Syracuse Football Upsets #2 Clemson

Published on October 14, 2017

Story by Jude Allume Photos by Kristin O’Grady

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — For many, Friday the 13th is known as an unlucky day. For the Clemson Tigers, the day lived up to its reputation as the previously unbeaten Tigers were upset for their first loss of the season against the Syracuse Orange, 27-24.

“That senior class, three head football coaches all the things they’ve been through and to have an opportunity to have a win like that, that they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said after the game.

“Nobody believes in us except for us and that’s fine because at the end of the day, I put my pads on to play for these guys next to me” junior quarterback Eric Dungey said.

Dungey paced the Orange offense with 278 yards passing and three touchdowns through the air to go along with 61 rushing yards.

Linebacker Parris Bennett led the Orange defense with a team high nine tackles including a big sack on a potential scoring drive for the Tigers, knocking them outside of the 20 yard line to the 27.

The win brings Syracuse to 4-3 (2-1 ACC), their first time with a winning record since mid-September. The loss drops the Clemson Tigers to 6-1 (4-1 ACC).


The Orange Come Out Swinging

 Syracuse has recently been criticized for starting games slowly and doing too little, too late in games to stand a real chance for victory, as seen in its last two close loses to LSU (35-26) and NC State (33-25). This game proved to be much different from the first drive.

“I think it was an overall team effort and I’m really, really proud of the young men” Babers said.

The Orange received the opening kickoff and drove the ball 72 yards in three minutes and 16 seconds. The drive was capped off by a screen pass from Dungey to running back Dontae Strickland for a 23-yard touchdown and the early 7-0 lead.

The Tigers responded quickly, scoring in only one minute and seven seconds. A Syracuse unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set them up with great field position, as they went 62 yards in three plays to score and tie things up.

The Orange punted on its next possession, giving the Tigers the ball at the 37 yard line and a chance to take the lead. The Tigers moved the ball at will, as Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was 5-5 passing on the drive for 46 yards. Once the Tigers reached the red zone, the Orange defense stepped up, forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal try. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the field goal attempt was missed and the score remained tied.

On its next possession, the Orange capitalized on the Tigers’ missed opportunity. After a 14-yard pass to Steve Ishmael, Dungey threw deep to Ervin Phillips, connecting for the 66-yard touchdown and again giving the Orange the lead at 14-7.


Orange Fumbles Golden Opportunity

 The teams traded punts for the next three possessions until Syracuse got the ball again with 11:59 left in the second quarter. The Orange started at the six yard line, but that didn’t deter them from running their normal offense as they moved the ball quickly and with ease, taking advantage of two Tiger penalties that extended the drive. With second down and six yards to go on the Clemson 20 yard line, a false start penalty was called on the Orange, starting the downward spiral.

On the next play, Dungey was sacked for a five yard loss. That was followed by another penalty for offensive pass interference leaving the Orange third down and 31 yards to go. The drive ended for the Orange with a fumble by Strickland. The Tiger’s Tanner Muse scooped up the ball and returned it 63 yards for the score. A drive that seemed to be leading to a two score lead for the Orange quickly turned into a tied game at 14 all.

The Orange again took the lead with a field goal before halftime, going into the locker room up 17-14.


Clemson Sticks Around

 Though Syracuse had plenty of opportunities to pull away in this game, Clemson put up a fight. The fight became a lot harder when starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left the game at the end of the first half with a concussion, leaving redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper to lead the offense for the second half.

Immediately, the Orange applied pressure on the new quarterback in an attempt to make sure he never got comfortable in the pocket. It worked on the first drive of the half as the Tigers ended up punting. On their next drive however, the Clemson coaching staff combined great starting field position at the Orange 42 yard line with a series of short throws that moved the ball and got Cooper rolling.

Though the drive fizzled out, the Tigers added a field goal to tie the game at 17. When the Orange got the ball, it used a 45-yard run from Dungey to set up a 30- yard pass to Ishmael for the score, putting the Orange up 24-17.

Again, Clemson responded. On the kickoff, the ball bounced out of bounds, setting the Tigers up at their 35 yard line to start. After two plays, on first down from the 48, Tiger running back Travis Etienne ran the ball for a gain of 52 yards and a touchdown, again tying the score, this time at 24.


Take Your Time 

With the ball to start the fourth quarter, the Orange changed from its usually high-paced offense to a slower tempo focusing on ball control. This was accompanied with a heavy run offense to keep the clock moving. The Orange burned over five minutes off the clock on the way to picking up a field goal to put Syracuse up 27-24.

Clemson fought all game to keep the score close in hopes of eventually overtaking the lead and responded again. This time, the clock was a factor as the Tigers were running out of time. After picking up, two first downs in the first four plays of their drive, the Orange needed a big play to stop the Tiger momentum. It came in the form of a sack from Chris Slayton, leading to a loss of four yards. The drive stalled, and the Orange took over on downs at the 41 yard line with 6:10 left in the game and the Tigers with two timeouts left.

From there, the plan was to run the ball and kill the clock. The plan worked to perfection as the Orange slowly moved the ball and picked up two first downs with the clock down to 2:29, forcing Clemson to use its timeouts.

On third down and eight to go, the Orange needed to convert or possibly have to punt the ball away and give the Tigers another chance to come back.  Dungey rushed for eight yards, stretching backwards to reach the first down marker. After the officials reviewed the spot of the ball, the ruling on the field of a first down was upheld, essentially ending the game. After a few kneels, the game was over and the Orange pulled off the upset, an accomplishment linebacker Zaire Franklin said he couldn’t believe.

“For some reason, I didn’t believe that the game was over when we got that first down” Franklin said. “I’m still in my mind like we’re going to have to go out and stop them from getting a field goal, whatever it is, whatever reason I didn’t believe the game was over until they were taking a knee and I was like ‘damn, that’s it.’”


The 12th Man

 The Carrier Dome had its biggest crowd of the season with over 42,475 counted in attendance. The home crowd was into the game and loud all night.

“How about the fans tonight?” Babers exclaimed after the game. “Are you kidding me? We have a DOME. No one else does. Neener neener neener. We’re loud, we’re crazy up here and that’s the atmosphere that it should be every single time that we come to the Carrier Dome.

“That was a good football team and I thought the fans were great, they were fantastic, they were the 12th man on defense and they made it very difficult for their offense to communicate.”

“It was loud,” linebacker Parris Bennett said. “Third down was rocking, you could tell those guys they could hear it, they could feel it. We fed off the energy. I feel like guys felt more confident. It felt like everybody was rooting for us and cheering for us and believing in us. When you get as loud as that, guys feel like they’re on top of the world”


The Numbers Tell the Story

 Clemson has one of the best defenses in the nation with averages of 264.33 total yards per game, 165.5 passing yards per game, 98.83 rushing yards per game and 11.33 points per game. The Syracuse offense blew all of these numbers out of the water with 440 total yard, 278 pass yards, 162 rushing yards and putting up more than double the average points the Tiger defense had allowed with 27.

The Clemson offense came into the game averaging 233.67 yards passing per game, 237.33 yards rushing per game, 471 total yards per game and 35 point per game. The Syracuse defense held the Tigers under all of these averages with 204 yards passing, 113 yards rushing and allowing only 24 points, seven of which came as a result of the Tiger defense scoring.

Conversely, prior to the game, the Syracuse defense had allowed its opponents averages of 357 total yards per game, 242 passing yards per game and 131 rushing yards per game, all numbers they held the Tigers under.

The Orange never trailed the Tigers in the game.


Up Next

 Syracuse travels to Miami next week to face the #11 ranked Hurricanes on Saturday at 3:30 PM.

The Tigers limp back home with some concerns at quarterback as they look to rebound from the loss. They have a bye week before hosting the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Saturday, Oct 28.