SYRACUSE, New York — Scott Shafer's voice began to break almost as soon as he took the podium for his final press conference at Syracuse.
Unable to continue after not much more than minute as his voice cracked and tears welled in his eyes, Shafer looked up one last time and said: "God bless this community and go Orange! That's it."
Shafer then disappeared into a hallway in the bowels of the Carrier Dome, his three-year run at Syracuse done after one final victory on Saturday.
At least he went out in style.
Cole Murphy kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give Syracuse a 20-17 win over Boston College. Shafer was fired Monday but coached the finale of his third season at Syracuse (4-8, 2-6 ACC).
Boston College (3-9, 0-8 ACC) finished the season with eight straight losses.
The Orange had lost eight straight, but the players rallied around their coach one final time, carrying him off the field on their shoulders in celebration.
"I think it was a perfect ending to the season," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "A lot of things didn't go our way this season. This game was for Shafe."
The game featured 17 penalties for 174 yards — 11 by BC for 119 — and that helped spell doom for the Eagles. BC had only nine first downs and 239 yards offensively, all but nine of that on the ground.
Ervin Philips rushed for 73 yards and scored on a 2-yard reception, and Steven Ishmael had a 1-yard TD catch for the Orange. Syracuse finished with 153 yards rushing and held the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than BC.
Against the best rushing defense in the nation — BC entered allowing 76.7 yards per game on the ground — the Orange drove 51 yards in 10 plays to win it.
Murphy's winning kick sailed right down the middle as the players mobbed Shafer.
"We were looking for a win. We accomplished the goal," Ishmael said. "It was really emotional. It was like a movie out there."
Before the game, Shafer tweeted, "FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME! #GoOrange." His wife, son and daughter followed suit with tweets of their own and several players expressed support for Shafer and his staff. "Thank God for another game day and these coaches who recruited me and have done everything right and taught me how to be a man," freshman nose tackle Steven Clark wrote.
Syracuse athletic director Mark Coyle, who was hired in June, fired Shafer two days after a 13-point loss at North Carolina State. Shafer had one year left on a four-year deal. He finished with a 14-23 record in his first head coaching job.
Of the Orange's eight losses, only two were close —23-20 to Pitt at home and 44-38 in triple overtime at Virginia. Syracuse lost the other six by an average of 17 points. This one was close and this time the Orange prevailed, thanks to BC's anemic offense.
Freshman quarterback Jeff Smith, who misfired on his first 10 passes before hitting Thadd Smith for nine yards with 6:40 left in the game —his only completion in 13 attempts in the game — paced the Eagles with 117 yards rushing. Tyler Rouse finished with 111 yards rushing and scored twice.
BC had lost four games by a combined 11 points: 9-7 at Duke, 3-0 at home to Wake Forest, 17-14 at Louisville, and 19-16 last week to Notre Dame at Fenway Park, and it was easy to see why. The Eagles offense, next to last in the nation at 229 yards per game, couldn't be bailed out enough by the nation's best defense, and that was on display again in the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse gained a 10-7 halftime lead, capitalizing once on a turnover, and the Orange defense limited the Eagles to 80 yards, all on the ground, as Smith failed to complete a pass and was intercepted twice.
"I thought our guys played hard, but we are not finding a way to win in the end," BC coach Steve Addazio said. "That's something we need to do."
The Orange drove 66 yards in eight plays for a 17-7 lead early in the third. BC's third pass interference penalty of the game, on a third-and-13 play, kept the Orange drive alive, and a 31-yard run by Philips set up Zack Mahoney's scoring pass to Ishmael.
Smith scored on an 80-yard run against Notre Dame to rally BC a week ago, and he came through again against Syracuse with a 53-yard run down the right side to the 9-yard line on BC's next possession. Rouse scored on the next play to narrow the Orange lead to 17-14.
The Eagles tied it at 17 on Colton Lichtenberg's 43-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the fourth.