Syracuse Sacks Clemson. What Does It All Mean?
Syracuse shocked Clemson with a great performance in a season-changing 27-24 win.
Syracuse 27, Clemson 24
Prediction: Clemson 38, Syracuse 20
Line: Clemson -22.5, o/u: 56.6
Clemson never really showed up.
It was a strange Friday night game in the always-dangerous Carrier Dome. And Clemson was never quite able to wake up. That wasn’t the Clemson we’ve seen all season long.
But Syracuse had a whole lot to do with that.
Start with the problems with Kelly Bryant’s ankle. The star Clemson quarterback was limping around from the start, he wasn’t able to run like normal, and he was a sitting duck. Syracuse got to him, sacked him, and knocked him out of the game.
But that’s not why Clemson lost.
Zerrick Cooper stepped in and was fine. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 88 yards, but couldn’t get going on the ground. He was able to lead the Tigers on a few scoring drives, but the rest of the team didn’t pick him up.
Alex Spence missed two field goals, the defensive front wasn’t able to dictate the tempo, and for some strange reason, the coaching staff stopped cranking up the running game.
Travis Etienne rancor 68 yards and a score, and Tavien Feaster was able to come up with a few nice runs, but the Tigers only ran 25 times and stayed away from pounding the ball after Bryant got knocked out. Clemson needed to control the game, and it couldn’t. It didn’t try well enough with the rushing attack.
But that’s not why Clemson lost.
Syracuse QB Eric Dungey completed 20-of-32 passes for 278 yards and three scores, gutting it out with a leg injury, and getting redemption after getting knocked out of last year’s game. He also came up with a tough 61 yards, including the game-sealer to run out the clock.
Both teams were too sloppy at times. Clemson committed 11 penalties for 119 yards, and Syracuse got nailed for 12 penalties for 100 yards.
So why did Clemson lose?
The normally dominant Tiger defense couldn’t come up with a really, really big third down stop. Syracuse converted 8-of-19 chances and both of the fourth down tries. Clemson converted 2-of-11 chances and whiffed on its desperation trick play on a fake punt late. Syracuse played like a team that was confident and in control. Clemson didn’t.
Okay, so now what? Clemson is still deep in this, just like it was last year when it lost to Pitt. However, Bryant has to be healthy, the team needs to bust through the lethargy that it played with in Syracuse, and the fire has to be lit, sort of like it was for Ohio State after losing to Oklahoma.
Now there’s more than two weeks off to rest up and get ready for Georgia Tech, and then comes the date at NC State and showdown against Florida State. There’s no margin for error, but win out, and get into the College Football Playoff. Clemson is talented enough to do it.
Okay, so now what for Syracuse? How did the Orange lose to Middle Tennessee earlier this year? Now at 4-3, there’s a real shot at going bowling. However, the rest of the schedule is a bear.
At Miami is up next, then at Florida, State, then Wake Forest, then at Louisville before closing out against Boston College. But if you’re good enough to beat Clemson, you’re good enough to beat anyone left on the slate.