Football: Orange squanders golden opportunity against Clemson

SU's defense forces four turnovers, but the offense fails to reach the end zone in a 10-point defeat.

Few people expected Syracuse to handle the pressure of a big-time road game, especially not the team’s first trip to “Death Valley” against the No. 21 Clemson Tigers.

Surrounded by fireworks, balloons and 80,031 screaming Tigers fans, the Orange walked into an electric Memorial Stadium. It was the largest crowd to witness a Syracuse football game since 2009, when the Orange played at Penn State (106,387).

But after a hard-fought 16-6 loss to the Tigers, the mood in the Orange locker room was extremely somber.

“I apologize to the Syracuse faithful because we’re going to get this thing right and we’re going to beat these teams eventually,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “We’re just a little bit away right now, but we’re going to get this thing right.”

Strong Start

Both teams squandered three drives to start the game before Syracuse began making plays.

Quarterback AJ Long led the Orange (3-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) down the field with consecutive completions to Ervin Phillips, Jarrod West, and Ashton Broyld for a total of 39 yards.

The drive eventually stalled, setting the stage for freshman kicker Cole Murphy. He nailed a 43-yard field goal to give SU a 3-0 lead.

“There were times I couldn’t hear myself think because it was that loud in there,” said Long, who made his second start for the Orange.

The Tigers (6-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast) answered later in the second quarter with a 12-play drive, but were stopped by the Syracuse defense and forced to kick a 38-yard field goal to tie the game at three.

With 1:22 left in the half, Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt fumbled in his own territory. Dyshawn Davis recovered for the Orange, and Murphy later made a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired to give a Orange a 6-3 halftime advantage.

A Long Night

The lead slipped away as the Orange offense was unable to put more points on the board.

“I can’t look (the SU defense) in the eyes,” Long said. “Your job is to get points on the board, and knowing that you didn’t get your job done, and seeing how they played, you just… you have no words.

“You can’t look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ because, at the end of the day, you have one job. And if you don’t get that done, I mean, what are you really doing?”

Long finished with only 82 passing yards and a pair of interceptions.

Clemson converted two field-goal attempts and added an early fourth-quarter touchdown, the only one of the game, to lead the Orange 16-6.

With about 10 minutes left in the game, Syracuse had a chance to make it a one-possession game with a 42-yard field goal attempt, but it sailed wide right.

The score never changed and the game ended after a 15-play, eight-minute Clemson drive down the field to the Syracuse eight-yard line. The Tigers kneeled to victory.

“As long as we have one more point than the opponent, that’s all that matters. We got it done,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.

Orange Crush

While the offense struggled once again, the SU defense forced a pair of fumbles and snagged two interceptions.

“I was proud of the way our defense played,” Shafer said. “When we needed a stop, we stopped them in some crucial situations and kept giving ourselves a chance to get the win.”

Senior linebacker Cameron Lynch led the Orange with 10 tackles, two being for a loss, but he accepted part of the blame for the loss.

“We let up a touchdown,” Lynch said. “We could’ve kept them to fewer points.”

Getting Close

“We’re going mano-a-mano with these teams that have a little bit more talent than us right now,” Shafer said, “but we’re going to get there. We’re going to continue to get better, but I love our kids and the way they fight.”

The next chance for the Orange will be in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Nov. 1, against North Carolina State.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.