Syracuse took another heartbreaking loss, this time to Clemson, 17-14. It was a pretty stereotypical game for SU, Sean Tucker was sensational, Garrett Shrader couldn’t throw the football, Dino Babers showcased his inability to manage a game in the final minutes, and Andre Szmyt missed a big field goal. Here are the biggest takeaways from Friday’s loss:
The Bowl Hopes Are Over
After Syracuse beat Liberty, fans and media alike were beginning to warm to the idea that this team could pick up 3 more and put themselves in a position to be playing postseason football. Though after 3 straight losses you can pretty much kiss those dreams goodbye. Realistically, there are 3 games left on SU’s schedule that are winnable, if they got all 3 they’d be eligible, but I wouldn’t get too excited. Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Boston College are the teams left that SU has a feasible shot at beating. Virginia Tech, who the Orange play next week, is probably the most difficult opponent of that trio. Louisville sports a negative record in-conference and Boston College, like Syracuse, are winless in-conference. A season that began with tons of promise goes up in flames thanks to poor late-game coaching and an inability to throw the football.
This Offense Won’t Beat The Good Teams
Syracuse’s offense this season has been unlike what we’ve seen in years prior. The Eric Dungey’s and Tommy DeVito’s of the world loved to show off their magnificent arms whenever they could, throwing deep bombs to guys like Steve Ishmael, Jamal Custis, Trishton Jackson, and Taj Harris. Those days are over, however. Babers ultimately picked Shrader over DeVito because the transfer had the ability to move the team down the field consistently while using his legs to avoid sacks and gain first downs, something DeVito wouldn’t do if the play wasn’t drawn up to do exactly that. That rush-centered offense worked for a while, especially thanks to the brilliance of Sean Tucker, but as we learned on Friday night, it doesn’t work when going up against one of the best defenses in the country. Sure, Tucker still got his 100 yards like he does almost every game, doing most of that work in the first half. Though when Brent Venables and the staunch Clemson defense came out in the second, they made a simple adjustment: Stack the box and force Shrader to throw. Everyone in the Carrier Dome and everyone watching at home knew Shrader has a hard time throwing the ball, but he refreshed us anyway. In that second half, the Mississippi St. transfer threw the ball 22 times in the second half compared to 15 in the first. Sean Tucker was neutralized entirely in that second half. The potential Heisman candidate had just 25 rush yards in the second half compared to his impressive 132 in the first. If you’re Dino Babers, your job is to find a way to get Tucker the ball, he failed. Shrader cannot throw the ball consistently, if you can’t get Sean Tucker the ball, this offense will not win games. Simple as that.
Someone Needs To Teach Babers How To Manage The Clock
It’s hard to believe that a coach at this level could be so blatantly poor at clock management. If you don’t know, Syracuse was down 3 points in the 4th quarter, driving while the game clock wound down. With 43 seconds left and one timeout, SU stood at the Clemson 30 yard-line facing a 4th and 1. Dino seemingly had two options. Option #1: Let the clock run down to around 5 seconds, call timeout and attempt to take the game to overtime, not giving Clemson a chance to score. Option #2: Call timeout right away, and use it to draw up a play to go for it, potentially utilizing your running back that’s averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Babers didn’t pick either, instead choosing a third: Call the timeout immediately and then kick the field goal. HUH?! Even if the ball goes through the uprights, you’re giving Dabo Swinney 40 seconds and a timeout to go down the field and score a field goal of his own. When asked about the decision after the game, Babers said, “I felt like we had momentum.” If you felt like you had momentum, wouldn’t that mean you’d go for it? Nothing is making sense in the world of Syracuse football right now. It’s getting tougher and tougher to defend Babers.