Syracuse went into today‚Äôs game as 46.5-point underdogs. No one expected anything from the Orange and no one most definitely predicted them to win. So, when Clemson scored its first touchdown within the first two minutes of the game, it wasn‚Äôt shocking. What was shocking was what happened after. SU actually put together a couple drives, played solid defense, and gave itself a chance to win.
The Orange were within striking distance in the third quarter. At one point, Syracuse had the ball near midfield only down by six. That drive resulted in a three-and-out and from there it went all down hill. A couple costly turnovers, coupled with Clemson doing Clemson-things resulted in a 47-21 loss for SU.
To recap the game and give you the analysis you need, we broke out the trustee Fizz Report Card to grade some aspects of Syracuse. Class is in session.
Taj Harris: F
Harris failed this game because he wasn‚Äôt even in the same state as his team. The wide receiver didn‚Äôt make the trip to Clemson, which we can assume is because he decided to flip the bird to the TV towards the end of last week‚Äôs loss to Liberty. Harris failed this game and completely left his team out to dry against the best team in the country. He is arguably the best player on the Syracuse offense and because of his poor decisions and temper, he didn‚Äôt play. Plus he was just tweeting throughout the game like nothing was wrong.
Kudos to Dino Babers for making the decision and setting a precedent.
Offensive Line: B+
The offensive line has obviously been a weakness for Syracuse this season. Going into today‚Äôs game, the Orange allowed more sacks than any other FBS school. Plus, they were going up against a Clemson team who is second in the country for most sacks. Despite that, the O-line only allowed Rex Culpepper to be sacked twice. That is a win if you are Syracuse. Now, there were plenty of plays where Culpepper was hurried or pressured, but you have to be happy with how the offensive line played against Clemson.¬†
Sean Tucker: A-
Sean Tucker is fantastic. He only had ten rush attempts against Clemson, but he still tallied 63 yards and a touchdown. Not to mention, he did that against the second-best statistical rush defense in the ACC. The only thing Tucker fans need to worry about now is his health and making sure Babers doesn‚Äôt over-use.
Rex Culpepper: C
Culpepper didn‚Äôt have his best game. You couldn‚Äôt expect much from him, going against a Clemson defense that is just so talented, but you wish he didn‚Äôt make so many mistakes. Through the first three-ish quarters he was fine. But then towards the end when Syracuse was trying to stay in it, Culpepper threw back-to-back picks. 10-26 for 175 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions is not going to cut it against the Tigers.
Garrett Williams: A+
Garrett Williams is a star. Not a star in the making, he is a star right now. The redshirt freshman led the team with eight tackles, registered one tackle-for-a-loss, tallied two pass break ups, and intercepted the best quarterback in the country. Williams is the only player to ever have a pick-six against Trevor Lawrence in college. And he‚Äôs only a redshirt freshman!!! Plus, he had a crucial pass break up against Amari Rodgers, which would have set the Tigers up in the red zone. Williams played amazing against the best team in the country.
Rush Defense: A
The Syracuse defense allowed over 330 rush yards in back to back games before this weekend‚Äôs clash with Clemson. So, heading into today‚Äôs showdown with the best running back in the country, Travis Etienne, on the other sideline, the Orange rush defense was going to get tested. But, boy did they answer the call. SU held Etienne to only 86 yards on the ground and Clemson to a total of 147. Syracuse actually out-rushed Clemson by three yards. That is a win, if you ask me!
Pass Defense: C+
Syracuse had to pick its poison today. Do you want to get gashed by Etienne or thrown all over by Lawrence? The Orange picked the latter. Lawrence threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns. Those aren‚Äôt crazy numbers for him. It could have been much worse. There were glimpses of great pass defense by SU, but it is just so difficult to completely shut Lawrence down.¬†
Nolan Cooney: A+
I will never not give Nolan Cooney an A+. He is the best player on this team and there‚Äôs not even a debate.