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After slow start, Syracuse wakes up to defeat Boston College, 21-6 (full coverage)

Courtney Jackson zipped past the first wave of Boston College defenders, cut to his left and then back forward up the sideline. As the Homecoming crowd cheered and rose to his feet, the Syracuse football return man was shadowed in his path to the end zone.

One of SU’s ball boy, ecstatic to see the team’s third touchdown in 4:53, high-stepped all the way past the goal line before running to the goal post and tapping a football against his head.

Jackson, filling in for the injured Trebor Pena, delivered the final blow in the Orange’s 21-point third quarter. After going scoreless in the game’s first 30 minutes, SU reeled off three explosive scoring plays after halftime, ultimately beating the Eagles 21-6.

First, it was standout running back Sean Tucker dashing up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown run. Then quarterback Garrett Shrader kept a 3rd-and-1 RPO before outrunning the BC defense for a 48-yard score. And after another stop from the SU defense, Jackson housed a laser-beam of a punt to cap the 21-0 stretch.

With the victory, Syracuse (5-4, 2-3 ACC) is now just one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2018. After a late bye, the Orange will return to action at Louisville on Nov. 13 before traveling to No. 20 North Carolina State and finishing the year with a home date against Pittsburgh.

SU, as has been the case since head coach Dino Babers switched quarterbacks from Tommy DeVito to Shrader in Week 4, leaned hard on the ground game against Boston College (4-4, 0-4).

Tucker logged his program-record seventh-straight 100-yard rushing game, leaning on breakway runs of 51, 41 and 37 en route to finishing with a career-high 207 yards on 26 carries. Shrader cracked 100 rushing yards gained for the fourth time in his six starts, finding running lanes despite a stacked Eagles box that gave SU man coverage on the perimeter more times than not. Even accounting for sack yardage, the Mississippi State transfer ran for more yards (78) than he threw for (65).

While Syracuse’s rushing success didn’t materialize until after the break, a staunch Orange defense allowed Babers and SU offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert to stick with the gameplan by keeping BC out of the end zone.

Aside from star wideout Zay Flowers making contested catches downfield against man coverage, SU made few lapses on that side of the ball.

BC quarterbacks Dennis Grosel and Emmett Morehead combined to go 15 of 32 for 180 yards, taking five sacks. The Eagles averaged just 1.8 yards per carry with a long of 11. Senior defensive end Kinsley Jonathan recorded three sacks with linebacker Stefon Thompson (1.5) and defensive end Cody Roscoe (.5) also wreaked havoc in the backfield.

Syracuse’s offense – leaning on a makeshift offensive line with two top contributors out – was unable to keep the scoring flowing in the fourth quarter. But BC couldn’t catch up.

One red-zone opportunity was pushed to 4th and 40 after a snap over the quarterback’s head and Jonathan’s final sack of the day. And the other, a last-gasp chance with five minutes left, stalled out on 4th and goal from the 1. SU linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku led the charge, standing up running back Travis Levy to seal the win.

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Syracuse will try to take another step toward earning a 13th game when it hosts long-time rival Boston College on Saturday in the Carrier Dome at 3:30 p.m. Several former players will be on hand as the University celebrates Orange Central/Homecoming weekend. Dating back to 1949, the Orange are 41-29 (.586) all-time in Orange Central/Homecoming games.

“Now we get the opportunity to come back home for Homecoming versus Boston College and Jeff Hafley,” Babers said. “[It’s a] team we have a lot of history with. We’re looking forward to having the ‘old-timers’ come back, so to speak. I’m looking at the internet and I see all of the guys are coming back. It’s going to be a nice crowd. We’re looking forward to getting back to the Dome and playing another game at home.”

Boston College comes into Saturday’s game with a 4-3 mark, 0-3 in ACC play. The Eagles are Syracuse’s second-most frequent opponent of current ACC squads (54), trailing Pittsburgh (76). The Orange own a 32-22 advantage in the all-time series.

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