SU vs. BC

Oh captain, my captain

In what almost seemed scripted, Orange give victorious send off to its beloved leader.

Hardnosed, tough-minded and gutsy. These superlatives often have open-ended definitions, and are cliché terms in the world of sports. How one term differentiates from another is challenging for even the most skilled of linguists.


When you build the prototype head coach in football, it always seems these are the ingredients you look for. Lombardi had it, Parcells embodied it, and Belichick still carries it on an a weekly basis. Not that every coach will reach such a plateau in the annals of the game, but that seems to be the recipe “football people” look for.

Fans show their appreciation for head coach Scott Shafer's seven years with the program (three at the helm).


If a coach can take those same superlatives and turn them into what defines his team, the keys to success will be seemingly in the ignition, it would just need to find the right gear. No matter how you define that success, one thing can be for sure: Scott Shafer is hardnosed, tough minded and gutsy. His Orange took those words and turned them into the defining features of today’s win over Boston College, 20-17.


The ebbs and flows of the game seemed to mirror the entire season for Syracuse. They had to grind for every first down, amassing only 241 yards of total offense. This should not come as a shocker, though, against the number one ranked defense in NCAA Division I FBS, who also struggled to score.  


But, the breaks seemed to go the way of the Orange for the first time all year. Antwan Cordy and Cordell Hudson found two tipped balls that floated in the air like an “infield fly” falling into their gloves en route to capturing the momentum and a 10-7 halftime advantage. The Syracuse lead probably could have been greater, but this game was a battle for field position and a battle for coach Shafer.


There wasn’t a play in the game that definitively "wowed" the season ticket holders in section 101, or the families sitting up in the 300 level, or the fan who bleeds Orange on their couch each weekend. Jordan Fredericks did rush for 61 yards however, and Steve Ishmael finally made his presence felt with four catches for an ironic 44 yards. Riley Dixon, potentially the world’s best punter, once again eclipsed his team’s total yards with 292 coming from his right foot.


Cole Murphy’s game winning field goal as the clock ticked from three zeros was a culmination to a season of near misses, multitudes of errors and unfortunate circumstances. The team stuck together and believed in one another; a mirror image of their leader.


“I trust Cole Murphy, he is always working hard and kicking extra field goals,” Ishmael said.  “I am so proud of him.” 


The pride that the Orange have in each other and the humility that Scott Shafer has in himself was the remedy that fought hard to cure a somber press area after the game. A funeral like atmosphere would be an inappropriate analogy in its entirety. But, as the remote game-clock wound down, there was a thick cloud of loss hanging over the room- the same one that loomed over a coach who was put onto his players shoulders and paraded off the field after a win that brought his team to a 4-8 season finish. 

Whether you felt the decision to remove Shafer from his position was right or wrong, it was nevertheless awkward, sullen, and unnerving while we waited. Something didn’t feel right about a season ending win, like maybe this game shouldn’t have been played? It was almost like a dream, or an out of body experience. We were in the room, but our hearts were hung on the bordering curtains like stockings for Christmas. Could someone just give us a candy cane? Would Santa Clause come in and cheer us up?


Reality is reality, and Shafer knew what he had to do. He entered this position with class, and he had embodied those values to his players and he couldn’t look back. He made his way to the podium and back out of the room in less than two minutes, but his emotion said it all. He grinded it out until the last play, and so did his players.


“We really wanted to finish this season on a strong note,” Zaire Franklin said. “But, considering everything that happened to coach this week … This one was for ‘Shafe."


“It was like a movie out there (as we hoisted Shafer up on our shoulders),” Ishmael said.  “I just love coach Shafer as a person, and so do my parents and my high school coach. I am so glad we pulled out this last win for him.”


Some of the best moves are the ones not made, and some of the worst moves are the ones not made as well. Either way the risks have to be taken to see what the costs or gains may be.  But, with every decision comes great responsibility, and compassion goes a long way. A quick trigger can be harsh, but sometimes timing is the most critical move.

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