It took just 38 seconds for Tajh Boyd and the explosive Clemson offense to jump on the board inside the Carrier Dome Saturday. The Tigers tamed the Orange 49 – 14 in SU’s inaugural ACC game thanks to Boyd’s masterful performance. They didn’t hesitate to score quickly and efficiently as they turned in three of their touchdown drives in less than a minute. Clemson took a convincing 21 – 0 lead after the first quarter, and the main highlight of the opening half was Scott Shafer’s profane words at Dabo Swinney going for it on fourth down with the game clearly lopsided.
It was just one of those games where no matter what Syracuse threw at the Tigers, they had an answer. Let’s break down the loss using The Fizz Five:
Boyd dominated, and Shafer praises his play
Heisman hopeful Boyd tied a career high with five touchdown passes in a game and set a personal record of 455 yard through the air. Clemson’s offensive attack alone proves the program’s no. 3 rank in the country. Shafer admired his ability and said he’s “perfect in that offense.” He connected with four different receivers in the end zone and utilized the shotgun formation perfectly. Despite the great showing of SU fans (we’ll get to that), Boyd and company didn’t commit a significant penalty throughout the contest. Clemson could give Oregon a run for its money if it continues to score points like it did on Saturday. The Tigers have averaged 40+ points per game and lived up to that standard once more this weekend. Three-year starter Boyd gives them a chance every week to dominate offensively.
Clemson’s pace clearly proves it’s a powerhouse
The three-touchdown lead minutes before the first quarter finished was enough to show how fast this team is. Clemson converted 15 more first downs than Syracuse, 27 to 12. Boyd remained comfortable and poised in the pocket all game long and the chains moved rapidly. As for the Tigers defense, it entered Saturday having just allowed two passing scores all season. They upheld that stat with their pressure and aggressiveness. Clemson didn’t have to step on the gas pedal very hard to pace its victory over the Orange but it stepped up when it needed to. Syracuse made just 20 percent of its third-down conversions. It’s sort of cliché when Top 25 programs are always admired for their dynamic athletes and talented players. But Clemson lived up to that as its athleticism and quickness steamrolled on both sides of the ball. There wasn’t even a fight in response to that.
Terrel Hunt comes down to earth, struggled in his first, real test
After breakout stints against Wagner and Tulane, we all knew the bar was set high for Hunt to play well against Clemson. As it turns out, the nation’s third-ranked team is no Wagner or Tulane. Hunt said postgame SU faced “subpar” teams before Clemson and he personally has to go out next week and find what he had against those less talented squads. Hunt completed just one third of his passes, threw just over 50 yards, and logged three interceptions. This was the sophomore quarterback’s first legitimate test and by the numbers he struggled. He admitted after the game he didn’t do his part and Syracuse wasn’t together as a team. Hunt scrambled and got out to run quite frequently—sometimes by design, but mostly to avoid pressure.
He carried the ball 13 times to run for more than he passed, 57 rushing yards to 52 passing. What’s good to hear is Hunt seems to understand he’s the guy under center for the rest of the season, assuming there’s no major meltdown or injury. He’s a main leader on the field and can’t get riled up after one loss in a new conference against arguably the ACC’s best. His seven touchdowns to zero INTs stat line was eye-popping, but now the numbers have come back down to earth. Hunt’s no longer an admiration or a sensation. He’s the leader of the offense and must pick himself up immediately for NC State.
There are some positives to take heading to NC State
Although SU suffered a difficult loss, there was plenty of good Saturday as well. Syracuse ended Boyd’s streak of 187 straight pass attempts without an interception. Backup cornerback Julian Whigham took Brandon Reddish’s spot in the secondary and delivered with an interception. Whigham said he just “did his job.” Also defensively, Jay Bromley racked up a pair of sacks. He continues to demonstrate his strong presence along the defensive line.
And finally, Jerome Smith rushed for 125 yards and a score, which was a 66-yard breakaway run.
Syracuse now travels to another ACC opponent: NC State. Remember the Wolf Pack kept it close with Clemson a few weeks back, so they’re no slouch of a program. NC State is also looking for its first ACC win of the season. Shafer said he was proud of the team’s mini-comeback in the third quarter. He had believed SU could keep it a game and told the players this at halftime: “It’s Opposite Day. Every thought you have is the opposite.”
The Orange may have fallen to the Tigers, but it’ll continue to improve each and every game played in the ACC.
Posted by: Brendan Glasheen