Syracuse fans came into Friday night’s tilt with No. 2 Clemson with no reason to believe SU would win. The Orange was shutout and lost by more than 50 last season to Clemson in Death Valley, and through five weeks SU hadn’t given the fans much reason to think this time around would be different. But on Friday the 13th, the Orange shocked the country by upsetting the reigning national champions, 27-24 in the Carrier Dome.
There’s no other way to put it: Syracuse outplayed Clemson. In the first half, Dino Babers’ playbook gave Eric Dungey wide open receivers more than once, and even the SU running game consistently got to the second level. Dungey threw a touchdown to Dontae Strickland and then found Erv Philips on a breakaway for a 66-yard score and 14 early points. On defense, the Orange held the Tigers to just one first half score. If it wasn’t for Dontae Strickland’s fumble in field goal range which Clemson returned for a touchdown, the Orange could have been up 13 at the half instead of three. Dungey finished with 193 passing yards and two touchdowns, and Cole Murphy’s field goal before the half gave the Orange a 17-14 lead.
Late in the first half, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant took a hard hit and left the game with what was later diagnosed as a concussion. Redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper came in to replace Bryant, and the SU defense went on the attack out of the locker rooms. Blitzes got by the Tiger offensive line for a number of pressures and a few sacks. On offense, Dungey didn’t lose any of his rhythm at the half. In the touchdown drive that would be the difference for the Orange, Dungey broke off a 45-yard run before delivering a perfect 30-yard pass to Steve Ishmael’s breadbasket. Everyone knew Dungey had to be on his stuff to win this game, but Friday the Orange quarterback showed us another level. It only made sense that at end of the game it was Dungey who scrambled for the Orange’s final first down to seal the game.
No matter how you thought Syracuse could win this game, everyone agreed the Orange had to have everything go its way. It did. The offense and defense both had their best games of the season, and Clemson made a few mistakes to go with it. The Orange played a complete game, and for one night outplayed one of the best teams of the country.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson