CLEMSON, S.C. — All year long, no one has really run the football with any consistency against 14th-ranked Syracuse.
The Orange (6-0, 3-0 ACC) rank second in the ACC and 11th nationally when it comes to stopping the run. They have allowed an opponent to rush for more than 100 yards just twice, including a season-high 149 yards by Virginia on Sept. 23.
The opposition is gaining just 3.2 yards per carry.
“They are a little bit smaller up front, so they throw a lot of stunts and really just try to move around a ton,” Clemson running back Will Shipley said. “They have done a great job so far.”
So has Shipley.
In the Tigers’ win at Florida State, the sophomore tallied 238 all-purpose yards in fifth-ranked Clemson’s win over the Seminoles. He ran for 121 yards, while catching a career-high six passes for 48 more.
This is the matchup that could decide Saturday’s first ever game between 6-0 or better teams at Memorial Stadium.
“I just have to be really patient in the backfield throughout my track and set the O-line up to be in a good position to get to the backers and get the D-linemen that are stunting and moving around,” Shipley said. “I just have to have the patience to find the hole and be able to burst through it, get to the second level and be able to make plays there.”
Syracuse is tough to run on because of its 3-3 stack scheme. Like NC State, the Orange will fly to the football, using their speed to come up and crash the running game.
The spread defense also works well against the pass. Syracuse loves to show a lot of exotic looks to confuse the quarterback and receivers, while also bringing pressure at least 50 percent of the time.
The Tigers (7-0, 5-0 ACC) will likely try to attack this style of defense with their tall tight ends (Davis Allen and Jake Briningstool), as well as with Shipley. On the season, the running back has caught 16 passes for 136 yards – a 19.4 yards per catch average.
“I love it,” Shipley said. “To have that trust with DJ [Uiagalelei] and just for him to know that when he throws the ball my way, it is going to be a reception. That is how it should be as a running back.”
Shipley caught three passes for 37 yards against NC State’s 3-3 stack, including a 26-yard reception, a play in which he improvised to get open down the sideline to set up Clemson’s go-ahead score at the one-yard line just before halftime.
“You got to have that trust,” he said. “It is just a great feeling because I see the work paying off. There is no better feeling than that.”
Clemson and Syracuse will kick off at noon on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for noon and will be televised by ABC.
—photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications