Syracuse came into Friday night seeking to snap a two-game losing streak and knock off a heated rival in the Clemson Tigers. Unfortunately, SU couldn’t seal the deal and fell 17-14 in front of its home fans. Andre Szmyt’s potential game-tying 48-yard field goal fell short with under a minute to play.
Szmyt’s miss was the last gasp of a ‘Cuse offense that struggled all night long. Save for a 10 play, 91-yard drive in the second quarter, Syracuse labored mightily against a talented Tigers defense that entered 3rd in the entire FBS in scoring. The Orange gained 356 total yards on the night, but big chunks of that yardage came on a few specific plays. Running back Sean Tucker had runs of 39 and 54 yards, while SU’s second touchdown came on a 62-yard strike from Garrett Shrader to Trebor Pena.
Clemson opened the initial scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to wideout Joseph Ngata, who made a catch as he dove backward away from the coverage of SU cornerback Duce Chestnut. Syracuse answered back with the aforementioned 91-yard drive capped off with a Garrett Shrader rushing score.
Late in the second quarter, a key play on special teams changed the momentum of the game. With 1:04 remaining in the second quarter, Clemson faced a 4th and 5 from the Syracuse 41-yard line. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney dialed up a unique formation for punter Will Spiers, who capitalized on Syracuse’s confusion by completing a 17-yard pass to tight end Davis Allen. Six plays later, running back Kobe Pace scored from two yards out to give Clemson a 14-7 lead heading into half.
After the fake punt and ensuing touchdown, Syracuse struggled to regain its footing. The Orange gained just 37 yards in the third quarter and didn’t score again until Shrader hit returner-turned-wideout Trebor Pena for a long touchdown to make it 17-14 Clemson. The 62-yard reception turned out to be Pena’s only catch of the game.
The Tigers punted on their subsequent drive, but Syracuse went on to miss a game-tying field goal as time expired on a questionable 4th and 1 decision. The loss spoiled a solid outing from the SU defense, who allowed just 314 total yards, and for running back Sean Tucker. The Maryland native turned in another stellar performance with 22 carries for 157 yards.
Syracuse travels down to Virginia Tech next Saturday, October 23rd. The Orange sit at 3-4 while the Hokies are 3-2 with a game against Pitt to be played this Saturday, October 16th.