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Defining moment at hand for Syracuse football

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The Syracuse University football team’s up-and-down season will be defined today in the Carrier Dome.

If the Orange can beat one of its oldest rivals, Boston College, it will become bowl eligible for the third time in four years.

A loss will end the season and the careers of 19 seniors who will be honored in a pregame ceremony.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Yes Network.

“One of our biggest challenges was to find a way to get to bowl-eligibility,” said SU coach Scott Shafer, who could become the first rookie head coach to lead the Orange to a bowl berth since Paul Pasqualoni in 1991.

“So here we are. It’s great to be playing a game that’s meaningful in November. How appropriate that we have our seniors’ last game in the Dome against an old northeast rival. What better way to go at it and try to finish the season with reaching that goal.”

SU enters as losers of two straight with a 5-6 overall record, and a 3-4 mark in its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Eagles (7-4, 4-3) have already locked up a potential bowl berth and have won four straight games on the punishing shoulders of senior running back Andre Williams.

Williams leads the nation in rushing with 2,073 yards and is just the 16th running back in NCAA history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.

He has surpassed 200 yards in each of the last four games – all BC victories – and ran for 263 in a thrilling 29-26 win over Maryland last Saturday.

“Well, I mean, I know he’s obviously the heart and soul of what we do,” said BC rookie coach Steve Addazio, who coached SU’s offensive line and tight ends from 1995-98.

“So I’m well aware (of the numbers) and I know he’s been really, highly productive. And he needs to be so that we can have team success.”

The Orange possesses the ACC’s fourth-best run defense and it is one of three teams in the nation that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season.

Williams made his first career start the last time SU and BC played in 2010. He ran for 185 yards on a school-record 42 carries, leading the Eagles to a 16-7 victory in the Dome.

Shafer was the Orange’s defensive coordinator at the time.

“He is definitely one of the best in the country, one of the best to play the college game,” Shafer said.

“It will be a difficult task and a great challenge for our kids to go out there and try to slow him down. He’s going to get his yards. He’s a great football player. We just have to play good, sound defense and do a good job leveraging Andre and make those yards hard to come across.”

The SU-BC series goes back to 1924 and the Eagles are the fifth-most frequently played opponent of the Orange.

SU is 10-3 all-time in the Dome and today’s game is their first matchup since BC left the Big East following the 2010 season.

“I know in my years at Syracuse it was a red-letter game for us, and really excited to really kind of re-stoke up that rivalry as two northeast teams within the ACC get to play each other,” Addazio said.

“We have a lot of respect for Syracuse. Syracuse has always been a very tough, physical football program, playing with a lot of pride.”

The last time SU’s bowl chances came down to its final game was in 2011. The Orange lost at Pittsburgh, 33-20.

INJURY REPORT

SU will be without running back Prince-Tyson Gulley, wide receiver Jarrod West, defensive end Isaiah Johnson and defensive back Julian Whigham today, according to an injury report released by the school on Friday.

Starting left tackle Sean Hickey is listed as doubtful with a lower-body injury.

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