Orange lose big in first football ACC game

Syracuse could not contain the potent offense of No. 3 Clemson. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins torched the Orange in a 49-14 thrashing Saturday afternoon.

Syracuse football’s introduction into the Atlantic Coast Conference didn’t go as planned on Saturday as No. 3 Clemson beat the Syracuse 49-14.

“We got beat by a doggone good football team today,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “There’s a reason why they are top three in the country.”

Clemson wasted no time in showing off its supreme talent and athleticism, as it took them merely 38 seconds to score its first touchdown of the game. Heisman-hopeful Tajh Boyd faked the run and found Adam Humphries wide-open down the field for a 60-yard touchdown. Humphries finished the game with 118 yard receiving, which nearly doubled his total yardage on the season.

“Miscommunication results in touchdowns,” linebacker Marquis Spruill said. “If you allow a great team like that open spaces and open receivers they’re going to take advantage of that.”

The early score did little to dull the excitement felt by the SU faithful. The crowd was reported to be 48,961 people, which marked the highest mark of attendance since Miami came to the Carrier Dome in 2000.

“I was so proud to run through that tunnel and see our fans and our community and our students representing us,” Shafer said. “To be honest with you, I think the fans did a better job than we did today.”

The Syracuse student section cheers in the first half.  The game sold over 48,000 tickets.  Photo: Andrew Rennesien

The Orange had trouble generating any consistency on offense as they ran for only 18 yards on their first three drives of the game. That put extra pressure on the defense, which didn’t go entirely well.

Boyd was able to exploit the miscommunication of the defense with his precise passing and emphasis on getting to the line as quickly as possible. That combination spelled trouble for SU, as Boyd finished the game with 455 yards passing, five touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 94.

“We have to do a better job of seeing small targets under pressure,” Shafer said. “I got to do a better job of teaching the kids to see things.”

The exceptional play of Boyd in the first quarter put the Orange in an early 21-0 deficit. But all of that changed in an instant as Jerome Smith busted through the right side of the line and rumbled 66 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, also the longest run of his career. The touchdown cut the score to 14 and gave the fans a little more to be excited about.

The Tigers quickly responded with a score of their own as Boyd found tight end Stanton Seckinger on a right-side wheel route that was perfectly floated over the right shoulder of SU defender Cameron Lynch.  That brought the score to 28-7 and things looked bleak for the Orange.

Cameron Lynch, #38 for Syracuse, defends a pass intended for #81, Stanton Seckinger, of Clemson. Photo: Andrew Renneisen

Late in the first half, with a 35-7 lead, Tigers coach Dabo Swinney went for fourth down at the Syracuse five yard line, something Shafer did not take too kindly. He looked over at the Tigers sideline and seemed to scream obscenities that were directed at Swinney. After the game, Schafer apologized.

“I feel bad that I was over the top,” Schafer said. “He’s competitive, I’m competitive, and I have all the respect in the world for him.”

Halftime seemed to do wonders for the Orange as they came out with more focus and consistent production to start the third quarter. The Orange marched down the field and finished their first drive on a Prince-Tyson Gulley run up the middle of the field for a 28-yard touchdown. After a Tigers three-and-out, the Orange had the opportunity to cut the lead to two scores, but weren’t able to capitalize on two straight drives inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd, #10 for Clemson, looks to pass the ball down the field. Photo: Andrew Renneisen

The SU defense created two Boyd interceptions in the third quarter, his first two turnovers on the season. The much-improved play of the defense gave the offense great field position but the Tigers’ defense was able to dismiss any thoughts on a comeback, limiting quarterback Terrel Hunt to 52 yards passing.

“We always try to protect the QB and put him in a good situation,” offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “So there wasn’t any difference when we played against Clemson. Every week we try to take calculated risks and make sure we don’t put the QB in jeopardy."

Hunt and the Orange will look to rebound against their next ACC opponent, North Carolina State on Saturday.  

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