Coming out of halftime with a 17-6 lead, Clemson came out hoping to establish more consistency on offense after an up and down first half. There were moments during the first half when it appeared that Clemson would lock up the game by halftime. But offensive drives stalled and Clemson’s stingy defense continually allowed Syracuse little options.
Syracuse won the coin toss and deferred, so they received the second half kickoff to start the third quarter. Given the quick strikes of the game and the continued dominance of the defense in the second half coupled with the (mostly) big plays of the offense, this week’s review will largely focus on the offense.
Clemson 17, Syracuse 6
Syracuse Ball (12:45)
Following a touchback from BT Potter, Syracuse takes over from their own 25-yard line. Syracuse comes out early with some quick passes from quarterback Danny DeVito to mix in with some runs from Moe Neal. As Syracuse looks to cross into Clemson territory, the defense comes up big on 3rd and 3 with one of its many sacks, this one courtesy of Chad Smith.
Syracuse punter Sterling Hofrichter kicks a booming punt that is fielded by Amari Rodgers at the 3-yard line (which we don’t advise), and is only able to return the punt to the 6.
Clemson Ball (11:05)
The early offensive kinks aren’t over quite yet. Just as it seems the offense might have something in store on this drive as Travis Etienne breaks off two eight yard runs, Lawrence is intercepted by Christopher Frederick, who takes the ball to the nine-yard line to put Syracuse in potential scoring position.
Not one of Lawrence’s better throws, especially since the corner broke on the ball and managed to get position underneath Tee Higgins to break up the pass.
Syracuse Ball (11:04)
Syracuse’s momentum shift is short-lived,however, as DeVito is intercepted by Mario Goodrich, who recovered nicely on the play to snatch away Syracuse’s best chance at truly shifting momentum in their favor.
Clemson Football (9:42)
Despite the break given to them by the defense in the red zone, the offense quickly found itself on 3rd and 1, with third down conversions hard to come by in the game. Lawrence threw a quick out to Rodgers, who appeared as though he might get tackled behind the line for a five-yard loss. But after a major stiff arm, Rodgers took to the edge and took the pass 87 yards for a touchdown, managing to stay in bounds after a hefty booth review.
He also got some major help courtesy of some good blocking from Justyn Ross on the perimeter.
Clemson 24, Syracuse 6
Clemson Ball (8:00)
Following a quick three and out from Syracuse, Clemson’s offense gets off to another good start with a 19-yard pass to Etienne on first down. However, Lawrence would throw yet his second interception, courtesy of an underneath defensive back. An Etienne tackle prevents this from becoming a pick-six.
Syracuse Ball (6:00)
Down but not out, Syracuse manages to work their way down within Clemson’s five yard line. They are unable to punch in a run on their first two downs. On third down, Simmons snags DeVito on what would’ve been a wide open touchdown.
On fourth down Clemson manages to do what it didn’t do against Texas A&M at the end of the game and cover the tight ends in the red zone. With no one open, DeVito attempts to take it in himself but is stopped short. Clemson takes over on downs with yet another goal line stand.
Clemson Ball (5:30)
Backed up in their own end zone, Lawrence keeps the ball himself on an RPO for 25 yards, and likely could have taken it much further, smartly opting for the safety of himself and the offense by sliding. He then follows up his run with a 48-yard pass to Ross, who Lawrence had difficulty connecting with despite the single-matchups Clemson had been trying to exploit all night.
After a JC Chalk touchdown is called back due to a Cade Stewart holding call, the penalty backs up Clemson enough that they’re eventually forced to settle for a Potter field goal from 37 yards out. He nails it.
Clemson 27, Syracuse 6
Yet another three-and-out for Syracuse, with this possession’s latest sack courtesy of Isaiah Simmons, who timed his blitz perfectly from his center field safety alignment.
*Brief mention: It’s only been three games and Simmons has been by far the most dominate player to watch on defense. He’s thrived as the kind of hybrid safety/linebacker this defense needs. When teams are attempting to diagnose Venables’ defensive schemes, he’s the first guy people will be looking for.
Start of 4th
Clemson Ball (10:03)
After a drive that resulted in a missed field goal from Potter, Clemson’s offense got the ball back on track, with key plays on the drive including an 15-yard run by Etienne and an 11-yard reception from TJ Chase to bring Clemson to the Syracuse 41. A defensive facemask penalty committed on Lyn-J Dixon pushed the Tigers further into Orange territory. Clemson capped off the drive thanks to an amazing catch from Frank Ladson (who looks as though he fought through what should’ve been a pass interference penalty).
Clemson 34, Syracuse 6
Clemson Ball (0:48)
While trying to simply run out the clock, freshman running back Chez Mellusi scores his first career touchdown on a 57-yard touchdown run to cap off the night. Even though it was scored so late in the game, gotta dedicate a gif to the freshman back for his first touchdown. Showed some good wheels on this one.
Final: Clemson 41, Syracuse 6
While Clemson managed to even the score courtesy of extra chunk plays, the defense remained the story of the game, as Cuse failed to reach the end zone. We talk about some of the lost athleticism at linebacker with Chad Smith and Skalski, but it’s become apparent that Venables’ 3-3-5 and 3-2-6 sets might be here to stay, as it made its second use this week as the primary base defense.
People will focus on Lawrence’s up and down play or the offense’s stagnation throughout, but it became apparent that Rodgers’ presence in the slot makes a major difference, particularly with his athletic ability in space. It’s hard to believe this man is back after tearing his ACL during the spring, and looks as though he’s picking up right where he left off.
Now, on to Week 4 against Charlotte.