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Final score: Clemson 41, Syracuse 6

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Your worst nightmares all showed up at once here, and it’s going to take some time to get through it.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The mistakes started early for the Syracuse Orange against the Clemson Tigers. And despite all of the self-inflicted wounds in the first half (65 penalty yards, drops, etc.), they were still down just 17-6 at the break and got the ball to start the third quarter.

Syracuse would wind up losing 41-6, in a game that looked a lot more one-sided on the scoreboard than it actually was on the field. But they really only have themselves to blame for that, repeatedly failing to take advantage of the chances put in front of them.

After going three-and-out to star the half, Syracuse’s Chris Fredrick picked off Trevor Lawrence and had every opportunity to pull within four points at 17-13. But an ill-advised Tommy DeVito interception on the sideilnes wound up turning it right back over to the Tigers. They’d score three plays later, after arm tackles set up a huge touchdown run for Amari Rodgers. At 23-6, the game was basically done — though SU picked off Lawrence yet again (this time it was Trill Williams) and had the ball inside the five. They’d turn over on downs at the two-yard line. Clemson kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive to push it to 27-6. They’d miss a field goal then add another touchdown for good measure, to go up 34-6 in the fourth quarter. They’d add another long touchdown when Syracuse couldn’t make a stop in the final two minutes.

Syracuse finished with nine penalties for 85 yards, plus a turnovers via DeVito’s interception at the worst moment. It was those mistakes that truly derailed them in a very winnable game. Despite being the best team in the country, Clemson let SU hang around for the fifth time in the last six matchups. Yet the Orange walked away with the big loss here because they simply couldn’t take advantage.

DeVito, who we’ll get to during the week, did not look great completing just 15 of 27 throws for 172 yards and the pick. He was under fire the entire night as the offensive line failed to ever really pick up the blitz, so he has an excuse there. That excuse doesn’t really apply to the back-breaking interception, though.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Moe Neal was the only offensive player to make much of an impact, though most of that was limited to the first half. He had two catches for 67 yards and 14 runs for 41. Abdul Adams was the second-leading rusher with just 18 yards. DeVito was sacked eight times and it could’ve been a lot more.

Defensively, the Orange definitely took a lot of steps forward from last week, looking capable from the start and reasonably effective against the run (161 yards on 27 attempts) considering what was expected coming in. The interceptions were both very good, especially against Lawrence. But they couldn’t collect a sack against the Tigers’ line and corners were abused a bit by the bigger Clemson wideouts (mismatches against Antwan Cordy, in particular, were prevalent). Arm tackles were mentioned before, but worth noting again. We’ve seen a lot more of it this year as SU goes for big plays and strips over making stops.

You can feel however you want here. There’s no one player or group to blame. The better team won and Syracuse didn’t utilize the opportunities presented the way you need to when you’re the less talented team. We saw what happened when things fall the other way, as they did back in 2017. This SU squad just couldn’t capitalize in the same way.

More recap to come. This game’s going to haunt me for years.