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Clemson vs. Syracuse: Tigers Fall to the Orange

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Clemson loses their starting quarterback and can’t keep the Orange offense off the field in a 27-24 loss.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Syracuse WR Steve Ishmael scores on a pass after beating Tanner Muse.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson traveled north to take on the Syracuse Orange in a Friday night game. First a big thanks to Revan for covering for me last week at the last minute.

The Orange won the toss and promptly started with a delay of game penalty. After that, they moved down the field with QB Eric Dungey getting loose on several scrambles. A missed tackle led to a 23-yard Orange touchdown. Being down 0-7 was probably not what the Tigers had in mind to start the game.

Clemson got the ball in good field position after an Orange unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a good return by Travis Etienne. After a short catch by Deon Cain and a good first down catch by Hunter Renfrow, Tavien Feaster got loose up the middle on a 37-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7-7. On their next possession, the Orange tried to do a QB throwback to Dungey but Clelin Ferrell had him covered and nearly intercepted the pass. It’s quite a sight to see a 6-5 260 pound guy in coverage like that. A run stop and a sack by Austin Bryant ended the Orange drive.

The Tigers got the ball in good field position and started moving well, but the Syracuse defense stiffened and forced a field goal attempt that by Alex Spence that was ugly, and the Tigers came away with nothing. Syracuse responded with a 66-yard strike on busted coverage by the Tiger defense. The Orange were up 7-14.

The Tigers started a good drive with some nice running by Etienne, but eventually ended up at 4th and 1 and punted the ball away. The punt put the Orange deep in their own territory and the Tiger defense appeared to have forced a 3-and-out, but a roughing the passer call against Christian Wilkins kept the drive alive for Syracuse. The Tiger defense only gave the Orange three more plays though, and the first quarter ended.

After the Orange punt, the Tigers moved the ball a bit with a nice catch by Amari Rodgers, but he was later tackled on a sweep for a six yard loss that they couldn’t make up and the Tigers punted. The Orange were again pinned deep, but a couple of plays into the drive, another busted coverage by the Tigers allowed the Orange to get some breathing room. Pass interference penalties by Clemson allowed the Orange to move deep into Tiger territory. On a 3rd and 31, the Orange appeared to pick up some yardage and be in field goal position, but the Orange runner fumbled and Tanner Muse picked it up and ran it back 63 yards to tie the score at 14-14 with 8:31 remaining in the half.

Muse selfishly celebrated with a throat slash and it cost the Tigers 15 yards on the kickoff, putting Syracuse in good field position at about their own 40. Another long pass by the Orange moved them inside the Tiger 10. The Tiger defense came through on 3rd down to force a field goal. The Tigers were down 14-17. The ensuing Tiger drive was ugly, with Kelly Bryant limping and receivers dropping the ball.

Syracuse got the ball back with 3 minutes left but the Tiger defense forced a 3-and-out. With Bryant still limping, the offense was limping as well. He was sacked and went down a bit awkwardly. He was helped off the field but did walk into the locker room on the shoulders of a couple of trainers. In the first half interview, Coach Swinney said that Bryant had a concussion. Syracuse got the ball with about half minute left but didn’t do much.

Clemson got the ball at the start of the second half and put Zerrick Cooper in at QB. He threw the ball well to start the drive, but the drive stalled after a few plays and the Tigers punted. The 50-yard punt pinned the Orange at their own 1 yard line. The Orange got a first down but that was it for the drive. A short punt gave Clemson the ball at the Syracuse 43 yard line. Renfrow made one of the sweetest catches I have seen in a long time. A sack by an unblocked lineman dug them into a hole and the Tigers settled for a field goal. The score was tied 17-17.

On the next Syracuse drive, they struck quickly with Dungey getting loose on a long run and then throwing for a 30-yard touchdown. The up-tempo Orange offense clearly had the Clemson defense confused. The Tigers were behind again, 17-24. The Tigers came right back with a 52-yard touchdown run by Etienne to tie it back up at 24-24.

Syracuse imploded on their next possession with several penalties. Clelin Ferrell got a sack on 3rd and 33 to force a 4th and 42 punt. The Tigers took over on the Orange 41 and moved into the red zone with a mix of running and passing, with Renfrow making another great catch. A sack and overthrown pass stalled the drive and Clemson missed a field goal attempt.

Syracuse got the ball and moved down the field with good passing and a Clemson pass interference penalty on Trayvon Mullen. The drive ended with a Syracuse field goal to put the Tigers behind again at 24-27. Clemson’s next drive started ok, but ended on another overthrown pass by Cooper and a failed fake punt.

With about six minutes left, Syracuse took over and went slow tempo to try to run the clock down. And that’s exactly what they did. Clemson’s defense just had no answer for the Orange offense tonight. Clemson’s offense was out of sorts all night without a healthy Kelly Bryant. Fortunately, the Tigers have a bye week next week. Hopefully they can get things pulled together and get back on track. Check back with us in the coming days for full, in-depth analysis of tonight’s game and let us hear your thoughts in the comments section below.