Perfect No More: No. 14 Syracuse Falls Short at No. 5 Clemson 27-21
No. 14 Syracuse was 15 minutes away from an upset at Death Valley, a win that would’ve improved Dino Babers’ squad to 7-0. But No. 5 Clemson scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to move to 8-0 and extend its home winning streak to 38 games. The Tigers survived four turnovers and a quarterback benching before safety R.J. Mickens picked off Garrett Shrader with 17 seconds left to clinch the contest.
“We couldn’t find a way to punch one more in. We knew one more was going to make the difference. But you got to take your hat off to Clemson. That defense is a big-time defense,” Babers said.
The Upset was Brewing
After Clemson drew first blood with running back Will Shipley’s ninth rushing score of the season, Syracuse responded right away. Shrader connected with Oronde Gadsden twice and Devaughn Cooper once before he found Sean Tucker on a wheel route for a touchdown.
The momentum of the game shifted for the first time just over five minutes into the second quarter. The Tigers were methodically driving and had reached the Orange’s three-yard line. On first and goal, Duce Chestnut and Marlowe Wax converged on Clemson signal-caller DJ Uiagelelei, forcing the ball loose. Ja’had Carter scooped it up and went 90 yards for the score. Instead of a 14-7 ballgame in favor of Clemson, it was 14-7 in favor of Syracuse.
Shrader scampered to paydirt from seven yards out on a 3rd and 5 play in the final minutes of the first half to put the ‘Cuse up 21-7. After a Clemson field goal at the end of the half, the Tigers coughed up the pigskin twice in the third quarter. That included a Uiagelelei interception, his second of the game, at 6:27. The junior then was benched for true freshman Cade Klubnik.
The Tigers Seize Their Prey
The second momentum-shifting play of the game came in the final minutes of the third quarter. Syracuse was maintaining a 21-10 lead and had Clemson’s backup, Klubnik, facing 3rd and 25. The QB was angled out of bounds for a minimal gain but defensive lineman Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff pushed Klubnik after the play, resulting in a personal foul penalty that awarded the Tigers an automatic first down.
Three plays later, Wax also committed a personal foul penalty, and ultimately Clemson converted a 4th and goal to cut the lead to 21-16.
Shrader got pushed out of bounds late on the ensuing drive but no flag was thrown. Less than a minute later, Clemson running back Will Shipley found a lane and scored from 50 yards out to reclaim the Tigers’ lead, 24-21.
B.T. Potter added a 44-yard field goal with 1:33 left to give the Tigers a six-point lead. Shrader and the Syracuse offense reached the Clemson 30-yard line before the quarterback got picked off looking for Oronde Gadsden.
“I left (the final throw) a little short I guess. I’ll have to go back and watch to see exactly what happened because you know, you got people in your face. But it looks like I just left it a little short, inside maybe, and the kid made a great play on it,” Shrader said.
In the second half, Clemson’s defense held Syracuse to zero points and just five first downs, of which three came in the final drive. The Tigers also forced six punts in the final 30 minutes.
Up next for Syracuse is a home matchup with Notre Dame next Saturday, October 29. The Orange have lost their last four games against the Fighting Irish. Game time is at noon. WAER’s coverage will begin at 11:30 a.m. with McClurg Team Countdown to Kickoff.