Clemson, fresh off a bye week, is preparing for its trip north to square off with the Syracuse Orange, Friday. The Tigers (3-2, 2-1) have won three straight against Syracuse since dropping a 27-24 decision at the Carrier Dome in 2017. Clemson won 41-6 in its last trip to the dome in 2019.
D.J. Uiagalelei and the Tigers offense showed signs of life in a win over Boston College prior to the off week. Clemson posted 438 yards of offense, including 231 yards rushing, but failed to cash in on some key opportunities and converted just 3 of 14 third downs. Head coach Dabo Swinney lamented the way his team has finished drives, Tuesday, but said the offense has made great strides during the latest practice sessions and thinks the passing game is close to clicking.
While many of the questions centered on the passing game, Swinney returned to the importance of the running game time and again, “Winning at the line of scrimmage, our ability to run the ball and stop the run will decide the game. No doubt about that.”
On the injury front, Swinney updated the status of several players: WR Justyn Ross (concussion protocol) is ready for Syracuse, as is CB Mario Goodrich (groin). WR Frank Ladson (groin) is day-to-day and will be evaluated as game day closes in, RB Will Shipley is off crutches but still unavailable, DT Tyler Davis (arm) and CB Fred Davis (ankle) remain out.
Some key comments from Dabo Swinney’s press conference:
- On transfer portal: I wouldn’t do anything differently. I love all the players we’ve got. If I had taken a transfer, I wouldn’t have one of these guys. We all get 85. I’m not anti-transfer, but at Clemson, we get great high school kids. If I were somewhere different, we might use the portal. We’re not 3-2 because I didn’t take a player from the portal.
- On quarterback DJ Uiagalelei: DJ has a few fundamental things that have led to misses. It’s footwork, like every position. Usually, if you’re not performing, it’s not effort but technique.
- On team’s 3-2 record: I keep a sign on my desk that reads, “Nothing less important than the score at halftime.” I’ve been 2-3 and played for the ACC title and 8-0 and didn’t finish (2-4 down the stretch). This team, like all teams, will be judged on how it finishes.
- On vertical passing game: First and foremost, you need to run the ball. If you can run it successfully, you’ll get some shots down the field. Running the ball is often difference between finishing with a touchdown or a field goal.
- On Syracuse: They’re featuring the run-game and using every scheme to utilize the QB’s athleticism. QB is breaking tackles and we’ll have our hands full. If you make a mistake, it can be 40 or 50 yards.