Seniors Shine in Football Season Finale Loss to Boston College
By Nick Dugan
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Redshirt freshman Rex Culpepper took the snap. He fired a screen pass to his right, which was caught by Steve Ishmael.
It was the very first play from scrimmage, but that reception gave Ishmael a total of 95 on the season, a new Syracuse single-season record.
On the next drive, Ishmael secured another record. He passed Marvin Harrison as the program leader in career reception yards, which previously stood at 2,728.
“He’s left a mark on this program,” fellow senior and friend Erv Philips said. “I’m proud of him for his perseverance from last year. It didn’t go the way he wanted…but this year he came out and he just exploded and had a great year.”
Philips had 65 yards and a touchdown of his own. Linebacker Parris Bennett had a game-high 14 tackles. However, these performances from the seniors in their final game weren’t enough to pull out a win, as Boston College rolled to a 42-14 victory.
“It was a physical football game,” head coach Dino Babers said. “They ran the ball extremely well. They’re extremely difficult to stop and their quarterback threw for an extremely high percentage.”
Freshman running back AJ Dillon wore down the Orange defense, rushing for 193 yards and 3 touchdowns. Darius Wade was also efficient through the air, completing 16 of his 20 passes for nearly 250 yards and no interceptions.
“At the end of the day, they came out and played and you’ve got to give credit to them,” Philips said. “They did their thing and we just didn’t match their intensity.”
Despite finishing 4-8 for the third consecutive year, Babers feels that the program turned a corner in 2017.
“I really believe that the 2018 season is going to be something that we’re going to be talking about here for a long, long time,” he said. “And I think, the seniors of the 2017 class is going to be the cornerstone. They’re going to be the foundation that gets this thing started.”
For the seniors, there is no doubt that Syracuse football is trending in the right direction.
“You definitely can see the younger guys are getting it,” Bennett said, “They’re going to take it and do better than we did as a unit. They’re going to get their young guys more right than we got our young guys right.”
“We are going to most definitely be that ACC Championship-caliber team,” Ishmael said. “In a few years man, I’m just telling SU fans, just continue believing and having faith.”
For as much excitement as there is about the future, today was also about remembering the past. The 15 seniors each took one final lap around the near-empty Carrier Dome, something Babers said will become a tradition during his tenure.
“I just thought about my first game in the Dome as I walked around,” Philips said. “Playing my last game, I just think about, like Parris said, how fast it went and how much work I put in to being the type of player I wanted to be and having a successful career.”
And as each one of them could attest, they will always remember the bond shared between teammates.
“Just brotherhood, man,” Ishmael said. “I’ve built up so much great relationships over here with Erv, even Julian … Just knowing that I had a chance to experience that with a couple of cool guys is going to always be in my heart.”