Syracuse football trails early, late and in between in loss to Boston College

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Syracuse went 4-8 in the 2017 season

For the second straight season, the Syracuse football team finished with a major collapse. This time, the Orange were trampled by Boston College at home, 42-14, to make it five consecutive losses following their upset of then-#2 Clemson.

Despite their nickname, the Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC) used a dominant running attack, rolling up 333 yards on the ground. SU (4-8, 2-6) simply had no answer for A.J. Dillon and Jon Hilliman, who amassed 267 yards on 42 carries, led by Dillon’s 193 yards and three scores.

Without starting quarterback Eric Dungey for the third straight game, the Syracuse offense could not consistently move the ball in Rex Culpepper’s first start. Culpepper posted a solid statistical line, but it was not close to enough, as the Orange found themselves in an early hole from which they could not pull themselves.

SU’s defense failed to regain the form that had made it the best in the nation in third down conversions against during the first nine games of the season. For the third straight outing, Syracuse opponents were able to convert at least half of their third down chances, as BC was successful on 8-of-14 opportunities. Under Culpepper’s guidance, the Orange went a mere 4-of-12 on their own third downs.

After SU went three-and-out on the opening possession, the Eagles marched 73 yards in a dozen plays for a touchdown. Boston College used several passes to open things up, then finished the drive with A.J. Dillon’s first score, a 22-yard burst through the Orange defense. The extra point gave BC a 7-0 lead midway through the opening quarter.

Syracuse responded quickly, needing only five plays and just under two minutes to reach the end zone. Rex Culpepper found Steve Ishmael for a short pass and Ishmael cut past the closest defender and went 37 yards for a touchdown. Riley Dixon booted the extra point to tie the game.

The Eagles needed five plays of their own on their ensuing drive for another touchdown. Dillon’s second score, this one of eight yards, gave BC a lead that they would not relinquish with just over three minutes left in the first.

» Related: No bowl game, but a season of growth for Syracuse football

Two possessions later, Boston College got a big play for a score, this one also on the ground. Wide receiver Jeff Smith exploded past the SU defense on a jet sweep down the left sideline for a 64-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

The Eagles delivered an early knockout blow on the next Syracuse possession. Culpepper threw a quick pass to the sideline that was incomplete. The pass went backward and, after a moment, Hamp Cheevers picked up the ball and returned it for a touchdown. The extra point made it a 28-7 game with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter.

Culpepper got the Orange down the field quickly on the next drive, hitting Ishmael on the third play for a 44-yard strike down the left sideline. On the next play, Culpepper tossed a pass up the seam to an open Erv Philips, who was free in the end zone for a touchdown. Murphy added the extra point to make it a 28-14 game.

SU mustered a scoring threat just before half after taking over possession at their own 26. Culpepper completed four passes in a row to reach the Boston College 32 with six seconds left. BC used a pair of timeouts to try to freeze Murphy and he pushed his 50-yard field goal kick from the right hash to the left of the uprights, leaving a 14-point margin at halftime.

Boston College received the opening kick of the third quarter and finished off any Syracuse comeback hopes, going 69 yards on ten plays for another touchdown. The Eagles held a 35-14 lead following the extra point.

The Orange threatened with a long drive that ended the third. On the first play of the fourth quarter, though, Chris Elmore was stuffed on a fourth-and-one from the BC five, giving the Eagles the ball.

A 34-yard run by Dillon got Boston College into good field position and a 46-yard touchdown pass four plays later got them into the end zone. The extra point made it a 42-14 game with 12:37 remaining.

The Orange never threatened to score again.

Rex Culpepper had a solid stat line, completing of 24-of-34 passes for 280 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but also threw an interception and committed two fumbles that Boston College recovered.

Steve Ishmael was the primary recipient of Culpepper’s work, catching 11 passes for 187 yards and a score. As a result, Ishmael leaves Syracuse as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yardage with 2,870 yards and single-season record holder for receptions with 105, which is also good for second in a single season in the ACC.

Erv Philips caught eight passes, moving his career record at SU to 223, the highest total in school history. Ishmael and Philips combined to set an ACC record for receptions by a pair of teammates, finishing with a combined 194 receptions.

Moe Neal led the Orange with 88 rushing yards on 13 carries.

Parris Bennett led all players with 14 tackles in his final game at SU, adding a sack. Evan Foster and Austin Valdez each had ten stops while Ryan Guthrie caused a fumble and also came up with the recovery.

The loss ends the second consecutive season under Dino Babers to wrap up with a 4-8 record and marks the fourth consecutive season where Syracuse has failed to appear in a bowl.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.

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