Welcome back everybody. After last week’s heartbreaking coaching-induced loss to FSU in Death Valley, Clemson hit the road to take on Syracuse in The Dome. ESPN Analytics had the Orange favored to beat the Tigers. Clemson started fast and went into halftime with a 21-7 lead.
The Orange started their drive effectively but several plays in, Justin Mascoll nailed Syracuse QB Matt Schrader, who had gotten loose on a 16-yard run, with a full head of steam and caused a fumble that the Tigers recovered. A targeting call against Mascoll on the play was overturned. The Tiger offense started sluggishly but a pass interference call moved them to the Syracuse 35. Will Shipley, with some nice blocking by the offensive line, had some good runs. On 3rd down Troy Stellato made a great grab of a Cade Klubnik pass in the end zone. Clemson led 7-0.
The Orange defense did not start effectively on their second drive as the Tiger defensive line got two sacks on 1st and 2nd down. But it was wasted as the Tiger offense couldn’t get anything going after a punt.
Disaster then struck as the Orange fumbled a pitch. Xavier Thomas picked it up and ran it down to the Syracuse 3 yard line. It took a couple of runs, but Shipley punched it in. The Tigers had a 14-0 lead at the 5:53 mark of the 1st quarter.
The Orange responded with a good drive, aided by some attempts at tackling by the Tigers that made them look like 8th graders. They scored on a play where the Tigers neither covered nor tackled. It was 14-7. The Tigers drove out to midfield and then fell apart. On 3rd down the Tiger offensive line couldn’t stop a 3-man run and Cade was sacked by an Orange defensive lineman who ran right through a double team.
After a couple of uneventful drives by both teams, the Tigers drove into the red zone, aided by a questionable call against Syracuse for a late hit out of bounds on Klubnik, who likely is now in the running for the Best Actor Oscar. The Tigers got to 4th & 2 at the Syracuse 5 yard line and went for it and the offensive line allowed another sack.
The next Tiger drive was effective, with a nice 15-yard scramble by Klubnik to save the drive on 3rd down. He followed that scramble with a great throw to Beaux Collins who had gotten behind an Orange corner with a double move to score. Clemson led 21-7. The defense held the Orange and the offense got the ball back at their 15 with 1:32 left. Clemson moved down the field effectively and ended the drive with a 42-yard FG attempt that sailed wide left. The Tigers went into halftime with a 21-7 lead.
Clemson opened the 2nd half with a drive that saw a 47-yard reception by Tyler Brown down to the Orange 8. Pathetic blocking, seriously pathetic, led to 3rd and goal from the 21. But Jonathan Weiz did finally make a FG and the Tigers led 24-7. The Tiger defense had a good series, with a sack by Barrett Carter, and forced a punt. Clemson took over at their 12.
The next Tiger drive was notable for a couple of poorly thrown passes by Klubnik, one of which probably would have been a pick-6 if the Orange defender had been able to hold onto it. Clemson’s defense responded with a good series that kept Syracuse from doing much of anything.
As the 4th quarter began, the Tiger offense started running downhill with Shipley making 9-10 yard runs, but Jake Briningstool caught a pass in flat and then fumbled. The Orange recovered and went on to score, making it 24-14.
Despite a nice catch and run by Brown, then next Tiger possession was incredibly frustrating to watch as they shot themselves in the foot over and over. The misery was ended by a punt to the Orange 9. After a good start, Garrett Shrader threw a pass over the middle that Jeremiah Trotter stepped in front of and intercepted. Phil Mafah got a couple of good blocks that he patiently waited to set up and then took it to the house from 32 yards out. Clemson led 31-14 with just under 7 minutes left.
The defense kept getting pressure on Schrader and forced a turnover on downs. At this point, the Tigers were content to burn time off the clock. After a good punt, the Orange took over at their 5 with 2:18 left. Syracuse was also content to run the clock out.
So after a good game (by the players) last week, this week they made a few mistakes that could have been very costly but Syracuse made costlier mistakes and the Tigers prevailed 31-14. There were some red zone errors that still need to be cleaned up, but at least they walked away with a convincing win. How did you feel about today’s game? Let us know in the comments section below and stay tuned over the next few days for reviews of today’s game and previews of next week’s game with Wake Forest in Death Valley.