SU vs. Clemson

Syracuse football falls to No. 1 Clemson 37-27

The Orange gave the top-ranked Clemson Tigers its best shot, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The Syracuse football team delivered one of its best performances of the season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to defeat a superior opponent, as the No. 1 Clemson Tigers (10-0, 7-0), came out on top, 37-27.


While the Orange (3-7, 1-5) suffered their seventh consecutive loss, the team showed a lot of grit and determination in a matchup where it was clearly overmatched talent-wise. That they were able to stick with the Tigers for the entire game is even more impressive when looking at how it started, which couldn’t have been much worse for Syracuse.

Photo: Aaron Nah


On the first play from scrimmage, Clemson Quarterback Deshaun Watson lobbed a beautiful pass to Charone Peake for a gain of 64 yards, which was quickly followed up by an 11-yard touchdown run by running back Wayne Gallman.


If you can believe it, SU’s offense started even worse.


Quarterback Zack Mahoney, taking the place of the injured Eric Dungey, was attempting to execute an option run play but wound up fumbling the football away on the Orange’s first play of the game. This led to another Clemson touchdown courtesy of a three yard run by Watson.


With less than two minutes gone, Clemson looked like they might run away with the game.


 “You can’t spot the number one team in the country 14 points in the first two minutes of the game,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said.


But for all their struggles both in this game, and throughout the season, the Orange never quit in the face of adversity.


The Syracuse defense was able to take the ball away on each of Clemson’s next two possessions, which both ended in fumbles. The first resulted in a 28-yard touchdown run by running back Ervin Philips. The second, however, ended with a blocked field goal on a 48-yard attempt by kicker Cole Murphy. Clemson’s Jayron Kearse got a great running start and timed his jump perfectly to swat away Murphy’s attempt before it ever had a chance.


Despite giving up 212 yards of offense in the first quarter alone, the Orange were down just 21-14 after 15 minutes thanks to a 10-yard touchdown run by Mahoney, though Clemson would score on the very next drive on a short scoring throw from Watson to Peake.


That promising start was quickly erased early in the second quarter when Watson found Deon Cain for a 40-yard touchdown pass that seemed to suck all of the air out of the Carrier Dome.


Clemson went into the half with a 31-17 lead, but failed to score in the third quarter for the first time all season. Coupled with an eight play, 97-yard drive by the Orange that was capped by another Mahoney touchdown run, the Orange closed the gap to 31-24 heading into the final quarter.


Despite finishing the game 8 for 21 with just 80 yards passing, Mahoney provided a boost with his legs, gaining 76 yards on the ground along with his two scores. Coach Shafer was very impressed with and proud of Mahoney, a former walk-on who was making just his second start.


“For him he’s living the dream like all of us,” Shafer said.


But despite this valiant effort, the Orange couldn’t overcome mistakes of their own making. Part of this was costly penalties.


Wide receiver Steve Ishmael had a huge catch and run called back on a holding penalty in the second quarter. In the third quarter, several personal foul penalties cost the Orange dearly.


After seemingly coming up with a big third down stop on defense, the Orange were called for illegal use of hands to the face. Coach Shafer was livid with the call and was himself flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in what was essentially a 30-yard penalty.


The Orange also failed to capitalize in the clutch, a common problem throughout the season.


After holding the Tigers to a field goal in the fourth quarter to make the score 34-24, Syracuse running back George Morris II found a hole in the Clemson defense for a big 51-yard gain. However, the Orange wound up with just a field goal for their efforts.


After Clemson kicked another field goal to go up 37-27, the Orange offense went three-and-out on a drive where they desperately needed points. Watson and the Tigers’ offense sealed the victory with several key first downs late in the game.


“It’s a game of inches and we talk about how we can solidify two inches here, two inches there,” Shafer said. “The ball isn’t always going to bounce your way and obviously this year’s been the best example of that.”


The Orange travel to Raleigh, NC next week to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-4, 2-4) on Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m.


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