Syracuse defense plays dominant football

The Syracuse defense did everything they could to help the Orange pull of an upset of Clemson in Death Valley.

If Syracuse was going to pull off an upset against Clemson in Death Valley, it was going to take a monumental defensive effort. Despite falling short Saturday night, the Orange got just that.

Syracuse held Clemson to 3.5 yards per carry, only 209-passing yards and forced four turnovers in another impressive showing by Chuck Bullough’s group. The Orange were relentless all game long, putting pressure on Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, stuffing the ground attack and routinely giving the offense the ball back with a chance to take control of the game.

In what is becoming a theme for the season, the Syracuse defense was very good once again. Four more forced turnovers, but only six points off of them. Stoudt was sacked only once, but was hit several more times. Both interceptions were the result of Stoudt being hit as he was throwing the ball downfield.

Syracuse finished with seven tackles for loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Darius Kelly and Brandon Reddish were the two recipients of the interceptions, and Reddish should have had another one in the second half. Robert Welsh and Dyshawn Davis recovered the two fumbles.

Davis’ was the most impressive of the two recoveries. Towards the end of the first half, Stoudt was scrambling to pick up a couple of yards. Davis came from behind Stoudt and ripped the ball out of his hands. That resulted in a field goal to give Syracuse a halftime lead.

As impressive as the front seven was getting penetration and pressuring Stoudt, the coverage by the secondary was as good as it has been all season. Whenever Clemson tried to go downfield, the Orange corners were in perfect position. Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham were both impressive.

As bad as the secondary was early in the season, it seems to have taken big strides over the last few weeks. That bodes very well for the rest of the season, especially against a potent Duke passing attack in two weeks.

Mike Williams and Artavis Scott came as a potent one-two punch for Clemson’s aerial attack. They combined for 12 catches for 131-yards. Solid numbers, but far less than what they had put up over the previous two weeks. Neither found the end zone.

Wayne Gallman, Clemson’s leading rusher, averaged less than four yards per carry despite breaking the 100-yard barrier. A chunk of those yards came late as Clemson was running the clock out with the game no longer in doubt.

As the offense continues to struggle, Syracuse will have to ride its defense if it hopes to achieve bowl eligibility for the fourth time in five years. The Orange face N.C. State at home next week at 3pm.

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