Sports, Football, Top Story, Fall

Eagles Earn Bowl Eligibility With 17–10 Win Over Syracuse  

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Boston College football is no stranger to close games. Six of its eight games heading into Friday have been decided by a touchdown or less. Even a fourth quarter finish with two interceptions, a fumble, a fake punt, and a game-winning touchdown doesn’t faze BC head coach Jeff Hafley. 

​”Great things happen with our team in the fourth,” Hafley said. “I said to my mom—she’s 75—I said you got to stay up late. Because we win every game in the fourth [quarter]. She said ‘can you make this easy?’ I said no, just tune in for the fourth quarter.”

BC (6–3, 3–2 Atlantic Coast) defeated the Orange (4–5, 0–5) 17–10 on Friday night in the JMA Wireless Dome behind four interceptions and a staunch defensive effort. BC quarterback Thomas Castellanos’ fourth-quarter rushing touchdown put BC ahead by a touchdown with 2:23 left in regulation, and Cole Batson’s interception sealed the victory despite a rough offensive showing for most of the night. 

It appeared BC would initially break the 10–10 tie with just over 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Castellanos completed a 21-yard pass to tight end Jeremiah Franklin, and Kye Robichaux followed with a 3-yard rush. 

But on the very next play, Robichaux received the ball on a short route without seeing Syracuse defender Justin Barron. Barron flattened Robichaux, causing the Eagles’ primary running back to fumble and hand the ball back to the Orange. 

Robichaux did not return for the remainder of the game, and BC’s additional running backs, Alex Broome and Pat Garwo III, had already been ruled out prior to the start of the game.

“He’s hurting right now,” Hafley said of Robichaux, who finished with 77 yards on 23 carries. “I have a ton of respect for that guy. He’s a heck of a football player.”

Elijah Jones, however, gave BC the ball right back at the 11:38 mark, as he ripped an interception out of Umari Hatcher’s hands for his second pick of the game and fifth of the year. 

But the Eagles’ offensive struggles continued, and BC settled for a punt on 4th-and-4. While BC ran a fake punt for Sam Candotti on BC’s 31-yard line prior to the stop, which converted for a gain of six yards, Hafley opted to punt on the following 4th-and-4 on BC’s 41-yard line. 

Syracuse’s offense proved no better, as it punted back to BC. This time, however, the Eagles took advantage. Castellanos orchestrated an 11-play drive capped off with a 7-yard touchdown to put BC ahead by seven points, which ultimately secured the win. 

Injuries forced fifth-string running back Andre Hines Jr. into the game, and he finished with five carries for 32 yards, helping Castellanos get the field position for his touchdown. 

“I gave him the game ball in there,” Hafley said. “He had tears in his eyes—guys [picked] him up. And it’s a moment he’ll never forget. That’s college football. That’s why you stick it out. That’s why you don’t leave.”

Syracuse starting quarterback Garrett Shrader was ruled out an hour before the game, forcing backup Carlos Del Rio-Wilson to take the reins. The redshirt sophomore had a rough introduction, as BC freshman CJ Clinkscales hauled in a point-blank interception six minutes into the defensive back’s first start.

BC subsequently started its second drive of the game on the 50-yard line, capping it off with a 24-yard Liam Connor field goal to go ahead 3–0. 

While Del Rio-Wilson may have started slow, the backup burned BC on the ground on the Orange’s first scoring drive. After running back LeQuint Allen bursted for a 32-yard run, Del Rio-Wislon took a 27-yard designed quarterback run to the house, torching the Eagles’ unprepared defense in the process to put the Orange ahead 7–3 with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. 

But the Eagles’ defense didn’t go away, as Jones hauled in his first interception of the contest at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter, tracking Del Rio-Wilson’s deep ball immediately. 

“He’s playing the best football he’s ever played,” Castellanos said of Jones. “He’s a next-level guy.”

BC took advantage, as offensive coordinator Steve Shimko finally committed to the run, calling 12 ground plays en route to a 19-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up the clock. Castellanos capped it off with a wide-open pass to linebacker Owen McGowan to put BC ahead 10–7 heading into halftime. 

Hafley’s aggressiveness to go for it on fourth down—he converted on 73 percent heading into Friday’s affair—backfired on him in the third quarter. Castellanos couldn’t extend his reach past the Orange’s defensive line on 4th-and-2 with 1:04 left in the third quarter, handing Syracuse the ball on its 24-yard line.  

Allen exploded for a 56-yard run, setting Syracuse up for a 36-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 apiece 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. But Castellanos’ game winning drive proved to be just enough for the narrow, 17–10 win. 

“We find a way to win, and that’s how it is,” Hafley said. I don’t care how we win. I don’t care what it looks like. That’s five in a row. We’re 6–3 and we’re bowl eligible. I mean, I think our guys kind of felt disrespected being picked to lose this game.”

November 4, 2023