Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Regular Season Finale: Syracuse v. Boston College

It seems like just yesterday we were settling in to watch the opening game against Akron. It was September 3rd, and Syracuse would go on to win their season opener for the first time since the 2003 season. It's been that kind of year. The kind of season where everywhere you turn, Syracuse was doing something they hadn't done since 2001, 2003, 2004. Every week was another benchmark achievement.

When the Orangemen jumped out to a 3-1 mark, it was the first time since 2003. When Syracuse defeated South Florida, it was the first time the program was 4-1 since 1999. Defeating West Virginia on the road? Hadn't happened since 2000. Going to a bowl game? Not since 2004. Winning 7 or more games in a season? Not since 2001.

So Saturday, Syracuse wraps up this season of "first time since's" when Boston College enters the Carrier Dome, for the first time since 2003. The last time the two squads squared off was November 27th, 2004, six years to the day. On that fateful day, Syracuse stomped out BC 43-17 on the road, preventing Boston College from going to their first ever BCS bowl game in the school's history, and sending them out of the Big East without the Conference title. After the game, Diamond Ferri, who was superhuman on that day, stated "If they want to leave the conference, we wanted to send them out with a loss."

No one could have predicted this though. Diamond Ferri, filling in for an injured Damien Rhodes and Walter Reyes, ran for 141 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. He wasn't finished. He was still playing defense and intercepted Matty-Ice in the 4th quarter, returning the ball 44 yards to the house. For his efforts, Diamond Ferri was named Big East Offensive and Defensive player of the week. With that, Syracuse and Boston College's 45 game series (Syracuse has the edge 28-17) came to an end.

Until now.

After a six year hiatus which saw Syracuse get run into the ground by some clown currently "coordinating" the Michigan Defense, and Boston College defect to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the rivalry resumes on Saturday in the Carrier Dome at 12PM. The game will be televised live on ESPN.

Since departing the Big East, the Eagles have enjoyed some success on the field. They have gone to the ACC Championship game twice and have posted winning records each season since the defection. This year however, they have had somewhat of a down season. Boston College is 6-5, and went 4-4 in the ACC. They haven't beaten any ranked teams, and their offense is ranked in the 90s for the majority of offensive categories.

Boston College's starting running back Montel Harris is out with a torn left lateral meniscus, so his 1,243 yards on 269 attempts and 8 touchdowns won't be an issue. True freshman Andre Williams will take his place. He has 206 yards on 34 rushing attempts and no scores, yet. Syracuse fans shouldn't hang their hat on the fact that the star RB is out for BC, seeing how well Bilal Powell of Louisville's back up performed in the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago.

Boston College's quarterback is Chase Rettig. Thankfully, Syracuse's defenders know how to handle a QB with the first name Chase, or Chas (same difference). Rettig has completed 75 of 142 attempts for 1,007 yards and 6 scores. He has also thrown 6 interceptions and been sacked 13 times. Chase Rettig has won 4 straight starts to help save the season for Boston College.

The main receiving target for the Eagles is Bobby Swigert (6'1" 180 pounds). Swigert has 33 catches for 476 yards and 4 touchdowns. Alex Amidon (5'11" 185 pounds) has 11 catches for an amazing 301 yards and two touchdowns. He made 3 catches for 102 yards in a game against North Carolina State this year. Tight end Chris Pantale (6'6" 244 pounds) has 24 catches this season for 225 yards and 1 touchdown. Additionally, Ifeanyi Momah (6'6" 228 pounds) has 19 catches for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns. Don't ask me how to pronounce that name because I have no idea.

Boston College's defense has averaged 20.6 points per game against, which ranks 31st in the country. They also allow an average of 316.5 total yards per game, 16th best mark in the nation to go along with 18 interceptions this season, which is tied for 3rd most in the country.

With Boston College averaging 1.6 interceptions per game, Ryan Nassib will have to be sharp if Syracuse wants to win this game. Nassib has completed 174 of 313 passing attempts this season for 1,948 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has helped steer the Orangemen to a 7-4 overall record and 4-3 in the Big East. Unfortunately for Nassib, he hasn't looked great at home since the beginning of the Big East schedule.

Luckily for Syracuse, this isn't a Big East game anymore. Syracuse was 0-3 at home this year against conference opponents. No word yet on how well they perform against "former" conference teams, however against non-conference teams Syracuse is 2-0 at home.

Delone Carter enters the Dome with 1,005 rushing yards on the season, and 59 yards away from passing Larry Csonka on Syracuse's All-Time Rushing Leaders list for 3rd place All-Time. Helping out of the backfield is Antwon Bailey, who has 432 yards on 89 carries and an additional 29 receptions for 252 yards, with 4 combined touchdowns.

Van Chew continues to lead the receiving corp, however he has been getting increased help from tight end Nick Provo. Over the last two weeks, Marcus Sales has stepped up and asserted himself as a reliable member of the group, pushing his season total to 16 catches for 169 yards. He has lead the Orangemen in receiving yards the last two weeks. Alec Lemon was held to just one catch last week after missing the Rutgers game, and seems to still be feeling some effects of the arm injury that kept him out of the game in Piscataway, NJ.

Syracuse's Defense have been the story this season. Ranked 13th in points against, they have allowed just 18.3 points per game. With an average of 293.2 yards per game against, the defense ranks 6th in the nation in yards allowed. Syracuse's secondary has done a tremendous job, allowing just 161.9 yards on average per game, and are 9th in total passing yards allowed in the country. If Syracuse can stop the run, which they have failed to do in the last two home games against Louisville and Connecticut, they should be able to pull off the victory Saturday.

Saturday is a Syracuse sports fan's dream. The day will start at 12:00PM with the Syracuse-Boston College football game on ESPN and then will be followed at either 5:30 or 8:00 (depending on Friday's outcome) with a basketball game from the Legends Classic in Atlantic City. With a win, Syracuse would finish this memorable season 8-4.

Not to be forgotten in all this is the fact that it is also Senior Day in the Carrier Dome. Doug Marrone stressed the importance earlier this week of sending our boys out the right way, with a victory. These seniors endured two years of misery under Greg Robinson and a year of rebuilding the program under Doug Marrone. They emerged from it with the chance to finish their final season of college football with an 8-4 record and have earned the program's first trip to a bowl game since 2004.

No matter what it was a season to remember for all the players, not just the seniors, but these seniors deserve to play their last game in the Carrier Dome the right way. In front of a sell out crowd and with a victory!

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