Syracuse defeated Boston College, 20-17, at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon in Scott Shafer's final game as head coach of the Orange. With the win, SU finishes the season at 4-8. Here are four takeaways:
Sending Shafer out a winner
If there's one thing to be said about Scott Shafer, it's that most of his players seem to love playing for him. Saturday's game would seemingly confirm that; despite riding an eight-game losing streak and sitting at 3-8, the Orange came out with high energy and put forth a pretty impressive effort.
After Syracuse kicker Cole Murphy's 35-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights as time expired to clinch SU's victory, Shafer stood on the sideline momentarily as his players stormed the field. Then, Rob Trudo hugged him and picked him up. A few moments later, Trudo and fellow offensive linemen Nick Robinson lifted Shafer onto their shoulders. Shafer began to cry, and there were chants of "Thank you, Shafer" throughout the Carrier Dome as he exited the field.
With the win, Shafer finishes his time as head coach of the Orange with a 14-23 record.
No pass zone
If you like air-it-out football, this one was not for you. Between both teams, only 97 yards were gained through the air. Boston College quarterback Jeff Smith finished with just one completion for nine yards, and it took him until more than halfway through the fourth quarter to register that completion.
SU quarterback Zack Mahoney wasn't a great deal better, completing 12 of 26 passes for 88 yards. He did, however, have two touchdown passes. And while Smith threw two interceptions, Mahoney didn't throw any — though he did lose a fumble that led to an Eagles touchdown in the first quarter.
Both offenses were much better at moving the ball on the ground. Syracuse hybrid back Ervin Philips and running back Jordan Fredericks teamed up to rush for 121 yards on 22 carries, while Smith and running back Tyler Rouse picked up 228 yards on 37 carries for Boston College.
Syracuse's offense was at least somewhat successful in large part because it got the ball to its best playmakers relatively frequently. Philips registered nine carries and picked up 73 yards in addition to catching five passes for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Steve Ishmael, meanwhile, caught four passes for 44 yards. That doesn't sound like much until you realize that it means one-third of Mahoney's completions and half of his passing yards went to Ishmael. Ishmael also caught a touchdown in the third quarter on a slant route, Syracuse's final touchdown.
"The Officer" gets a win
In three prior starts this season, Zack Mahoney was often dealt a bad hand. He first had to take on No. 8 LSU in September. In his next time out two weeks ago, he battled No. 1 Clemson in the Carrier Dome. Then, last week, he had to take on NC State and its stingy defense on the road.
Syracuse lost each of those games, but it wasn't a reflection on Mahoney's play — SU was the heavy underdog in each game and Mahoney typically played better than most would expect a walk-on, former fifth-stringer to play.
But on Saturday, Mahoney finally got his first win as the starting quarterback for the Orange. If Eric Dungey gets and stays healthy, it's very possible Mahoney never starts another game for Syracuse. Either way, though, it has to feel good for Mahoney to walk away on top today.