CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- In toppling their rival Syracuse 28-7 in their final game of the regular season Saturday, the Boston College Eagles didn't only walk away with a statement win heading into their upcoming bowl.
The day was also marked by milestones for several of the team's players, including a feel-good story involving an unrecruited player who has earned the admiration of head coach Steve Addazio.
First down: The Eagles' website lists sophomore running back Tyler Rouse's hometown as Baldwinsville, New York, but Baldswinville is probably better known as a village suburb of Syracuse.
Rouse was passed up by many coming out of high school before landing with the Eagles, and on Saturday, against his hometown university, he took a career-long, 42-yard touchdown run to the house in the fourth quarter to cap off the Eagles' scoring on the afternoon.
"It felt really great," Rouse said succinctly.
Rouse described the play as redemption, a reference to his costly drop in the end zone late against Clemson on Oct. 18 that likely cost the Eagles a conference win (after the play, Clemson ran out the clock to seal their 17-13 victory). For moving on from the mistake and not allowing it to bog him down, Rouse earned high praise from Eagles senior quarterback Tyler Murphy, as well as his head coach.
"Tyler Rouse is one of those guys that shows up with his lunch box and gets right to work," Murphy said. "He never complains and gives 100 percent no matter what it is. He holds guys accountable and makes sure that they're doing the right thing, but he also leads by example and sets the way. We need to bring in more guys like Tyler because not only is he a great football player, but he's also a great guy."
Addazio took that sentiment a step further.
"He stands for absolutely everything that's right in college football," the BC coach said. "If that's not a great story, honestly, I don't know what a great story is.
"It was great for him today. It was without question the highlight of my day."
After the touchdown, Rouse was greeted with excitement by his teammates as well as Addazio, who was among the first to congratulate him.
"It was great. He gave me the opportunity to come here, and I appreciate that. I'm so thankful for that," Rouse said. "Coming to the sideline with him there really just solidified everything. It was indescribable to have the guys surrounding me. They know what I've been through with the Clemson thing. Just to see them surround me after I scored that TD was amazing."
Second down: Murphy is another guy who has made the most of his opportunities with BC. On Saturday, he put an exclamation point on his remarkable season as the Eagles quarterback, rushing for 20 yards to bring his season total to 1,079, a new Atlantic Coast Conference record at the position.
"I would say I am a little surprised," Murphy said when asked about the record. "I didn't know what to expect coming in to this season. My goal was just to find ways to win."
With Murphy under center, the Eagles enjoyed one of their most successful offensive campaigns in recent memory, due in large part to his prowess on the ground. Addazio has often lamented that he was able to have Murphy as his quarterback for only a season, a point he reiterated on Saturday.
"Tyler is a great person," Addazio said. "He is a fantastic human being, a guy you love to be around. He stands for everything that's right. He's a graduate student embracing his master's degree. He's a leader for our team. I just love the kid, and so do our players."
For his efforts in the team's win, Murphy was the recipient of the Chuck Scarminach Memorial Award, an honor presented to the MVP of a BC-Syracuse matchup. A great memento in a season of success that isn't over yet.
"It was a fun year and I ran a lot more than I thought I would, but I'm happy we were able to get seven wins, and we are looking forward to eight," Murphy said.
Third down: One of the things Murphy talked about in his postgame news conference was his excitement to take the field immediately after BC elected to receive following their coin-toss win. However, that moment didn't come because return man Myles Willis took the opening kickoff 95 yards to the house for a quick-strike score.
"I was kind of looking forward to getting on the field early because it's not often we get the ball first and he took it back so I was just like, 'Thanks, Myles,'" Murphy said.
Willis took advantage of poor kickoff coverage by Syracuse, whose kicking team left the entire middle of the field wide open for him. He ran through untouched and set the tone for the game early on.
"That was a huge play," Addazio said. "It was a momentum boost. It was great. We've worked so hard on that, and to finally hit it on the last game of the regular season was fantastic."
Out: As seniors took the field at Alumni Stadium for the last time, captain and defensive back Dominique Williams was announced as the recipient of the school's Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship.
The award, initially received by Williams back in April, is given annually to a BC defensive back who exemplifies leadership and dedication, among other qualities. McGillis, a starting defensive back in his time at BC, passed away from leukemia in 1992.
In his honor, Williams wore McGillis' jersey number, 31, during the game instead of his usual No. 9. Like McGillis, Williams is from Brockton, Massachusetts, so the award surely meant a lot to him.