Al Louis-Jean’s body lay helpless on the field of the Carrier Dome. His Boston College teammate Kevin Pierre-Louis was only a few feet away, his six-foot frame glued face down at the five yard-line with his head stuck to his hands. He couldn’t move. Five yards to his right, Jaryd Rudolph could only touch his gloves to his helmet. He was on his back, and the gold of his mask was barely crossing the goal line.
It was a horrid triangle of chaos, and Syracuse tight end Josh Parris left the trio in his dust as he capped off an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with an easy strut into BC’s end zone. The clock showed six seconds after the destruction, and the Orange had just stolen the lead—and the game—from the Eagles. An extra point and a failed BC hook and ladder were mere formalities on the way to a 34-31 Syracuse victory to close the regular season.
“Honestly, in our minds, we had to go win this game in the fourth quarter,” said BC head coach Steve Addazio, whose team dropped to 7-5. “That’s what we had to do and we fell short by 12 seconds.”
Those seconds, the ones that remained before the ball found Parris’ hands, almost weren’t on the clock. BC almost escaped with the victory.
After trading scores in the second half, BC held a 28-27 lead over the Orange with three and a half minutes left. The Eagles’ Heisman trophy candidate Andre Williams had been a non-factor in the game—rushing for a season-low 24 first-half yards before leaving with a sprained shoulder—but three surprising pairs of legs made up the slack.
Freshman backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse scurried their way to a combined 77 yards in Williams’ absence, ditching the senior’s power for their agility and speed. It was senior quarterback Chase Rettig, though, who stole the show in the second half. He led the team with a career-high 85 rushing yards on four carries. His performance included a left-sideline to right-sideline 54-yard dash and a soaring touchdown dive scrambling out to his left on third and goal to give the Eagles a four-point lead with 7:49 left to play.
“That’s our quarterback out there,” Willis said. “He made plays.”
Syracuse took over at its own 37 with 3:24 on the clock following a Ryan Norton field goal and a BC punt after Rettig’s score. Orange quarterback Terrel Hunt had played masterfully all game, but on the second play of the drive he made a near fatal mistake. Hunt fired a pass out to his right and BC senior linebacker Steele Divitto picked it off. BC had the ball in scoring range, and Syracuse only had its defense and three timeouts.
Three plays later, the Eagles were stuck with a costly decision. Syracuse had just burned its last timeout, stopping the clock at 2:29. BC was looking at a third and goal on the right hash from the seven. A run would kill clock and set up a reliable Nate Freese field goal to extend the lead to four, but Williams’ injury and BC’s defensive deficiencies throughout the game complicated the call.
“We wanted to score a touchdown,” Addazio said. “That’s a powerback situation. We didn’t have our powerback. We made the decision to go for a score right there.”
Rettig rolled out to the right out of a play-action to Willis, trying to take advantage of Syracuse stacking the box. He hit senior tight end Mike Naples in stride, but Naples was stopped short at the four-yard line. He was also knocked out of bounds as he tried to force his way into the end zone, stopping the clock and allowing Syracuse a full two-minute drill to win.
“I thought it was a great call,” Addazio said, “and absolutely the right thing to do for us at that point in time.”
Even though Syracuse contained Naples after the catch, Rettig didn’t have another option on the play.
“That was our guy in the progression,” Rettig said. “He was the guy who was open. I threw it to him—I mean, you can’t play that aggressive in that situation because if something goes wrong … You’re still going to be up by four if you get the field goal. A lot goes into that call and that’s just what happened.”
Freese’s kick sailed through the uprights and then the senior sent the ball deep into the end zone on the kickoff. The game was in the hands of the BC defense, and the unit, as was the story for most of the game, couldn’t deliver.
The Eagles allowed Syracuse to convert 12 of its 18 3rd down attempts throughout game. The defense was unable to get off the field when it needed a stop, and on the final drive, BC didn’t even face a third down on which to make up for earlier mistakes.
Hunt contributed to every Orange play as his team drove down the field, throwing for 36 yards and rushing for 19. Syracuse was also helped out by a controversial pass-interference call as a Hunt throw sailed out of bounds over the head of his receiver, but the officials deemed the ball catchable. As Addazio and his staff argued the call, the Orange continued to drive.
Hunt and his squad worked their way to the BC eight with 12 seconds left, at which point the quarterback hit Parris in the flat and the game was over. The Dome erupted at the prospect of bowl eligibility, a sea of orange and blue rushed the field on Senior Day before being held back, and three BC defenders lay scattered across the far side of the field.
“A loss like that rips their guts out,” Addazio said.