SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) This was not the season Scott Shafer envisioned after leading Syracuse to a bowl game victory last year as a rookie head coach.
And no one could have foreseen all the injuries that derailed a promising start and sent the Orange (3-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) plummeting in the ACC. The team's injury list reached a dozen players the past few weeks, many of them key performers.
''We've been through a rash of injuries that I've never been around in my 24 years of coaching,'' Shafer said this week as the Orange prepared for the season finale Saturday. ''Just looking at the depth chart, seeing who we're playing, who we're moving around, it's been difficult that way.
''We're starting a quarterback that was third or fourth (on the preseason depth chart). Middle linebacker, third or fourth guys. Wide receiver, the whole (offensive) line, really. Just one of those crazy years.''
After a 2-0 start, Syracuse has lost four straight games and eight of nine to squander a chance to play in a bowl game for the fourth time in five years. The season ends Saturday at Boston College (6-5, 3-4 ACC), which will be headed to the postseason no matter what happens.
Syracuse is coming off a lackluster performance in a 30-7 loss at Pittsburgh, which forced three turnovers, outgained the Orange 445-255, and held the ball for nearly 39 minutes.
Despite a much-needed bye week before the Pitt game, Syracuse generated little momentum behind quarterbacks AJ Long and Mitch Kimble.
Long was recovering from nerve problems in his right shoulder and struggled with his accuracy in his return. The freshman completed 10 of 19 for 149 yards with a pick and added another 30 on the ground. Kimble appeared briefly and surely didn't impress, missing all six of his passes and throwing an interception.
Sending the seniors out with a victory in their last game - yes, Syracuse lost at home on Senior Day - is on Long's mind.
''It means almost the world,'' Long said of winning the finale. ''This group of seniors when I came in took me under their wing. I just really want to win it for them.''
Shafer remains upbeat and focused on doing his best to get that victory heading into the offseason. What's happened is ancient history - nothing that can be changed.
''For me, I don't look at it as we're staggering into the last game,'' Shafer said. ''I look at it as we're fighting with a lot of youth and inexperience into the last game.
''What a great way to introduce a lot of young guys ... to a great rivalry in this conference - and even before we were in this conference together. Extremely motivated to go over there and just give it our best.''
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