Defense saves the day... again

CLEMSON - The Tigers pull out another hard-fought win on the back of the defense.

Cole Stoudt threw for 209 yards and a touchdown, Ammon Lakip had three field goals and No. 21 Clemson won its fifth straight with a 16-6 victory over Syracuse on Saturday night.

The Tigers (6-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) overcame a spotty offensive showing with another strong performance on defense, holding the Orange (3-5, 1-3) to a season-low 170 yards of offense.

Stoudt, starting a second straight game for injured quarterback Deshaun Watson, struggled much of the game with two interceptions and a fumble. But he led a 73-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that ended with a 19-yard scoring pass to tight end Stanton Seckinger.

Lakip had kicks of 38, 18 and 41 yards, the last putting Clemson ahead 9-6 for good, 9-6, in the third quarter.

Wayne Gallman finished with 101 yards, the first time a running back has cracked the century mark this season for the Tigers.

Stoudt was 24 of 35 and brought Clemson a victory for the second straight time after trailing in the second half. A week ago, Boston College led 13-10 before Stoudt led a touchdown drive for the 17-13 win.

This time, he fought through a difficult three quarters before finally finding his footing. After Clemson moved in front on Lakip's final kick, Stoudt had a 17-yard pass to Mike Williams that move the Tigers to Syracuse 23. Two plays later, he found Seckinger.

Clemson iced the game with a final drive that lasted more than eight minutes to run out the clock.

Syracuse freshman AJ Long, making his second career start, was sacked four times and held to 82 yards passing. Prince-Tyson Gulley ran for 80 yards, accounting for most of the rest of Syracuse's offense.

The Tigers entered his one with four straight wins, one of the country's strongest defenses and an offense looking to finally get back to its high-scoring, fast-tempo self.

That was the case a year ago when these teams played with the Tigers ahead 35-7 at half and cruising to a 49-14 blowout victory.

This time, though, Clemson's offense continued its freefall without injured quarterback starter Deshaun Watson. The Tigers, who averaged better than 500 yards a game, the previous two seasons, managed just 157 in the opening half and gave the ball away with two fumbles and an interception.

Clemson entered the contest with six interceptions on the season, the second fewest in the ACC.

Two of the turnovers led to Syracuse points.

Cornerback Brandon Reddish picked off Stoudt's pass with the Tigers in Syracuse territory. The Orange turned that mistake into Cole Murphy's 43-yard field goal.

Clemson was driving inside the Syracuse 10 right before halftime when C.J. Davidson mishandled a pitch from Stoudt and Syracuse defensive end Robert Welsh recovered.

Welsh had a 42-yard interception return touchdown a week earlier in Syracuse's 30-7 win at Wake Forest.

Clemson got the ball back one final time with 1:22 left when linebacker Dyshawn Davis stripped Stoudt of the ball on the Tigers 22. While Clemson's defense pushed the Orange back, Murphy added a career-long 50-yard field goal — Syracuse's longest kick in six years — for a 6-3 halftime lead.

The Tigers have only one less productive half, points-wise, in offensive coordinator Chad Morris' four seasons than they did against Syracuse — when they were shutout the second half of a 45-21 loss at Georgia on Aug. 30.

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