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College football: Saturday will be emotional day for MacPherson

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SYRACUSE — The only thing Macky MacPherson wanted to do growing up was play football for Syracuse University.

The Syracuse native dreamed of suiting up and running out of the tunnel onto the field at the Carrier Dome, just like his grandfather, legendary SU coach and College Football Hall of Famer, Dick MacPherson.

On Saturday, SU’s senior center and one of four elected captains will live his dream one last time.

“I’ve thought about that, but I don’t think it will hit me until I’m dressed in that home jersey and stepping out into the Dome for the final time,” MacPherson said.

“It’s something that I’m going to have to prepare myself for because I got to be able to play well while still getting emotional, because I know I will be.”

The Orange (5-6 overall, 3-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) will host Boston College (7-4, 4-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the regular season finale. The game will be televised on the YES Network.

A win would deem the Orange eligible for a bowl berth. A loss would end the season and the careers of MacPherson and 18 other seniors.

“That’s the goal that we set and we’re still in the position where, we just have to play a good game,” said MacPherson, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound product of Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy.

“Boston College is a good team and so we’re not thinking this is going to be a good way to finish. We wanted to win last week and we want to win this week too. It would be a great way to end my college career, playing in a bowl game.”

MacPherson will make his 37th consecutive start on Saturday – the longest streak on the team. He hasn’t missed a start since stepping in the first game of his sophomore season and is second only to linebacker Marquis Spruill in total starts.

MacPherson blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in 2011 and 2012. This season, the team is on pace for its best rushing total since 2000. He is on the Remington Award watch list, which is presented to the best center in the nation.

“Syracuse football is kind of all I’ve known. It’s been a hell of a ride here,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson was born two years after his grandfather stepped down as SU’s coach. Dick MacPherson was at the helm from 1981-90 and led SU to an unbeaten 11-0-1 season in 1987.

MacPherson and his family were regulars at SU games during his childhood, and MacPherson said he never pursued an offer from other colleges.

“Watching these guys for basically 18 years of my life that I can remember, it’s a great feeling to be able to say I played for a program like Syracuse and to wear the orange and the blue and play for a team I cheered for as a little kid. Not a lot of people get to say that and I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity that I’ve had.”

WALES OUT FOR SEASON

SU tight end Beckett Wales suffered an upper body injury against Pittsburgh last Saturday that will require season-ending surgery.

Wales caught 10 passes for 78 yards this season. He ranks fourth all-time among SU tight ends with 52 career receptions and seventh with 523 receiving yards.

MILESTONE WATCH

Senior linebacker Marquis Spruill needs one tackle behind the line of scrimmage Saturday to finish second on the SU career list.

Spruill, with 39.5 tackles for loss in his career, trails Duke Pettijohn (40) and Dwight Freeney (50.5). Junior Dyshawn Davis (31.5) is eighth.

SU’s streak of six straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher, the sixth-longest in the nation, is in danger were SU to lose on Saturday.

Jerome Smith, who accomplished the feat last season, is 206 yards shy of 1,000.

JUNIOR DAY?

SU juniors Jarrod West, Jerome Smith and Sean Hickey will be recognized along with seniors in a pregame ceremony on Saturday.

SU coach Scott Shafer said the players that were granted an extra year of eligibility, specifically West, asked to walk out with “the guys they came in with.”

“I said, ‘Hell yeah. You might have to do it twice if you want,’” he said.

Neither of the three players have indicated they will forgo their fifth year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

Hickey is rated as a third-round offensive line prospect by CBS Sports.

GULLEY GETS A REDSHIRT

Shafer revealed this week that running back Prince-Tyson Gulley was granted a fifth year of eligibility prior to the season.

He received a medical redshirt for the 2011 season in which he played just four games before breaking his collarbone.

Gulley ranks eighth in SU history with a 5.25 yards-per-carry average and is tied for seventh all time in career all-purpose yards per play with 7.3.

Sportswriter Josh St.Croix covers SU football for the Times. He can be reached at jstcroix@wdt.net.

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