Syracuse 6, Clemson 16 — What we learned

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Clemson had just enough offense to sneak past the Orange

Syracuse dropped its fifth game of the season, falling 16-6 on the road at Clemson. Here are a few thoughts from the game:

Impressive, but…

If you had asked any Syracuse fan if they would’ve taken a 16-6 loss in one of the most hostile environments in the country after SU’s brutal 28-6 loss to Louisville, most would’ve said yes. Syracuse coach Scott Shafer has often said that the next step for the Syracuse program will be to compete against the ‘big boys’ in the ACC, and Syracuse showed its moving toward that direction. Keep in mind, Clemson smoked the Orange at the Carrier Dome last year, 49-14. This game was clearly a better showing from SU. But moral victories don’t count toward bowl eligibility, and the Orange can only afford to lose one more game from here on out.

» Related: Can Syracuse football still make a bowl game?

AJ Long really struggled

A lot of pressure is being put on true freshman QB AJ Long. You hear the phrase “baptism by fire” used a lot, and it definitely applies to Long. In his first game, he faced No. 1 Florida State. In just his second start, he drew the top defense in the ACC, and the No. 19 overall defense in the country. While Long had shown plenty of poise and moxie in his first two games (especially against Wake Forest), Long wasn’t quite as precocious against the Tigers, completing just 12 of 27 passes for 82 yards and two interceptions. There were certainly mitigating circumstances, though, as he was under duress all night, getting sacked five times. By comparison, Syracuse quarterbacks had only been sacked six times the entire year. Still, I would fully expect a bounce back game against NC State. As Shafer has said, Long doesn’t lack for confidence.

Defense impressive again

If there was a game ball to be given out, it would certainly go to the Syracuse defense. One week after stymieing Wake Forest to seven points, the defense was again impressive, holding the Tigers to just 370 yards of total offense and forcing four turnovers.  Two of those turnovers were unforced, but defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough came up with a good game plan to keep pressure on Tigers QB Cole Stoudt, who wasn’t exactly fleet-footed. SU is now limiting opponents to 22.9 ppg, which is a more than respectable 40th in the NCAA.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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