Things did not look good early in the fourth quarter, but Syracuse roared back with 26 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes to grab a late lead, then held on to defeat Boston College, 32-23. The much-needed victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Orange (7-5, 4-4 ACC) and sends the Eagles (3-9, 2-6 ACC) into the offseason.
The Orange were simply terrible out of the gate. Garrett Shrader was strip-sacked on the first drive, the first of four times he was dropped in the opening quarter and seven times overall. The fumble essentially gifted BC a field goal, then a blocked punt on the next SU possession gave the Eagles a short field. The hosts took advantage quickly, moving the necessary 15 yards in three plays to get a touchdown and grab a 10-0 lead a little more than four minutes into the action.
Syracuse came back with an effective drive that eventually bogged down in field goal range. Andre Szmyt, however, missed the 40-yard field goal. The Eagles were kind enough hosts to match that missed field goal at the end of their next possession.
The Orange finally broke through a little more than two minutes before the half, getting a 47-yard field goal from Szmyt to cut the gap to seven. Anwar Sparrow got the ball back for SU two plays later with a strip-sack of his own, but the ensuing drive bogged down in a sea of penalties. Dino Babers eventually opted to go for it on 4th-and-35 from the BC 37, but the offense unsurprisingly failed to convert. The Eagles were able to move into field goal range, but missed a second attempt and took their 10-3 lead to half.
Syracuse scored on their first drive of the third quarter, getting a 29-yard field goal from Szmyt to cut the margin to 10-6. Boston College responded with a touchdown drive, stretching their lead to 17-6 a couple minutes into the fourth quarter.
Shrader led a scoring drive in response, marching the Orange offense down the field and cashing in on a touchdown pass to DeVaughn Cooper from eight yards out with just under ten minutes to play. SU went for two, but Shrader was stopped short of the end zone on a scramble, leaving the hosts in front, 17-12.
Three plays after forcing an Eagle punt, Shrader grabbed the lead for the Orange by delivering a 58-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline to Damien Alford for an 18-17 lead. Once again, Syracuse failed on a two-point conversion attempt, but they held their first lead with 7:05 remaining.
Four plays after the touchdown, Caleb Okechukwu chased down the quarterback and forced a fumble that Steve Linton pounced on at the BC 37. The Orange offense converted the turnover into points with six consecutive rushing plays capped by Sean Tucker carrying the ball in from five yards out. Szmyt added the extra point for a 25-17 lead with 2:29 to play.
The defense made that lead stand up, stopping the Eagles on fourth down to get the ball back. Tucker iced the game on the second play of the following possession, bouncing outside and blowing through the Boston College defense for a game-clinching 29-yard touchdown. Szmyt’s extra point closed the streak at 32-17. The hosts responded with a touchdown drive to pull within nine, but failed on a two-point conversion.
This first three quarters and change of the game was just a series of mistakes that nearly doomed the Orange. The Shrader fumble gifted Boston College three points and the blocked punt gave them seven more. SU should have had a drive start at the Eagle 20, but Sparrow committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to push the drive back 15 yards. That drive reached the BC six-yard-line, but a couple more penalties helped push them back to the 37. SU later reached the Boston College three, but a penalty and a sack made them settle for a field goal. A personal foul flag on Justin Barron helped the Eagles score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The Orange cleaned things up late, though, as the penalty on Barron was the last one they committed until the BC two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds and the only sacks in the fourth quarter were picked up by the SU defense.
When he had time to throw, Shrader looked like he came out of a time machine from the first month of the season. He connected on 21-of-27 passes for 285 yards and a pair of scores.
Damien Alford (four receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown), DeVaughn Cooper (seven catches for 80 yards and a score), and Oronde Gadsden II (six grabs for 106 yards) were an excellent trio for Shrader to work with outside. That kind of diversity from the wide receivers in the pass game is something that had been missing all season.
Sean Tucker had 125 yards and a pair of scores on 21 carries, giving him consecutive 100-yard games for the first time since the first two contests of the season.
Before the game, linebackers Mikel Jones and Derek McDonald were in street clothes, further depleting the linebacker corps. Making matters worse, Marlowe Wax got injured during the second quarter, but he was able to return before halftime.
Offensive tackle Enrique Cruz was ejected shortly before halftime for punching a Boston College player. Two more linemen were banged up on the two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter, including Kalan Ellis, who needed help leaving the field.
Anwar Sparrow closed the game with three tackles for loss and Wax had a couple more. Each had a sack, as did Caleb Okechukwu.
The Orange await their bowl bid.