Syracuse put together a strong defensive effort that forced four Clemson turnovers and gave the Orange a chance to pull off an upset in Death Valley. But the offense was stifled by arguably the nation's best defense, turning it over three times themselves and failing to move the ball all night.
It was an ugly, defensive, physical battle that Syracuse controlled throughout the first half. Dyshawn Davis ripped the ball out of Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt's hands at the end of the first half, setting up a 50-yard Cole Murphy field goal to give the Orange a 6-3 lead heading into the locker room.
But it was what happened shortly after the break that turned the tide of the game and ended Syracuse's upset hopes.
Clinging to that three point lead early in the third quarter, Darius Kelly intercepted a Stoudt pass and returned it to the Clemson 42 to give Syracuse a chance to create some distance and put pressure on a Clemson offense that had struggled all game. Instead, true freshman A.J. Long turned it right back over, throwing an interception on a pass intended for Jarrod West.
Long rolled to his right and had West open for a six yard gain towards the sideline. He tried to float the ball to his cousin, but did not see linebacker Stephone Anthony in the way. Anthony jumped up, grabbed the ball with one hand to give Clemson the momentum back.
The Tigers would put up field goals on their next two possessions, taking a 9-6 lead. Syracuse, once again, could not get anything going offensively as they continued to punt the ball in the second half. Late in the third quarter, Clemson took control of the game with a 7-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in the game's only touchdown on a pass from Stoudt to Stanton Seckinger.
The Syracuse offense put up only 170 total yards on the night. Long finished 12-27 for 82-yards and two interceptions. The Orange only rushed for 88-yards on 34 carries.
Early on, the Syracuse defense was dominating the game forcing three punts and an interception on Clemson's first four possessions. Syracuse could not win the field position battle, however, frequently starting inside their own 20. The Tigers defensive front dominated the Orange and combined that with tight coverage down the field.
Clemson put up 375-yards of offense, but really struggled most of the night. The Orange secondary turned in maybe their best performance of the season and their front seven stood strong throughout as well.
Prince-Tyson Gulley led Syracuse in rushing with 77-yards on 17 attempts. Freshman Steve Ishmael was held without a reception for the first time this season. Ashton Broyld returned from injury to lead Syracuse in receiver with 49-yards on four receptions.
Syracuse falls to 3-5 on the season with the loss, 1-3 in conference play. The Orange return home next week to face a struggling North Carolina State squad in the Carrier Dome at 3:00pm.