For Syracuse football, hope departs quickly in loss to Clemson

Syracuse Orange cornerback Christopher Fredrick
Sept. 14 2019; Syracuse NY, USA; Syracuse Orange cornerback Christopher Fredrick (3) returns an interception during a 41-6 loss to the Clemson Tigers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

There probably is never a good time to face the top team in the country, particularly when your offensive line is inconsistent and your defense is coming off a game where they were terrible. On Saturday night, the Syracuse line gave up eight sacks and the defense got torn up for 612 yards, illustrating that it was a particularly bad night for a visit from #1 Clemson. The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) had control all night, claiming a 41-6 victory in front of 50,248 fans, the third-largest crowd in Carrier Dome history.

The Orange (1-2, 0-1) had issues all night on offense. The first SU drive ended when an open Taj Harris had the ball go right through his hands. The longest run was a gain of seven yards on a Tommy DeVito scramble. Two plays gained for more than 20 yards and one required Moe Neal avoiding being tripped up to scamper for a 50-yard gain.

The SU defense started well, forcing a three-and-out on the first drive, but allowed a Clemson scoring drive on the second. The biggest issue was failing to slow the Tigers on 2nd-and-15 following a false start penalty against the guests. The Tigers then benefitted from a roughing the passer call on their next drive and tacked on another touchdown for a 14-0 lead.

The first Syracuse threat came early in the second quarter. However, after reaching the Tigers’ 11, the Orange settled for a 29-yard field goal attempt from Andre Szmyt. The kick was true, cutting the margin to 14-3 with 12:24 left in the second quarter.

» Related: Time to rein in expectations for Syracuse as Clemson comes calling

Clemson pushed their lead back out to 14 points with a field goal with under five minutes to go in the half. SU responded with their longest drive of the night, getting consecutive completions to Moe Neal for a total of 67 yards, the latter reaching the visitors’ eight-yard-line. The offense bogged down, though, and Szmyt’s 23-yard field goal made it 17-6, a score that would hold to intermission.

The third quarter, though, featured a pair of great opportunities for the Orange. They simply just could not capitalize.

Two plays after a Sterling Hofrichter punt backed Clemson up to their own three, Chris Fredrick tipped a pass into the air, then intercepted it, returning it to the Tigers’ nine. Tommy DeVito gave the ball right back on the next play, scrambling and forcing a bad interception. Three plays later, Clemson turned a third-and-one bubble screen into an 87-yard touchdown, opening up a 24-6 lead.

Trill Williams ended the next Clemson drive with an interception, returning the ball to the Tigers’ three-yard-line. Four consecutive running plays, including a scramble on fourth down, netted just one yard and the Orange gave the ball back to the guests. Clemson tacked on a field goal to extend their lead to 27-6.

Perhaps that set of downs summed up the third quarter SU offensive effort best, as they mustered a dozen yards on 18 plays in the period.

The lone highlight of the fourth quarter for Syracuse was a missed field goal by the guests. That failure was no matter, though, as the Tigers added two more touchdowns in the quarter for the final margin.

Under pressure seemingly all night, Tommy DeVito completed 15-of-27 passes for 172 yards. DeVito was also sacked eight times for a combined loss of 56 yards. Moe Neal had a pair of receptions for 67 yards. Beyond the interceptions by Chris Fredrick and Trill Williams, the Orange defense mustered very few impact plays, getting only two tackles for loss.

The Orange return to action on Saturday with their ACC Network debut against Western Michigan in a noon kickoff. The Broncos are 2-1 on the season following their 57-10 rout of Georgia State on Saturday. WMU rolled up 450 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground in the rout.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 566 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.