Boston College beats Syracuse 42-14 behind Dillon’s 3 TDs
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — AJ Dillon didn’t practice all week, didn’t run, didn’t do anything physically — until Saturday.
Boston College’s stellar freshman tailback rushed for 193 yards and three touchdowns, and the resurgent Eagles beat Syracuse 42-14 in the season finale for both teams.
Boston College (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won five of six and won in the Carrier Dome for only the second time in six tries.
“It’s not easy to do. It’s a credit to our players,” BC coach Steve Addazio said. “We played physical. We played relentlessly. We played together for each other. That’s what I really enjoyed seeing the most.”
It was the fifth straight loss for Syracuse (4-8, 2-6) since its riveting upset of then-No. 2 Clemson just over a month ago.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed about the loss and the seniors leaving in this manner,” Orange coach Dino Babers said. “It was difficult to stop them.”
Syracuse was coming off consecutive lopsided losses to Wake Forest and Louisville in which the Orange allowed 120 points and a whopping 782 yards rushing, a perfect scenario for the Eagles and their star freshman tailback.
Dillon had twice topped the 200-yard rushing mark in a game, only the second freshman in ACC history to do so, and entered the game ranked fourth in ACC history in rushing yards by a freshman with 1,239. Dillon, who had 23 carries, scored on his first of the game, a 22-yarder midway through the first quarter, tacked on an 8-yard TD late in the first quarter, and added a 1-yard score early in the third for a 35-14 lead.
“It’s a testament to how hard we’ve been working,” said Dillon, who was recovering from an undisclosed injury. “It’s all starting to click. It’s all starting to come together. It’s not just one group or one player.”
The Eagles, who only punted once and held the Orange scoreless in the second half, had gained a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter on Jeff Smith’s 64-yard run and a 30-yard fumble return by Will Harris.
“When you’re playing the type of team that we were playing, you have to be able to exchange punches with them,” Babers said. “What you saw was a boxer and a brawler. You’ve got to hit back and there comes a point when you get tired of doing it.”
Darius Wade completed 16 of 20 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown for BC — a 46-yard pass to Travis Levy in the fourth — and hit 10 different receivers. He finished with a quarterback rating of 200.7.
Redshirt freshman Rex Culpepper made his first career start for Syracuse in place of Eric Dungey and acquitted himself well, completing 24 of 34 passes for 280 yards. Culpepper showed a nice touch on a deep throw for 44 yards to Steve Ishmael in the second quarter to set up a 17-yard touchdown catch by Erv Philips that narrowed the deficit to 28-14.
Senior Day proved special for Ishmael despite the score. He finished with 11 catches for a career-high 187 yards to end his Syracuse career with 2,891 yards, eclipsing Marvin Harrison’s school record of 2,728. Ishmael also set a school record for receptions in a season with 105, breaking the mark of 94 set a year ago by Amba Etta-Tawo, and recorded his eighth 100-yard receiving game of the season, also a school mark.
“I know that the seniors wanted to leave the right way,” Ishmael said. “I feel like we played our butts off. We tried our best.”
Syracuse entered the game allowing 31.3 points per game, the worst mark in the ACC, and the Eagles surpassed that on the first drive of the second half, thanks in large part to big plays. Before Dillon scored on a 1-yard run to extend the lead to 35-14, the Eagles had notched 10 plays of 15 yards or more.
Boston College: With Dillon, the Eagles have a stellar run game that finished with 333 yards against the Orange and will serve them well in the postseason. BC also has an opportunistic defense with 18 interceptions. Defensive back Lukas Denis notched his seventh pick of the season late in the second quarter.
Syracuse: The Orange finished 4-3 at home and an announced crowd of only 30,202 turned out on a drizzly day, a far cry from the 42,475 when Syracuse upset Clemson on a Friday night in mid-October. It remains an uphill struggle to capture the attention of a city that’s focused more on Jim Boeheim’s basketball team.
Ishmael and Philips entered the game with 175 receptions combined, just behind the ACC record of 184 for most receptions by two teammates, set last year by Philips and Etta-Tawo. Philips had eight catches for 65 yards as the two set the record with 194.
Boston College: The Eagles will await an invitation to a bowl game.
Syracuse: The season is over for the Orange, who fizzled bigtime in the final three games of their second year under Babers. Syracuse hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2013.
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