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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Scott Shafer doesn't want his first season as head coach at Syracuse to end just yet.
"When we went into the season, we were picked down in the ACC rankings for this season," Shafer said. "One of our big challenges was to find a way to get to bowl eligibility, so here we are."
The task is simple — beat longtime rival Boston College (7-4, 4-3 ACC) at home on Saturday and Syracuse (5-6, 3-4) has the requisite number of victories to play in a bowl game. It's also daunting because the surging Eagles have won four straight behind tailback Andre Williams, the nation's leading rusher with an eye-opening 2,073 yards.
"He's going to get his yards," Shafer said. "We just have to play good, sound defense and do a good job leveraging Andre and make those yards hard to come across. He's fun to watch on tape until you realize you got to try to defend him."
Williams has averaged 299 yards rushing the past three games to put him ahead, by 77 yards, of where 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders was through three weeks of his final month of college football. Sanders averaged 200 rushing yards per game in one of the greatest individual seasons for a running back in the history of college football. He closed the final month of the season by rushing for 1,152 yards and averaging 38 carries and 288 rushing yards per game.
Williams is averaging 188.5 yards and has 320 carries in 11 games to vault into the Heisman picture.
Head coach Steve Addazio just sits back and marvels at his star tailback.
"He's a really fast guy, and a really strong guy. His speed is phenomenal. It's not good, it's great, and he has all kinds of power in his legs," said Addazio, who was an assistant at Syracuse from 1995-98. "Mentally, he's just a really great guy. He's wired right. It's a nice combination. He's humble. He doesn't walk around like he has anything special going on."
In an ironic twist, Williams's first college start was in the Carrier Dome in the 2010 season finale. Williams replaced Montel Harris and rushed for 185 yards on a school-record 42 carries as the Eagles won 16-7.
Five things to know when Boston College visits Syracuse on Saturday in the season finale for both teams:
IT'S NOT JUST WILLIAMS: Left tackle Matt Patchan graded out at 86 percent with two knockdown blocks to lead an offensive line that paved the way for Williams to run for 263 yards and two touchdowns last week against Maryland. The Eagles produced more than 250 yards on the ground for the third straight game and are averaging 220 per game this season, 21st nationally.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE: Syracuse is one of only three FBS teams not to allow a 100-yard rusher this season and Williams has nine 100-yard games. Ironically, Harris is the last player to run for 100 yards against the Orange, gaining 106 yards for Temple in a 38-20 loss to Syracuse in the 2012 regular-season finale.
KICK THIS: The Eagles are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010, and placekicker Nate Freese is a big reason why. He's made all 17 of his field-goal attempts this year, including a 52-yarder on the final play of last week's 29-26 win over Maryland. Syracuse had an extra point blocked and missed a 41-yard field goal in a one-point loss to Pitt last week as the absence of senior kicker Ross Krautman continues to be felt. Krautman was lost for the season after the second game with a pelvic injury.
SPREADING IT AROUND: Syracuse boasts 20 receivers that have caught at least one pass this season, which ties Texas-San Antonio for second in the FBS. Seven players have at least 10 receptions, led by Ashton Broyld's 42.
QUARTERBACK CENTRAL: The Atlantic Coast Conference has five starting quarterbacks who now have thrown for 7,000 or more yards in their careers, by far the most in ACC history, and BC's Chase Rettig is one of them. Rettig is 658 of 1,197 for 7,893 yards with 36 picks and 50 TDs.