The Clemson Tigers came back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to steal a victory from the Syracuse Orange, Saturday, 27-23 at Memorial Stadium.
On a day when Clemson would lose its starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence to concussion-like symptoms, the Tigers used their running game to spark the comeback.
The Tigers amassed 293 yards on the ground, mostly coming from Travis Etienne who gained a career-high 203 yards rushing. Etienne scored three touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter, with the last one punctuating a 94-yard game-winning drive with 41 seconds remaining in the game.
Lawrence was uneven to start, going 10-of-15 for 93 yards in the first half before taking a shoulder to the head along the far sideline, ending his afternoon.
Chase Brice struggled to find his rhythm replacing the starter, but he made two big plays on Clemson’s final drive to save the home team. Brice converted a 4th-And-6 pass play to Tee Higgins to keep the game-winning drive alive, and then scampered 17 yards on a quarterback scramble during the next play to get Clemson into the red zone. Etienne punched in the winning touchdown four plays later.
Syracuse had all the momentum in the first half, jumping out to an 11-point lead, but three promising drives stalled for field goals in the first half, which Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney said was a key to them hanging in the game.
After the game, Swinney called this game one he would remember:
Head Coach Dabo Swinney
Etienne said the coaching staff came to the running backs and the offensive line saying that they would have to win this game “the old-fashioned way by running the football.
He talked about how he and his teammates put the team on their backs:
RB Travis Etienne
Brice ended the day with a modest 7-of-13 line for just 83 yards, but nothing bigger than the two plays he made on the final drive.
He said he was glad to be able to play “some real football” again:
QB Chase Brice
Clemson’s defense stiffened up in the second half, as the only points they allowed came via a short field when the Tigers’ Amari Rodgers muffed a punt inside his own 10-yard line.
The Tigers would not allow Syracuse to gain back any momentum as they led the comeback charge in the fourth quarter.
It was evident early in the Orange’s final drive that they would be behind the eight-ball, as Xavier Thomas sacked Eric Dungey on the first play to serve as an exclamation point to personify the Clemson comeback.
Swinney said they implemented a special pass-rushing package this week which includes Thomas on the field with Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Christian Wilkins. Thomas says he’s relishing the increase in his opportunities:
DL Xavier Thomas
— SportsTalk (@sportstalksc) September 29, 2018
Saturday’s game was costly for Clemson from an injury standpoint as the Tigers lost CB Trayvon Mullen and OT Tremayne Anchrum to ankle injuries. The Mullen injury hurt especially because the Tigers were already thin at cornerback with Mark Fields suspended for a violation of team rules. Wide receiver Cornell Powell also missed the game because of an academic issue.
As for Lawrence, Swinney said he will remain in concussion protocol to start the week, even though the quarterback felt that he could come back in the game. Swinney said he “didn’t want to mess” with any kind of head issue relating to Lawrence. The Head Coach also did not address anything with regards to departed quarterback Kelly Bryant, as it appears that door is now firmly shut.
Clemson plays next Saturday at Wake Forest at 3:30 PM in a game that will be televised on ESPN.