SU Football v. Clemson

Syracuse upsets Clemson in unforgettable night in the Carrier Dome

The Orange never trailed against the defending National Champions, outlasting them 27-24.

When the defending champions came to the Carrier Dome Friday night, Syracuse football was ready.

As families descended on the hill and packed the stadium, fans didn't know what to expect. A week after a 27-24 win against Pittsburgh, many didn't know if they would have similar success against a much more competitive team.

But Syracuse head coach Dino Babers and the other 128 members of his team did.

Photo: Erika Sternard
Crowds storm the field after SU beats Clemson in upset 27-24.

At no point before the game did Syracuse (4-3, 2-1 ACC) think they were going to lose to the Clemson Tigers (6-1. 2-1 ACC).

"All the things that they've been through and to have an opportunity to have a win like that, they'll never forget for the rest of their lives," Babers said.

With a majority of the 42,475 announced crowd in its seats, Babers led out the team with swagger and confidence, not threatened by the staggering 22.5 point spread from Las Vegas bettors.

Beginning with the ball to start the game, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey charged up the field, gaining 21 yards. With a lot of focus on the running game during the first possession, Dungey found running back Dontae Strickland in the end zone to put Syracuse up 7-0. This was the first time Clemson allowed a first-possession touchdown this season.

The Tigers wouldn't settle without a fight. Led by quarterback Kelly Bryant, a pair of passes and a run by Tavien Feaster had the defending national champions tied at 7.

In order to keep opponents on their toes, Syracuse has used a few trick plays so far during Babers' tenure as coach. This continued against Clemson. A pass from wide receiver Devin C. Butler was intended to Dungey, but sailed over. While it would not be the last time Babers had something up his sleeve, it certainly caught the Tigers defense off guard.

Following a punt by Sterling Hofrichter, Bryant led a drive to the Syracuse 17-yard line. A third down stop for the Orange meant that Clemson kicker had a chance to take the lead. However, his attempt from 31 yards out went wide left. The Dome erupted in its biggest attendance since Sept. 26, 2015 against LSU.

Both the Syracuse offense and defense stepped up for each other during the game. In response to the defensive stop, Dungey found wide receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips on back-to-back throws, with the latter resulting in a touchdown.

Syracuse defense kept Clemson to 0-2 on 3rd downs to start this game. Syracuse ball at its own 7 yard line. The score was 14-7 with 2:17 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Syracuse ran into penalty problems. Despite making it to the Tigers' 20-yard line, two penalties bumped the Orange offense back to the 45-yard line. In an attempt to gain 31 yards, Strickland ran up the field. However, a fumble was returned to the end zone for the Tigers, and again the score was tied.

Despite the offensive mishap, the team responded. Dungey found Pierce to bring Syracuse back into the red zone, with Syracuse kicker Cole Murphy putting the ball through the goal post.

When half time struck and the teams left the field, Dino Babers had some words for the Syracuse faithful that brought modest claps and smiles to loud roars of jubilation.

Syracuse fans thought: Could this happen?

This team, written off by many, were up at halftime. Few thought this was possible.

Clemson looked to get back on the scoreboard, and on their second possession, Alex Spence made up for his earlier missed kick and tied the game at 17. However, the Orange wasn't finished. Four plays saw the Orange go 82 yards, with highlights including a 45-yard run by Dungey and a perfect throw to the flag where Ishmael was waiting. This was Dungey's third touchdown to his third different receiver.

Before the Dome had become quiet following the last score, Clemson running back Travis Etienne broke away from the Syracuse secondary, to tie the game up at 24.

Entering the fourth quarter, Syracuse had the opposition right where they wanted them. It had the crowd support — something Babers eluded to when introduced as head coach back in 2015. And as the Syracuse team jumped, the fans copied that action from the bleachers.

The fourth quarter had been a strong point in previous games against top opposition, including LSU and NC State. Syracuse needed that in order to tame the Tigers. Syracuse kept trying to advance the ball down the field, primarily through rush plays in order to waste time on the clock. Time management became a major factor during the fourth quarter, Babers said.

Murphy hit his second field goal of the game. With under 10 minutes remaining, Syracuse fans began to think: Could we do this?

But the defense needed to make a stop. With Bryant out of the game, backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper needed to get a score. However, a sack by Syracuse defensive line Chris Slayton pushed Cooper back and eventually forcing a fourth down. In punt formation, a fake punt pass was tried out of desperation by the visiting team. However, it dropped and with it, the "Loud House" lived up to its name.

A combination of Strickland runs and smart passes by Dungey helped kill the entire clock, allowing Syracuse to enter victory formation.

"This is the greatest lineup in football," Dungey said.

Syracuse fans didn't need to ask themselves any more if the team could win. As hundreds stormed onto the Carrier Dome turf, the answer was clear.

Syracuse had defended the Dome. Dino Babers had outsmarted Dabo Swinney. The impenetrable Clemson defense had faltered.

The celebrations continued into the locker room, where videos surfaced of the team celebrating after they comprehended what they had accomplished.

It was a team effort.

But starting with a late night dinner of fried noodles (hopefully), Babers will look towards the future. And who knows, maybe he'll make another prediction that he can fulfill.

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