Saturday, November 28, 2015

Shafer, Seniors End SU Careers with a 20-17 Win Over Boston College

By Ellen Burr

Photos by Yonah Perline

Syracuse, N.Y. - 
As the Syracuse University football team (4-8-0) finished up the season with a dramatic 20-17 win over Boston College at the Carrier Dome, Scott Shafer stood on the sideline, crying. Saturday's game marked the last time Shafer would walk onto the field as the head coach of the Orange. But he did not get to walk off.

In the final three seconds of the game, as Cole Murphy's kick flew through the goalposts to secure SU's win, Shafer was surrounded by his players. A announced crowd of 30,717 looked on as Syracuse seniors Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson hoisted their coach on to their shoulders, and carried him off the field.

Tyler Rouse's Homecoming

The Eagles were the first to strike after linebacker Connor Strachan recovered a Zack Mahoney fumble in the first quarter. BC scored on a 33-yard drive led by junior running back Tyler Rouse. Rouse, a Baldwinsville native, carried the ball four times for all 33 yards. He capped off the drive with a 1-yard run into the end zone.

He’d be heard from again, often.

Boston College's Costly Blunders

Syracuse answered the Eagles with a touchdown of its own, early in the second quarter. Penalties proved to be costly for Boston College - with a face mask, personal foul, and pass interference against BC on SU's first 65-yard scoring drive, penalties against the Eagles accounted for 44 of those yards. Zack Mahoney completed a 2-yard pass to Ervin Philips in the end zone for SU's first touchdown of the game.

As the game continued, Boston College cleaned up its penalties, but the Eagles' offense continued to make mistakes. Freshman quarterback Jeff Smith threw interceptions on two consecutive offensive drives by the Eagles in the second quarter.

The first interception was caught by Cordell Hudson after Smith was hit while throwing. Cole Murphy finished off that scoring drive with a career-long 49-yard field goal. Antwon Cordy picked off the second but Syracuse failed to cash in, leaving the score 10-7 going into the half.

Second half - Orange starts strong

The Orange's momentum carried over into the second half, as Syracuse scored on its first offensive drive. The Orange drove for 66 yards over eight plays for a touchdown with just over four minutes into the half. Again, Boston College was called for pass interference on that drive, giving SU 15 of those 66 yards of offense. Zack Mahoney found Steve Ishamel on a slant crossing the goal line for the 1-yard touchdown pass, making the score 17-14.

Eagles respond

BC wasted no time answering. After Michael Walker returned the kickoff to the Eagles’38, Smith took off down the right sideline on first down and sprinted to the Syracuse nine. Rouse took it in from there and with 9:53 left in the third quarter it was 17-14.

Rouse finished with 111 net rushing yards and the two touchdowns on 24 carries.

Smith led the Eagles with 117 yards rushing but completed just one pass in 13 tries.

Mahoney, Murphy Deliver on Final Drive

It was back and forth after that until BC finally mounted a fourth quarter drive and with 2:42 left in the game, tied it at 17 on a 43-yard field goal by freshman Colton Lichtenburg.

The Orange had a chance left and made the most of it. Mahoney, the former fifth-string walk-on demonstrated an uncanny calm as he connected with Ervin Philips and Alvin Cornelius for two first- down passes.

Two rushes by Jordan Fredericks, one for 10 yards and another for 7 moved SU farther into Eagles’ territory to set up Cole Murphy for the game-winning kick. After two timeouts by Boston College, Murphy drilled the football 35 yards to win the game for the Orange as the clock ran out.

Shafer's Last Stand

Shafer fought back tears in his postgame statement, calling the game “a great victory for our seniors.”

He thanked the players, the coaches, their families, the university and the community, then left with his family without taking questions.

Shafer had started off the week leading up to the matchup between Syracuse and Boston College knowing it would be his finale. Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced Shafer's termination on Monday, citing a "change in leadership" was needed after the Orange went 3-8 in the first 11 games of the season.

Shafer has been with the Orange since 2009, when he started as the team's defensive coordinator. He was named head coach of Syracuse in 2013 after Doug Marrone left to coach  the Buffalo Bills. Shafer's record as head coach of Syracuse is 14-23.

But Syracuse players said in the media opportunity following the game there is more to a coach than a win-loss record.

"He cares about us not only as players, but as individuals," sophomore captain Zaire Franklin said. "If any of us ever need anything from him, we know that he's got our back...wherever he ends up in the country."

"He's a great coach, a great guy," sophomore receiver Steve Ishmael reiterated. "When we would go to his house during the offseason, he would treat us just like family."

In a press conference on Monday, Boston College Head Coach Steve Addazio had voiced his admiration for Shafer and the rest of the Orange coaching staff following Coyle's announcement.

"Scott Shafer is a great football coach," Addazio said then. "He is a hell of a football coach and he is a hell of a guy. I think it is sad commentary right now to me with what has taken place...I've got a lot of respect for him and his staff."

After the game, they embraced in the center of the field.

Senior Day

Saturday's game against BC was also the final time SU's seniors would take the field wearing the Orange jersey. Prior to the game on Saturday, Syracuse honored its seniors and the seniors' families. The celebration recognized the squad's 23 senior members.

The crowd's applause surged as the name of punter Riley Dixon was announced. Dixon currently sits first in the ACC for punting, and was recently announced as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given each year to the best punter in the country.

The search

With SU finishing the 2015 season with a 4-8-0 record, the search for a new head coach is already underway. Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel has reported that Coyle and Chancellor Kent Syverud have been talking with candidates.

On this day, the players were focusing on the now former SU coach.

"We really wanted to finish this season on a strong note," sophomore captain Zaire Franklin said. "But considering everything that happened to Coach this week...this game was for for 'Shafe.'"


Post-game Press Conference

Coach Shafer -
Zaire Franklin -
Steve Ishmael -

SU vs. BC Pictures

Syracuse, N.Y - The Syracuse Orange defeated the Boston College Eagles 20-17 in the season finale Saturday afternoon on a last-second field goal by Cole Murphy. Seventeen seniors were honored before the game. The Orange finished the season with a 4-8 record, and will look for a new head coach this off-season. Players carried fired Coach Scott Shafer on their shoulders following the win. Here is the game in pictures by Yonah Perline. Click on any photo to start slide show.