Nick Lisi
November 17, 2015

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer shrugged off the question.

''If I did, that would be between Mark and I,'' Shafer, in his third year, said Tuesday on his weekly conference call with reporters when asked if he had met with athletic director Mark Coyle.

''For me, it's just a matter of focusing in on things that are out in front of us right now. All the other things behind closed doors are just that - behind closed doors between me, my staff and anyone in the administration,'' he said.

No need to look back at a losing streak that's reached seven games. Shafer is running out of time to make something out of what's become another lost season for the Orange (3-7, 1-5 ACC), who have won only two of their past 12 league games after going 4-4 in his first season.

''For me, you stick to the same type of consistency - trying to do a good job winning the daily processes,'' Shafer said. ''That'll be our focus all the way through (the end of the season).''

Hired in June, Coyle has said he wants to see how the season plays out.

With two games left in the regular season, Syracuse has nowhere to go but up. The Orange finish with a pair of winnable games - at North Carolina State (6-4, 2-4) on Saturday and at home against Boston College (3-7, 0-7) a week later.

Nearly half of league games (46.67 percent) have been decided by seven or fewer points, the highest percentage of any conference in the country. Syracuse has had two - a triple overtime loss (44-38) at Virginia and a 23-20 setback at home against Pitt - along with a pair of 10-point losses, to then-No. 8 LSU in September and top-ranked Clemson on Saturday.

''A lot of calls haven't really went our way, a lot of balls haven't went our way,'' linebacker Zaire Franklin said. ''We know you're going to be unlucky sometimes, but usually throughout the course of the season those type of things even out.''

It's the second straight year under Shafer the team has faltered after a nice start, and despite those solid showings against top-10 foes - with walk-on quarterback Zack Mahoney at the helm in both - the heat is getting turned up on Shafer and his staff.

In the 37-27 loss to Clemson, Syracuse had five offensive plays of 28 yards or more and a 3-1 edge in turnovers. The Orange defense also held the high-scoring Tigers to a pair of fourth-quarter field goals after halftime but could not contain quarterback Deshaun Watson when the game was on the line.

Watson's 39-yard scramble set up the final points, a field goal by Greg Huegel, and the Heisman Trophy hopeful helped the Clemson offense hold the ball for 13 plays over the final 5:57.

Although the result was the same as the previous six, the players remain resolute.

''We play hard, regardless,'' Franklin said. ''We give 110 percent every single play regardless of the circumstances. At this point, we've got to win these games. All year it seems like it's just one play away.''

Added Shafer: ''I expect that they'll continue to work hard. They've done a great job with that and I don't expect any change.''

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AP College Football Website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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