Everything's on the line for Syracuse this Saturday, as it will decide whether the graduating seniors will play again after taking on Boston College on Senior Day.
The Orange enter the weekend 5-6 after a loss to Pittsburgh by the narrowest of margins. Syracuse had an extra point blocked and missed a field goal. It had a successful fake field goal waved off by a last-second Pitt timeout. The eight penalties for 77 yards seemed to come at the worst possible times.
"That's life, man. We can sit here and sulk about it, but then we're being soft, and we're not going to be soft around here," coach Scott Shafer said. "Am I frustrated? Hell yeah. I want to put my hand through a wall right now, but that's the way life goes. So, I'm not going to put my hand through the wall. I'm going to be good."
He has reasons to look for walls to punch. The injury situation, already dicey, got worse against the Panthers. Left tackle Sean Hickey may not play this week, and linebacker Marquis Spruill left with an injury and did not return.
"We aren't the prettiest team in the world, but we're fighting the good fight to get better," Shafer said. "We're not going to use excuses or injuries for reasons not to find a way to win games. This will be the best challenge our kids have had all year. The challenge will be passed on to some kids that haven't had an opportunity, so what a great thing in life for those guys. It's difficult for us. We'd like to have everyone healthy, but hell man, that's what it is. So, let's go after it the best we can - man up, and see what the heck we can do."
His players certainly seem to know what's at stake, and what's required of them.
"It's very important. Everyone knows that," senior cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson said. "It's a big-time thing that can change the program and show everyone that we can be that dominant team."
"I don't think you're going to see a team work harder than us," senior center Macky MacPherson added. "This week our backs are against the wall. We're in the corner and it's do-or-die time."
Players To Watch:
• RB Jerome Smith is being honored along with the seniors this Saturday despite the fact he has another year of eligibility remaining. Smith is the team's leading rusher and has even more on his plate thanks to Prince-Tyson Gulley's injury.
• DT Jay Bromley will play a key role this week in containing Boston College RB Andre Williams. The NCAA's leading rusher is the focal point of the Eagles' offense, and unless the defensive line can slow him down, it'll be a long day for the Orange.
• LB Cam Lynch was named the ACC Linebacker of the Week after his 11-tackle, two-sack performance in a losing effort against Pitt. Like Bromley, Lynch will have a critical role this week in keeping Andre Williams contained.
Series History: Syracuse leads the series with Boston College 28-18 in a rivalry that dates back to when both were Big East members. This is their first time competing as ACC opponents. Boston College knocked off Syracuse in 2010 when the teams last met.
Quote To Note: "That frustration we have, the kids have it, We have to foster that frustration and turn it in to motivation to get this victory against Boston College back here in the Dome."-Coach Scott Shafer after the loss to Pittsburgh last week
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: If Syracuse doesn't run the ball well this week, the Orange will lose. Boston College is solid against the run, particularly the linebacking corps, but Jerome Smith will be as good a back as they've seen all season, apart from going against their own Andre Williams in practice.
Scouting the passing game: Terrel Hunt's going to be tested this week. Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown loves to blitz from unpredictable places, so Hunt's going to have to guess right to both stay upright and avoid throwing the ball into traffic. Having Jarrod West and Brisly Estime back would help, but their status won't be known until later in the week.
Scouting the run defense: Boston College's offense isn't very complicated. The Eagles hand the ball off to Andre Williams, and the leading rusher in the NCAA overwhelms the opposition. This game's going to be won or lost by how well Williams is contained. As he showed last week against Maryland, he's always a threat to take one the distance regardless of how well he's been held in check most of the game.
Scouting the pass defense: The Syracuse defensive backfield has been crushed by injuries, but Boston College isn't the team to test them. The recipe for pass defense against the Eagles is simple: cover Alex Amidon. He's caught 47 percent of Chase Reddig's passes and is the team's only deep threat.
Scouting the special teams: It was a tough weekend for K Ryan Norton against Pittsburgh, to say the least. Norton had his first-quarter extra-point attempt blocked, proving to be the blow that kept the Orange from overtime. He also missed a 42-yard field goal that would have given Syracuse the lead in the fourth quarter. The Orange had what looked to be a successful fake field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter, but Pittsburgh called timeout just before the snap and the team didn't try it again.
• LT Sean Hickey (doubtful) left in the first quarter against Pittsburgh with a lower-body injury. His status for this week's game against Boston College is uncertain.
• WR Brisly Estime missed the Pittsburgh game because of a broken bone in his hand suffered in the loss to Florida State. He had declared himself 50-50 to play.
• RB Prince-Tyson Gulley (out) was out last week with an ankle injury he just can't seem to shake and he is out this week.
• WR Jarrod West(out) missed last week's loss to Pittsburgh with an upper-body injury. He'll be unable to return this week.