The Syracuse Orange started lightning fast and gashed Clemson’s defense while only taking twenty seconds between each play. The speed took a toll on the Tigers: Mark Fields missed a tackle on a 3rd and 15 slip screen, allowing running back Dontae Strickland to run the remaining 23 yards for the score.
According to David Hale, Kelly Bryant completed the first nine passes, and then completed five of the next eleven before leaing the game.
After a Syracuse celebration penalty, Etienne ran the kickoff 25 yards to the 38-yard line. Not to be outdone, the offensive line gave Tavien Feaster green grass and the track star ran 37 yards for a score on the Tigers’ third play.
Then the defenses took over as Syracuse lost four yards on a three and out, but Clemson’s promising drive stalled out just inside the red zone. The Alex Spence 35-yard field goal was snapped high and subsequently shanked from the right hash mark.
Erving Phillips caught a deep bomb untouched for a 66-yard score after the Tigers were caught flat footed and confused in the secondary.
Syracuse capitalized where other Clemson opponents have not and took advantage of a mental mistake to go up 14-7.
After failing to gain one yard on both second and third downs, Will Spiers pinned Dungey’s offense down inside the ten-yard line.
Christian Wilkins’ third down roughing the passer penalty gave the Orange another chance to gain momentum, but they couldn’t catch Clemson off guard again as Clemson forced a th
Fittingly, Mark Fields was the corner who tackled Strickland on the third and ten screen pass to force a punt.
Clemson’s next drive sputtered out and a third down scramble attempt by Kelly Bryant showed that while he is playing, he is far from fully healthy and cannot run the ball.
Syracuse was efficient and Clemson made mistakes, allowing them to march down the field. On third and sixteen, Steve Ishmael looked to have scored but a questionable offensive pass interference call let Clemson off the hook.
On the subsequent third and 31, Tanner Muse made up for his coverage bust by recovering a fumble for a 61 yard run to tie the game with 8:31 left in the second.
Tanner Muse celebrated with an awkward kind-of throat slash that landed him squarely on the bench.
Instead of shutting the offense down, the Tigers let Eric Dungey and company march down to the one-yard line. In a show of defensive power, Clemson conducted a goal line stand to force a 21-yard field goal and minimize the damage.
Clemson and Syracuse traded punts in uneventful drives, but Kelly Bryant went down at the end of the first half in what Coach Swinney said is probably a concussion.
While he could throw he was clearly playing on a bad ankle without his typical mobility, and the decision to play him came back to bite Clemson.
The stat line is not typical of a Clemson performance, and the Tigers are struggling in key categories. The Tigers are 1-6 on third down, and have only rushed for 39 yards on 11 attempts.
The only positive sides are that Clemson has won the turnover margin 1-0 and the penalty battle (7-69 vs 8-71).
Syracuse has averaged 10.7 yards per pass, while holding Clemson to 6.8 yards per attempt. They have ran the ball 25 times for 77 yards, and outgained Clemson 270 to 155.
This has been the worst half of the season so far because both sides of the ball are struggling and Kelly Bryant played while limited and is now out for the game.
While every team will struggle at times, this half has been full of mental errors and missed opportunities. Clemson is the more talented team but unless the backup quarterbacks can ignite the offense, Syracuse could pull this one off.