Syracuse and Boston College renew old rivalry
It's been six years since Diamond Ferri took off his Syracuse uniform for the final time. His last regular-season game for the Orange left an indelible mark on Boston College and its fans.
Ferri, a safety and running back for the Orange, played on both sides of the ball the last time these once-fierce rivals met, in the 2004 season finale at BC's Alumni Stadium. He stepped in for injured tailback Damien Rhodes and ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns. On defense, he made six tackles, four of them solo, and returned an interception 44 yards for another score.
Final score: Syracuse 43, No. 17 Boston College 17. The upset gave Syracuse a share of the Big East title and made the Orange bowl eligible. Ferri earned Big East player of the week honors on offense and defense for his rare performance.
''That was just a devastating loss for BC,'' Eagles cornerback Chris Fox said. ''That was a heartbreaker.''
Sure was. It was Boston College's final game as a member of the Big East and it deprived the Eagles of a spot in the Bowl Championship Series, as well as a farewell league crown.
On Saturday, the teams renew their old rivalry for the 46th time - exactly six years to the day since Ferri's double-duty heroics - and that game still resonates.
''They knocked us out of the Fiesta Bowl, so it's one of those things where people still have a bitter taste in their mouths,'' BC freshman quarterback Chase Rettig said. ''We're both Northeast schools. Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about how that was, but I just know that the fans got a bitter taste in their mouth when Diamond Ferri was here. They got them and bumped them out of that big BCS bowl. What you hear from people around here, it has an influence on you.''
After enduring a four-game losing streak that put its postseason hopes in jeopardy, Boston College (6-5) has rebounded with a four-game winning streak. Extending it will be a challenge, though, because starting tailback Montel Harris is out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Monday.
Harris, the nation's No. 11 rusher with an average of 113 yards per game, left last week's win over Virginia with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. He has eight touchdowns this season, and will be replaced by freshman Andre Williams, a capable backup who has played in all but one game and is averaging 6.1 yards on 34 carries.
''It's been kind of one of those things where somebody's been hurt and guys have stepped up,'' Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly said. ''The key this week is when Montel is not going to be able to play, we've got a perfectly capable guy in Andre. He should be able to step up and do the job.''
Syracuse (7-4) has had a turnaround season, winning five times on the road, but the Orange have not beaten an FBS team at home this fall, losing to Pittsburgh, Louisville, and last week to surging Connecticut.
The Carrier Dome faithful are desperate for that to change.
And they're not alone.
''What hurts me the most, and maybe this is personal, but ... our fans and the people of Syracuse haven't been able to enjoy the wins we've had this year like South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati,'' Orange coach Doug Marrone said. ''I feel like we owe them that. It is important that we go out there and find a way to win a game ... make our seniors go out the right way.''
Syracuse has struggled offensively the past two weeks, eking out a 13-10 victory at Rutgers and losing 26-3 to Connecticut. The loss to the Huskies was the first game this season in which the Syracuse offense failed to score a touchdown, and now the Orange face the top team in the nation against the run. BC is allowing just 2.6 yards per carry and 79.2 yards rushing per game.
''It's definitely going to be a challenge for us,'' said Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who had two critical turnovers - a fumble and an interception - in the loss to UConn. ''We realize the mistakes we've made and what we need to do to correct them. It's really gut-check time. There's no point in leaving anything out there on the field.''
Except another forlorn flock of Eagles.