In front of a sold-out Clemson Memorial Stadium against the No. 3 team in the nation, Syracuse showed they can play with the big boys. The Orange took the lead in the second quarter and didn’t surrender it until there were 41 ticks left on the clock. At that moment, Clemson put any chances of another upset to bed with a two-yard run by Travis Etienne, who had a career day in the Tigers’ 27-23 win over the Orange.
The tide shifted towards Syracuse in the second quarter when Clemson’s true-freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence was knocked out of the game by an Evan Foster hit. He did not return. With previous starter Kelly Bryant no longer with the program, Clemson turned to another freshman: Chase Brice. The Georgia native wasn’t flashy, but did more than enough to propel his team to a victory. Thankfully for him, his partner in the backfield had a career day. No one had a bigger impact on this game than sophomore Travis Etienne, who rushed for a career-high 203 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.
Syracuse didn’t win the game, but they came awfully close. While that’s not the standard for Dino Babers’ team, it’s a sign that this program is moving in the right direction. For most of the game, Syracuse was the better team on the field. The days of Syracuse being a 25-point underdog to anyone are over. If the nation didn’t respect the Orange before this game, they certainly do now. It’s not a matter of if Syracuse will collect AP Top-25 votes this week, but rather how many. That’s remarkable for a program coming off back to back 4-8 seasons.
Syracuse head coach Dino Barbers speaks the media following the Orange’s 27-23 loss to Clemson. https://t.co/aZoPSKlTDy
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After the game, Babers was asked about his clock management towards the end of the game. Babers recognized what a tricky situation that is, saying if he had used the timeouts and it not worked in SU’s favor that he would have been asked the same question from the other perspective. At the end of the day, he made a tough call and chose to let his defense, who had been solid up front all day, fight it out.
Three Who Mattered
Travis Etienne: The best player on the field for either team, no questions asked. For much of the game, SU’s defense did a nice job of limiting the home-run plays. That changed in the fourth quarter when Etienne ran all over the place, averaging 7.5 yards per carry in the game. With Lawrence out of the game, the Tigers needed a veteran to step up. While Etienne is only in his second year with the team, he was the game changer for Clemson. Without his brilliant effort, Syracuse might have improved to 5-0 for the first time since 1987.
Jamal Custis: After a fast start to the season, things had slowed down for Custis in recent weeks. That changed on Saturday in Clemson. He finished the game with seven receptions for 73 yards, hauling in a couple of tough catches at crucial times for the Orange. Sure, Syracuse needed one more touchdown to win the game, but that wouldn’t have been the case without gritty performances from guys like Custis. He showed today why he’s Dungey’s top target on the outside this year.
Kendall Coleman: You couldn’t have asked for a better performance from SU’s defensive line today. Coleman led the charge with seven tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss. The Orange kept the pressure on the Tigers all game long and made Brice uncomfortable in the pocket. At times, the Orange looked like they were the team with the all-world defensive line. Coleman was the biggest reason why.
To be frank, after a performance like this, most positions are trending upwards. The most impressive units for me were the receivers and the defensive line. It’s tough to get separation against Clemson and the Orange did exactly that. Unfortunately for them, they squandered plenty of opportunities down the field. Devin Butler had a nice game, getting space on a seam route down the middle of the field in the first half. An accurate throw from Dungey likely would have put him in the end zone. Butler also performed in a number of other crucial moments. Hats off to the Syracuse offensive line. Dungey wasn’t sacked until late in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over. That’s quite an accomplishment against the Tigers.
They Said It
“The mood is we’ve got one loss in the loss column and we need to get back in the win column. If we want to be winner, we can’t stay on this track… we want 2018 to be different.” – Babers after the four point loss. Syracuse has yet to win a game after the bye under Dino Babers. They’ll get their first chance to do that on Oct. 20 against North Carolina.
“Guys are hungry to get back to work… we were right there with them in Death Valley so I think we have a lot of confidence moving forward,” Dungey said after finishing the game with 250 passing yards.
“The biggest thing is we need to stay together. There’s a lot of teams that will play a lot of football this year, and there’s not too many of them that will go undefeated. What you do after a loss tells you what kind of football team you are.” – Babers said after the game.
Syracuse’s week six schedule takes them to Pittsburgh for a date with the Panthers. A chance for the Orange to get back over .500 with a win over their ACC Coastal rival. The game starts at 12:20 next Saturday and we’ll have you covered here on OrangeFizz.net. Until then, make sure to keep it locked to @OrangeFizz on twitter for all the latest updates leading up to the game.