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Clemson vs. Syracuse: Tigers Manhandle the Orange

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Clemson’s defense rises to the occasion and completely stymies the Syracuse offense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Clemson at Syracuse
The Tiger defense harassed Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito all night.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clemson headed north to Syracuse for their first road game of the year against the Orange. Initially predicted to be one of the more competitive games this year for the Tigers, the Syracuse meltdown last week against Maryland had many rethinking that prediction. Would the Orange make it a game like the last two years, or would the Tigers leave no doubt that they are the best team in the country?

Clemson received the opening kick and took the touchback. Justyn Ross took a hitch pass for 2 yards on 1st down. Travis Etienne appeared to pick up a couple of yards, but Syracuse was called for being offside. Trevor Lawrence tried to hit TE J.C Chalk in the flat but the ball was knocked down at the line. On 3rd down, he through a pass at Ross’ feet and the Tigers had to punt. The Orange took over at their 25. On 2nd down, Nolan Turner made a great play against a long pass and on 3rd down Syracuse couldn’t connect. Syracuse punted and the Tigers took over at their 21.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Amari Rodgers scores against the Orange.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Etienne picked up 5 yards up the middle on 1st down. Lawrence tried to hit Ross down the sideline but the Orange were called for pass interference. An incomplete pass and a false start put the Tigers at 2nd & 15. Tee Higgins caught a comeback pass and ran for a 1st down into Orange territory. Essentially the same play got them to 2nd & 3. Amari Rodgers took a short pass down to the Syracuse 25. Lawrence ran for 9 to set up 2nd & 1. Lawrence then faked a hitch and hit a wide open Rodgers in the end zone. Clemson led 7-0 after the B.T. Potter extra point. On the kickoof , Clemson was called for a personal foul and the Orange started at their 40. A couple of runs set Syracuse up for 3rd & 6. A snap infraction made it 3rd & 11. Isaiah Simmons chased down Orange QB Tommy DeVito for a sack and made it 4th & 19. The punt was covered at the Tiger 23.

Etienne rumbled for 4 yards on 1st down. Lawrence then tried to hit Joseph Ngata down the right sideline but couldn’t connect. On 3rd down, Lawrence rolled right and hit Tee Higgins down the sideline and a roughing the passer call put the Tigers at the Orange 23. Etienne picked up 7 on 1st down and Etienne bulled his way down to the Syracuse 10. On the next play he got down to the 1 and was shaken up on the play after a hard hit from an Orange safety. On 2nd down, Lyn-J Dixon was stymied at the line of scrimmage but on the next play, Lawrence faked to Dixon and ran to the outside for the score. Clemson led 14-0.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Trevor Lawrence runs in for a score.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Potter kickoff ended with a touchback. The Orange had a nice 9-yard catch on 1st down but then Simmons blitzed and got a TFL. On 3rd down DeVito scrambled and completed a pass on the sideline to move the chains. James Skalski then got a sack and K.J. Henry blocked a pass. The Orange couldn’t convert and punted it down to the Tiger 3. Etienne barely got 1 yard up the middle on 1st down. Ross caught an out to set up 3rd & 4. Higgins took a crossing route out to the 17 for a 1st down. Etienne avoided a TFL and took it out to the 23. On 3rd down, Lawrence underthrew Frank Ladson and the Tigers had to punt.

The Orange took over at their 41. Skalski got after DeVito again on 1st down and he had to throw it away. They picked up 6 on a hard run up the middle . An offside penalty gave Syracuse a 1st down. The Tigers got lucky on the next play when an open Orange WR dropped a pass in the end zone, but a penalty would have negated it. DeVito hit a receiver for 24 yards down to the Tiger 29 to end the 1st quarter. On 1st down DeVito picked up 5 scrambling up the middle. A couple of subsequent running plays picked up a 1st down. The Orange continued testing the inside of the Tiger line and move down to the 11 to set up 3rd & 3. They tried to hit a WR in the corner of the end zone but Mario Goodrich had good coverage on an underthrown ball and Syracuse had to settle for a FG. Clemson led 14-3.

Ngata ran the kickoff out to the 25. Lawrence looked for a long strike down the middle of the field to Ross, but the Orange defender committed pass interference and the Tigers moved out to the 40. A 2-yard Etienne run and an incomplete pass led to 3rd & 8. Lawrence had Ross down the middle again but overthrew him and the Tigers had to punt. Syracuse took over at their 26. Tanner Muse picked up a sack on 1st down. Skalski got to DeVito on 2nd down and it was suddenly 3rd & 25. A short pass didn’t get nearly enough to convert and the Orange ripped off a 53-yard punt. Clemson took over at their 30.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Isaiah Simmons makes a tackle.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Gage Cervenka jumped on 1st down but Lawrence rolled left and hit Higgins over the middle to pick up 12. Tee was hurt on the play. On 2nd & 3, Ross picked up 2 yards on a hitch. Dixon couldn’t pick up the yard and the Tigers punted. Will Spiers’ punt was fair caught at the Orange 24. Xavier Thomas got a sack on 1st down. A couple of plays later, the Orange had punt. Clemson took over at their 21.

Higgins was back in and took a pass out to the 34. He then took sideline pass and ran it down to the Orange 9 but committed a face mask penalty at the end of the run. The penalty put the Tigers at the Orange 23. Etienne didn’t get much on 1st down and Ngata couldn’t get a pass in bounds on 2nd. Lawrence rolled left on 3rd down but overthrew Higgins in the back of the end zone. The Tigers had a lineman downfield and Potter came out for the FG. The Tigers were up 17-3. With 4:31 left in the half, Syracuse started at the 25. On 2nd down, the Tigers blitzed hard but DeVito got it away and the Syracuse receiver ran it to the Tiger 25. Another short pass and good run got it to the Tiger 8. Good coverage on 1st down forced DeVito to throw it away. On 2nd down they ran into the teeth of the Tiger defense and lost 2. On 3rd down, a short pass moved it down to the 5. On 4th & goal. Syracuse kicked a FG to make it 17-6 Clemson with 2 minutes left in the half.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Tee Higgins picks up yards after a catch.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After the touchback, Lawrence tried to hit Ross down the sideline but he couldn’t hang on to it. On 2nd down, they connected for 7 yards to set up 3rd & 3. They tried to connect again on a crossing route, but Ross couldn’t make the catch. I’m sure Tiger fans were longing for the 3rd down presence of Hunter Renfrow. DT Tyler Davis got a sack on DeVito on 1st down, setting the Orange back 5 yards. On 2nd & 5, the Orange had a nice catch and run for a 1st down, but they had a lineman downfield. On 2nd & 20, Devito avoided X-Man and got a pass off to pick up 8. They couldn’t move the chains on 3rd down and ran the clock out to end the first half.

Syracuse started the second half at the 25 after the Potter kickoff went into the end zone. On 3rd & 2, the Tigers appeared to have a TFL but the Orange RB got away to move the chains. On the next 3rd down Chad Smith got the sack and Syracuse punted. Rodgers fielded the booming 65-yard punt but was only able to get out to the Tiger 6. I guess we are back to opposing punters having career days against the Tigers. Etienne picked up 7 on 1st down and picked up the first down on the next play. Then Lawrence tried to hit Higgins on a back shoulder fade, but the Orange defender played it well and got the interception. On the next play, DeVito was scrambling and threw and ill-advised pass that Goodrich picked off. at the Tiger 4. On 1st down, Lawrence ran it out to the 10. On 2nd down, an Etienne run set up 3rd & 1. Rodgers took a hitch pass from Lawrence and ran it 87 yards for the TD. The play was reviewed because one step looked close to the sideline, but it was upheld. Clemson led 24-6.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Justyn Ross makes a catch for the Tigers.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse took over at the 25 and on 1st down, DE Logan Rudolph got a TFL and on 2nd down he pressured DeVito and got a holding call against the lineman he was overpowering. The Orange couldn’t convert and punted. Rodgers took the punt out to the Tiger 19. On 1st down, Etitenne picked up about 20 yards and might have had a TD but the Turf Monster jumped up and got him. Then Lawrence threw it right to a safety who ran it down to the Tiger 3. That’s probably the worst throw I have ever seen him make. Two runs up the middle set up 3rd & goal. Simmons made an athletic play to sweep DeVito’s feet on a bootleg. The Tigers then made another stop at the 2 on 4th down to get the ball back.

Lawrence took off up the middle and took it out to the 27. He then uncorked a throw to Ross down to the Orange 25. Rodgers picked up 2 yards on a short pass and then Lawrence hit J.C Chalk down the middle for a TD, but the Tigers were called for holding. Etienne caught a flare pass on 2nd down and made a nice run down to the 26 to set up 3rd & 11. Etienne caught another short pass but couldn’t to the marker, so Potter came in to kick a FG. It was good and the Tigers led 27-6. Syracuse started at the 25 again and an incomplete pass and a short run set up 3rd & 9. DeVito scrambled but couldn’t pick up enough yardage. On 4th & 2, they went for it but Simmons blitzed and got to DeVito untouched for the sack.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Clemson at Syracuse
Tanner Muse gets the sack.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From the Orange 25, Dixon picked up 15 down to the 10. On the next play, he was stuffed for a loss of 5 as the 3rd quarter ended. Lawrence threw a pass to Cornell Powell in the end zone, but he couldn’t hang on to it. On 3rd down, Lawrence scrambled left but couldn’t connect to a receive in the end zone. Potter came in to kick the FG, but it hit the left upright. The score remained 27-6. Penalties and a couple of short runs set up 3rd and 11, and the Orange couldn’t convert. After the punt, Clemson took over at their 30.

Etienne picked up 3 yards on 1st down and another 15 on 2nd down. T.J. Chase got 11 yards on a pass from Lawrence. Dixon then ran for a few hard fought yards and picked up more when an Orange defender grabbed his facemask. Lawrence hit freshman TE for 11 yards and Dixon picked up 6 more on the next play. Ladson then made an awesome catch as he was falling to the ground in the end zone. The Tigers led 34-6. The Orange ran the kickoff out to the 15, but the Tiger defense forced a 3 & out. Will Swinney fielded the punt at the Clemson 27 after a 51-yard punt. Chase Brice came in at QB and Darrien Rencher picked up 4 tough yards on 1st down. Rencher picked up 4 more on 2nd down. On 3rd & 2, Brice picked up 16 to move the ball into Orange territory. The Orange defense stiffened and the Tigers couldn’t convert on 3rd & 14. Spiers’ punt went out of the end zone, setting Syracuse up at the 20.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse
Trevor Lawrence throws a pass against the Orange.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Against Tiger 3rd stringers, Syracuse moved down the field into Tiger territory. They tried to hit several long throws but the Tigers defensed them well. After a turnover on downs, Clemson got the ball at their 40 with 1:30 left. On 2nd down, Chez Mellusi broke free up the middle and went 57 yards for the TD. Clemson led 41-6. Syracuse then ran out the clock.

The Tigers left no doubt. This game was never in doubt, unlike the past two years. Lawrence had a good night statistically, thanks primarily to his receivers. He looked quite pedestrian at times. Once he and the receivers get in sync, this offense is going to be unstoppable. The defense played lights out. This is a very good team that is only going to get better. Next week the Tigers come back to Death Valley to take on Charlotte. Check back with us over the next few days for in-depth coverage of tonight’s game and previews of next week’s game. How do you feel about the Tigers’ performance up to this point? Let us know in the comments section below.