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Syracuse QB Regrets Salute to Cadets

November 19, 1996

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ Normally, Donovan McNabb is the model of decorum.

But on Saturday, during the No. 16 Orangemen’s 42-17 victory over Army, McNabb was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second half.

The crime? He saluted the 1,000 cadets in the stands after Syracuse fullback Rob Konrad scored a touchdown right in front of them late in the third quarter to put Syracuse ahead 35-10.

Not many in the Carrier Dome saw it, but one of the game officials did. So, too, did a few photographers. When McNabb picked up a copy of the school newspaper, The Daily Orange, on Monday and saw his salute prominently displayed in the centerfold, he smiled sheepishly and admitted he was wrong.

``I just saluted to the crowd,″ he said. ``It was bad behavior on my part, something that I think a quarterback should not get into. I did, and I’m sorry for it. I really don’t need to do that. It’s not good for the team, it’s not good for myself. It’s something that I shouldn’t even have thought about doing. I really didn’t even think about it until the moment. Now it’s over, just move on.″

It wasn’t difficult to understand why he did it. He had heard the Army players mouthing off long before Saturday night’s game, predicting victory, and he had listened to the taunts rain down from the Cadets in the stands when the Orangemen took the field.

``Before the game we warm up right in front of that section,″ Syracuse quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said. ``And they were riding him pretty hard. They were all over him, and they weren’t exactly being complimentary.″

There was more. Even though McNabb was in the process of slicing up the Army secondary _ he completed 16-of-19 for 285 yards and two touchdowns _ the Black Knights were still talking and he was getting tired of all the late hits. Army had been penalized early in the game for roughing McNabb, who was pushed and shoved at every turn in a fruitless effort to unnerve him.

``All game I was either getting a late hit, or I was getting pushed around when I didn’t have the ball,″ McNabb said. ``It was just in the heat of the moment. It was a very energetic game. Emotions flared up. We all were upset and frustrated. Now I can laugh at it.″

He wasn’t laughing when he reached the sidelines _ coach Paul Pasqualoni gave him an earful. But he can certainly smile at all that he’s accomplished. With two games left in the regular season, McNabb is the sixth-leading passer in the nation with 104 completions in 178 attempts for 1,510 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only five interceptions.

``I’m in a position right now where I can go out and make myself better with the passing game and really help out the team,″ said McNabb, who has rushed for 423 yards and three touchdowns on 79 carries. ``I feel I can hit an out cut as soon as the receiver turns around. I feel I can hit a streak route. I feel hot, in a way.″

He is. In leading Syracuse to seven straight convincing wins after an 0-2 start, McNabb has completed 82-of-122 passes for 13 touchdowns and has thrown just two interceptions. And he’s done it on a team that likes to run _ Syracuse is ranked 12th in the nation in rushing with a 240.6 yards a game average _ so he doesn’t get to throw as much as he would like.

No matter.

``We’re in a position right now to go to a bowl game and send the seniors off on a good note,″ McNabb said. ``Like Coach P. says, nobody remembers September, they always remember October and November.″

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