The View From the Press Box: Syracuse Defeats Boston College 34-31

Syracuse TE Josh Parris scores the game-winning TD with six seconds left. - Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst Senior Day and the ongoing debate over underwhelming home attendance, the Syracuse Orange hosted Boston College and Heisman Trophy candidate Andre Williams with a chance to become bowl eligible in their final regular season game.

In an offensive show not seen since early-season wins over Wagner and Tulane, quarterback Terrel Hunt lead the Orange to a last second 34-31 victory and their sixth win of the year. This makes SU eligible for a bowl game in Scott Shafer’s first season at the helm, and for the third time in the last four years.

The game was won for the Orange on a touchdown pass from Hunt to tight end Josh Parris with six seconds left, Parris’ second TD of the game and his career. Hunt said afterward that the play is called 'wide delay', where is run several steps to the right and tosses back to the left. Parris got good downfield blocking from Rob Trudo and Michael Lasker (subbing for the injured Sean Hickey) and went in for the TD.

Statistically, SU had one of its better offensive outings. Hunt was 28-43 for 270 yards and the two Parris TDs, plus one pick. He also lead the Orange in rushing with 90 yards on 17 carries. Overall the Orange put up a whopping 480 yards of total offense, with 210 of those yards coming on the ground. They were 12-18 on third down conversions, and held BC to a meager 3-10. The Eagles’ vaunted rushing attack did manage 190 yards, but only 29 came from Williams. Most of the damage was done by quarterback Chase Rettig, who threw for 168 yards and ran for another 85 to pace BC.

The game started out with SU on offense after Boston won the toss and deferred to the second half. SU came out of the gate looking to establish the passing game early, and after a couple of quick hits on the first possession, which ultimately flamed out, Hunt hit WR Alvin Cornelius for a 31 yard completion on the second possession to get SU to the BC 13, but the offense stalled out there. SU kicker Ryan Norton then missed what looked like a chip shot FG midway through the first quarter, sparking a “why the hell can’t Syracuse find any good kickers” debate on Twitter. Always a good time.

On their next possession, SU moved the ball down to the BC two-yard line, and after stalling on a couple of plays they faced a 4th and 2 from the 2. Instead of kicking the field goal, and perhaps with Norton’s miss on his mind, Shafer elected to go for it. Jerome Smith was subsequently stuffed at the goal line.

BC then took possession and marched the ball 96 yards down the field in five plays to score the game’s first touchdown. The drive was highlighted by a 55 yard pass from Chase Rettig to Mike Naples, and a 27 yard sweep by Heisman Trophy candidate Andre Williams for the TD, putting BC up 7-0.

SU came right back with a score of their own. Hunt engineered a 15 play, 75 yard drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to TE Josh Parris, his first career score. That tied the game at 7.

SU’s defense turned up the heat on the following BC possession, picking off Rettig at midfield. Hunt led the Orange down the field, aided by a 15 yard BC facemask penalty on what would have been a third down stop. Smith looked shaken up on the play, but ended up returning to the game. The Orange would capitalize on the BC mistake and cash in with a George Morris II TD (also the first of his career) up the middle to take a 14-7 lead.

SU kept up the defensive intensity, especially on the defensive line. They really were in Rettig’s face for much of the second quarter, and didn’t allow Rettig to step into his throws or get anything deep downfield.

The Orange took over at midfield and methodically marched down for another score, mixing both pass and run plays to keep the Eagles off balance. The drive was capped by a one yard Terrel Hunt dive for a TD, his fifth rushing TD of the season.

However, BC came right back with a quick strike drive of its own, aided by a questionable holding call on Orange CB Brandon Reddish at midfield. Rettig threw a bomb to WR Alex Amidon to set up the Eagles’ second score, a nine yard toss from Rettig to Parsons. SU led 21-14 at halftime.

BC took the second half kickoff, and looked to reestablish their dominant running game that had failed them in the first half when Williams only had 24 yards, all of them on his lone TD run. With Williams nursing an injury, BC marched down the field and scored on a nine yard throw from Rettig to fullback Jake Sinkovic. That tied the game at 21.

SU regained the lead on a 42 yard field goal by Ryan Norton, somewhat atoning for his earlier miss. The Orange literally ran the ball down the field and looked poised to punch it in, but a couple of penalties and some conservative play calling stalled the offense at the Eagles’ 25.

Boston College came back with a long 78 yard drive that took eight plays and ate up 4:18. Rettig pretty much took care of the offense himself, running for 54 yards on one play and scoring a leaping rushing TD to put the Eagles up 28-24 with about eight minutes left.

Norton hit a 44 yard FG on the ensuing drive, after a possible big play was thwarted by some tough BC pressure that had Hunt on his rear end. After the successful kick, SU trailed 28-27 with about five minutes left.

The Orange defense stepped up on the following possession, forcing BC into a thee and out and getting the ball back at their own 37. Unfortunately, Hunt chose a bad time to throw his first interception of the game, a dart right to BC linebacker Steele Divitto who returned it to the SU 22. After a Myles Willis 17 yard run, BC milked the clock and settled for a field goal to put them up 31-27 with just over two minutes left.

But SU was not out of it. Hunt threw his eight yard cross-field TD pass to Parris to put SU up 34-31 with six seconds left. The ultra-efficient 75 yard drive took eight plays and 2:02, the very definition of a two minute drill.

Syracuse now gets to reap the benefits of a potential bowl game, if a bowl chooses to select them. A month of extra practices and the notoriety of playing in a bowl are huge for a rebuilding program that can use every bit of extra attention and work it can get. On the surface 6-6 isn’t much to celebrate, but for a program like Syracuse it’s a decent season considering the new coach, new conference and player turnover they experienced over the past season.

Click here to follow my Twitter timeline for additional notes from the game and Coach Scott Shafer's post-game news conference.
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