Notre Dame out of the College Football Playoff.

Mike’s coaching career started with the Grizzlies as the tight ends coach in 1999. The next year, he joined Dennehy at Utah State. He went to Eastern Illinois, in 2005. There, he eventually ended up with Babers, who elevated Mike to offensive coordinator and running backs coach before this season.

He was the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach during his first two years a Syracuse, and he helped lead the Orange to two of the top three total offensive seasons in team history.

His 2016 team gained 5,290 yards. Last year, it picked up 5,476. So far this year, Lynch’s offense has racked up 4,822 yards. It is averaging 44.4 points per game.

Syracuse went 4-8 the year before Mike and Baber’s staff took over. This year, after two more 4-8 seasons, the Orange are 8-2 and winners of four straight.

Torpedo’s offense averaged 47 points per game in wins over North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Louisville.

On Sunday, the Orange received the No. 12 ranking from The Associated Press and USA Today coaches poll. That is the highest ranking for Syracuse since Donovan McNabb and the Orange were ranked No. 11 in September of 1998,

A couple of years ago, I wrote about how Mike used to dream of running through the tunnel and onto the field at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. (Click here to see that column.)

His eyes lit up like Mike Singletary on third and 1 and his body would literally shake as he talked about why he worked so hard for the Grizzlies, even though he knew he had no chance of ever being a star for the Grizzlies.

That was back when the Missoula stadium held about 19,000 fans.

On Saturday, Mike is going to lead his team onto the field at Yankee Stadium in front of about 54,000 screaming fans.

Sure, that’s a much smaller crowd than when the Orange played Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium in 2016. But this is Yankee Stadium, and ESPN called the game “the most significant college football game at Yankee Stadium maybe since the 1940s.”

Even though the big stadium in the Bronx is the new Yankee Stadium that opened in 2009, this is a really big deal for a former Grizzly practice player.

It is a pretty damn big deal for the guys he used to drink beers with back in Missoula, too.

So, my ancestors are going to have to forgive me for this one.

Let’s go Torpedo. Let’s go Orange.

Beat the Irish.

— Bill Foley, who likes old people, children and dogs, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. Check out his NFL picks on Thursdays. 2 comments

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  • Guy Wadas
    November 13, 2018, 8:58 pm

    I will be rooting for the Orange on Saturday too. I don’t think your article will convince my assistant coach to root for the Orange either.

  • Jimmy Sullivan
    November 15, 2018, 1:02 am

    Hey Chucklehead, sometimes it’s best to keep a man crush to yourself. Go Irish!


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