CLEMSON, S.C. — After he scored on his 50-yard touchdown to put No. 5 Clemson on top for good in the Tigers’ 27-21 win over No. 14 Syracuse, Will Shipley does not remember all that happened when he started celebrating.
“It is kind of like the crazy eyes earlier from the season,” Clemson’s star running back said. “I think it is just the inner Will Shipley kind of going crazy and having fun out there.”
The Tigers (8-0, 6-0 ACC) needed all of the “inner Will Shipley” and then some to get past a stubborn Syracuse team at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Shipley rushed for a career-high 172 yards and scored two touchdowns, while carrying the football a career-best 27 times. His 50-yard touchdown run, with 11:26 to play in the game, proved to be the game winner.
“The more he gets the ball, the better he is,” Clemson offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said.
Shipley’s 50-yard touchdown was the longest scoring play of his Clemson career and his second longest run from scrimmage.
“That is what you always want to do as a running back is break a long one,” the sophomore said. “I saw the hole open up and took advantage of the opportunity. I was finally able to put on the burners a little bit, get past that safety angle and get into the end zone.”
Shipley’s 172 yards were part of a 293-yard afternoon for the Tigers. It was the most rushing yards Clemson has produced in a game this year, and the most the Syracuse defense has surrender.
The Orange (6-1, 3-1 ACC) was allowing just 95 rushing yards a game prior to Saturday.
“Our offensive line was incredible (today). That was a challenge,” Streeter said. “We knew we were going bigger than they were. Their defensive line is not made up of big guys. They do a lot of twisting and movement.
“We really did a good job of covering them up and creating lanes for Shipley and (Phil) Mafah.”
Mafah finished the game with 94 yards on 18 carries and also scored a touchdown.
However, the play of the game was Shipley’s 50-yard streak down the near sideline for the game-winning score.
It was a redemption moment for the 5-11, 205-pound running back. In the third quarter he had the football knocked loose from his grip after Clemson started the drive from the Syracuse 41.
“I was very frustrated. I don’t put the ball on the ground like that, it is something I take pride in,” Shipley said. “So, it was just one of those things. You have to learn from it and get back to it, but that is another reason why this football team is special. I was down on myself. That is a big situation. We need to score on that possession, and they put the ball in my hands.
“When I got to the sideline, I got four or five of my teammates coming up to me, pumping me up, helping me keep a positive attitude. That’s why this team is so special.”