The Syracuse Orange football team came into Friday night desperately needing a win against the weakest Clemson Tigers squad in some time. Unfortunately, visiting Clemson did not lend a hand, dealing Syracuse its third straight defeat — by a score of 17-14.
For a stretch, the outlook was a bit more optimistic for the Orange. They developed some momentum on the first drive before a Garrett Shrader facemask penalty derailed things. A 54-yard Sean Tucker run set up a field goal at minimum before a Shrader interception. Tucker would get ‘Cuse inside the five while down 7-0 in the second half before a QB keeper tied the game. But from there, it was all Clemson, unfortunately.
The Tigers got the ball late in the second quarter and engineered a successful two-minute drill complete with a fake punt that led to them eventually getting into the end zone. From there, they could largely coast. Neither team scored in the third quarter (much like the first), while Clemson’s halftime adjustments managed to shut down the Orange rushing attack — though SU also failed to run the ball much, avoiding the stacked box in favor of Shrader throwing to little success.
Clemson tacked on a field goal to extend the lead to 17-7 with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, but Syracuse did respond with a surprising strike down the middle of the field from Shrader to Trebor Pena, pulling within three points with seven minutes to go.
SU’s final drive set up the game-tying field goal for Andre Szmyt, who unfortunately missed to the left with 38 seconds remaining... the latest struggle for the former Lou Groza Award winner.
Tucker was the standout for ‘Cuse on offense, of course, amassing 157 yards on 22 carries, plus one catch for 15 yards, though would note that he had most of the ground yardage in the first 30 minutes, as Clemson spent the second half honed in on him. It was Tucker’s sixth 100-yard game of the season, and fifth straight as he marched closer and closer to the 1,000-yard mark.
Shrader, while put in an unenviable position, also missed on a lot of throws and his facemask and interception, respectively, in the first quarter both derailed possible scoring drives. He was just 17-for-37 on the night for 191 yards and a TD through the air, with 62 of those yards coming on the Pena throw. Shrader also had six yards rushing and the aforementioned score in the second quarter.
Receiving-wise, things were pretty uneventful. Courtney Jackson caught four passes. while Shardon Johnson had four catches. Pena’s TD grab was his lone reception. Anthony Queeley, Damien Alford and Tucker each had two grabs, while three more Syracuse players caught a single pass on the evening.
Defensively, Syracuse kept applying pressure to Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei, as the team had limited success running the ball in the first half, and only slightly better in the second half en route to just over 100 yards on more than 30 carries. Despite the pressure and obvious passing focus, though, Uiagalelei managed to hit 21-of-34 passes for 181 yards and a score. He was also sacked twice, with those credited to Stefon Thompson and Cody Roscoe.
Mikel Jones led the way with 11 tackles on the night for SU, including one of five TFLs for the team. Thompson, Roscoe, Garrett Williams and Curtis Harper accounted for the others.
So... that’s the game, unfortunately. Syracuse didn’t play particularly well, but also kept themselves hanging around against a vulnerable Clemson team. But once again, it just wasn’t enough to get the job done in the end, in another three-point loss. The Orange are now 3-4 overall (0-3 in the ACC) with five games to play and a tough matchup on the road at Virginia Tech up next.
More recap pieces coming tonight...