A quick take on Syracuse’s 47-21 loss to Clemson on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse, which came into the game as a 40+ point underdog depending on which betting service you subscribe to, was thinking upset after Nykeim Johnson’s 83-yard touchdown reception pulled the Orange to within 27-21 with 8:41 to go in the third quarter. But a backbreaking fumble was scooped up by Andrew Booth Jr, who returned it for a touchdown, and Travis Etienne punched it in again for a score, and suddenly it was 40-21 with 13:38 in the fourth after some untimely interceptions from Rex Culpepper. This was after the Tigers jumped out to an early 17-0 lead after the first quarter.
ANALYSIS: The final score didn’t reflect how close of a contest this was, and at least provides some optimism for the rest of the season as a young Syracuse roster continues to mature. While giving up 47 points isn’t necessary something to boast about, the Orange defense looked significantly better than last week in their loss to Liberty. For starters, the run defense, which gave up 338 yards against Liberty, held a dynamic Clemson rushing attack to 147 yards. Freshman defensive back Garrett Williams intercepted Trevor Lawrence and returned it for a touchdown, marking the first time Lawrence had ever thrown a pick-6 in his college career.
HERO: While Williams, a freshman, starred on defense, two underclassmen on the offense are also starting to emerge. Sean Tucker impressed once again, rushing for 63 yards on 10 carries (6.3 yards per rush) and a touchdown (that was set up by a blocked punt). He suffered a lower body injury and wasn’t able to finish the game, but continues to show why he’s become the featured back. Anthony Queeley had the best game of his young career, with five catches for 58 yards on a team-high nine targets.
ZERO: Taj Smith did not make the trip to Clemson a week after he made an obscene gesture toward the cameras in the loss to Liberty. Up until week 6, he was tops in the ACC with 434 receiving yards to go with a team-best four touchdowns. Dino Babers declined to comment on Smith’s status at his post-game press conference, saying that the matter would be kept in-house.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse hosts Wake Forest on Halloween, Oct. 31, at noon. TV: ACC Network.