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Syracuse QB Regrets Salute to Army Cadets

November 20, 1996

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ While Donovan McNabb didn’t get any demerits for his sleight of hand, he showed Army that sometimes he can be pushed too far.

It happened on Saturday during the No. 16 Orangemen’s 42-17 victory over the previously unbeaten Black Knights. The normally unflappable Syracuse quarterback was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the third quarter.

The crime? He saluted a contingent of 1,000 Cadets sitting in the stands after Syracuse fullback Rob Konrad scored a touchdown to give the Orangemen a 35-10 lead.

Not many in the sellout crowd at 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 made a mistake.

``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 heard the Army players mouthing off before Saturday night’s game, predicting victory, and he 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 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns _ the Black Knights were still talking, and he was getting tired of all the late hits. Army was penalized early in the game for roughing McNabb, who was pushed and shoved at every turn in a fruitless effort to unnerve him.

``They were saying that we couldn’t even score 17 points on them and all that other jargon they were throwing out at us,″ Syracuse center Harvey Pennypacker said. ``If there is an excuse for such an action, I think that’s why he did it. I don’t think he meant it in a real derogatory way. He just wanted to say, `Hey, thanks for coming to the dome.‴

There were no thank-you’s on the sidelines _ coach Paul Pasqualoni gave him an earful. So did Rogers.

``It was not meant maliciously, but I was disappointed that he did it,″ Rogers said. ``I just didn’t want people to misconstrue who he is.″

He is quite a quarterback. 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.″

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 240.6 yards per game _ 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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