After being ranked second in the first college playoff rankings of the year, there was some discussion in the national media that Michigan might have been more deserving of that ranking than Clemson. However, with Clemson having played better competition and remaining undefeated, the playoff committee obviously appreciated close wins over tougher competition more than “style points” from beating up outmatched teams. Today, the Tigers got some style points in a complete win over Syracuse.
The first half went pretty well for the Tigers. The Tiger defense kept the Syracuse up-tempo offense in check, and the offense was executing a well-balanced attack on the ground and in the air.
The first drive for the Tigers was effective, with Wayne Gallman converting a 4th down, but the drive stalled and ended with a Greg Huegel field goal. After a couple of unproductive possessions by both teams, the Tiger defense came through with an interception by Ryan Carter on first down to give Clemson a prime opportunity to score. The Tigers did just that, with Deshaun Watson running it in for his second rushing touchdown of the year and giving the Tigers a 10-0 lead.
The second quarter started with an impressive possession consisting of a 30-yard run by Gallman, followed by a 65-yard touchdown throw from Watson to Deon Cain. Afterwards, the Tiger defense again stymied the Orange offense. On the ensuing Tiger drive, freshman running back Tavien Feaster was given some reps and ran very well. After dropping a well-thrown long pass earlier in the drive, Mike Williams made a nice catch for a 14-yard touchdown, putting the Tigers up 23-0.
Syracuse returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards but shortly thereafter, Cordrea Tankersley played his zone assignment to perfection and picked off a Syracuse pass. The Tiger offense then moved down the field but Watson went out with a throwing shoulder injury that Coach Dabo Swinney described as a stinger. (Watson did not return, but remained ready to play if needed. It did not appear that the injury was very serious.) Nick Schuessler took over at QB and found Artavis Scott in the end zone. The Tiger defense then kept the Orange from doing anything with their possession, and Schuessler piloted the 2-minute offense, moving the ball effectively to set up a Tiger field goal attempt. Unfortunately, Huegel couldn’t put it through and the first half ended with the Tigers up 30-0.
In the second half, Syracuse couldn’t manage to get much going with their starting quarterback out of the game due to injury. The Orange started the half by attempting an onside kick but they touched the ball before it traveled the required ten yards. The Tigers then executed a nice drive that culminated in a 5-yard TD run by Gallman. A later Clemson drive was an exhibition of the immense talents of wide receiver Deon Cain who made a nice catch in the back of the end zone to put the Tigers up 44-0.
With the outcome of the game in no doubt, many of Clemson’s backups got some playing time. A field goal and a nice effort by Tanner Muse to score on an interception after the ball bounced off of four other players was mercifully the end of the day for the Orange. The game ended with the score 54-0.
Next up, the Pitt Panthers come into Death Valley. STS will have in-depth coverage of today’s complete dismantling of Syracuse, as well as previews of the Panthers in the next few days, so check back with us for that coverage.