Story by Nikki Hood
Death Valley, Clemson: Another year, another Clemson versus Syracuse battle.
The Tigers and the Orange have seemingly played tight, tough games since Syracuse joined the ACC, but each time Clemson finds a way to come out on top, and Saturday was no different as Cade Klubnik and Will Shipley led the Tigers to a 27-21 win in Death Valley.
Clemson improved to 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the ACC, while Syracuse fell to 6-1 and 3-1 in conference.
Clemson finished the game with 450 yards of total offense. Running back Will Shipley had 27 carries for 172 yards and caught three passes for 17 yards. The Orange amassed 291 total yards of offense as quarterback Garrett Shrader completed 18-of-26 passes for 167 and rushed for 71 yards.
Syracuse took the opening drive down the field, but an Orange timeout negated a missed field goal. Then, Dino Babers elected to go for it on fourth down, but the Clemson defense wasn’t giving in. The Clemson offense took over, marched down the field, and scored the game’s opening touchdown on a one-yard Will Shipley run to give Clemson an early 7-0 lead. The Orange responded with another long drive, and with KJ Henry covering Sean Tucker, the Syracuse running back executed a perfect wheel route for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Clemson again moved the ball, but Uiagalelei underthrew a receiver, and the pass was intercepted at the Syracuse 15-yard line. Clemson’s defense forced an Orange punt, but Uiagalelei was strip-sacked at the Syracuse 10-yard line, and Ja’Had Carter returned 90 yards for a touchdown to give Syracuse a 14-7 advantage. The Tigers were stopped on downs after back-to-back Uiagalelei runs, and Shrader made Clemson pay as he scored from seven yards out to stretch the Orange lead to 21- with just under two minutes to play in the first half. Clemson drove down the field but had to settle for a 44-yard BT Potter field goal with seven seconds remaining, and Syracuse led 21-10 at intermission.
The Tigers’ defense came out with renewed energy in the second half, but Clemson’s turnover woes continued with a Shipley fumble and Uiagalelei’s second interception of the day. Following the interception, head coach Dabo Swinney made the call to replace Uiagalelei Klubnik – the freshman quarterback from Texas. Klubnik led the Tigers down the field, and the drive ended with a Mafah touchdown on a fourth-and-inches on the goal line. The two-point conversion was no good, and Syracuse led 21-16 with 13:46 to play.
The Clemson defense forced another Syracuse punt, and the Tigers took over at midfield. On the second play of the drive, Shipley found a hole, bounced outside, and broke a tackle at the 23 on his way to the endzone. The Tigers went for two, again, but this time Klubnik rolled out of the pocket, avoided a sack, and threw a dart to Joseph Ngata in the back of the endzone to give Clemson a 24-21 lead with 11:26 to play. It was Clemson’s first lead of the game since they led 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Facing a third-and-long with less than three minutes to play, Klubnik heaved the ball toward the endzone, and Syracuse was flagged for pass interference, which kept Clemson’s drive alive. Three plays later, BT Potter hit his second field goal of the day – a 44-yarder – to make a six-point game at 27-21 with 1:33 to play.
Syracuse got the ball – down six – with 1:33 to play and methodically worked their way down the field to Clemson’s 30-yard-line. Shrader let a pass fly, and RJ Mickens jumped in front of it to intercept the pass and seal the game.