The most anticipated home game in decades for Syracuse football ended with a thud after the Orange were thumped by No. 1 Clemson 41-6 Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
It's been an awkward start to the season for Syracuse, which entered the season ranked No. 22 in the nation. The Orange opened the season with a shutout win over an overmatched Liberty team, but followed that effort with a discouraging 62-20 loss at Maryland.
Syracuse stuck with Clemson in the first half, but the loss shows just how far the program must go to become a true contender in the ACC and in the nation. Here's this week's report card:
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FIVE ORANGES to defensive back Trill Williams. Williams recorded his first interception of the season on an ill-advised attempt from Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the third quarter. Lawrence had a designed rollout to his right, but didn't see Williams who picked off the pass at midfield and returned it inside Clemson's 5 yard line.
Williams, a sophomore, now has three career interceptions and two have come against Clemson. Syracuse's secondary played better than the stats would indicate – Clemson finished with 391 net yards passing – and Williams was one reason why.
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FOUR ORANGES to the Carrier Dome atmosphere (in the first half). Syracuse announced a soldout crowd of 50,248, which is the third-most attended game in program history.
The crowd sounded every bit that loud to open the game, and as strong as Clemson is, even the mighty Tigers haven't had to deal with with an indoor facility (as a true road team) like the Carrier Dome. When it's loud, every bit of communication, whether it be through the quarterback's headset, or the quarterback to his teammates, becomes difficult.
The crowd quieted significant once Clemson took a three-touchdown lead in the third quarter, and the Carrier Dome was half empty by the fourth quarter horn. Still, at least to start, the Syracuse faithful made life a little more difficult on the Tigers' offense.
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THREE ORANGES to Syracuse coach Dino Babers. It was a rare sight following the game. Babers gathered his team at midfield, right on the giant S, and addressed his team following the shellacking by Clemson. That's something generally seen in high school football, not college.
While Babers didn't disclose exactly what was said – it probably wasn't pretty – it's an example of the culture change the program has undergone during his three-year tenure.
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"That S in the middle of the field has special meaning for us," Babers said when speaking with the media after the game. "That's home. It was just a conversation we wanted to have."
While you can quibble with his playcalling or conservatism in the red zone, it's still easy to see why Babers is appreciated by his players. His postgame gathering on the field served as a reminder that, while losing to Clemson in decisive fashion is very disappointing, it's not the end of the world and there's still a lot of season left.
TWO ORANGES to quarterback Tommy DeVito. Three games into his career as a starter and DeVito still has a lot of learning to do.
His final numbers weren't pretty – 15-for-27 with 172 yards and no touchdowns – but considering he was under assault by the Clemson defense most of the night, DeVito's performance wasn't all that bad. Decision-making, however, plagued the redshirt sophomore once again.
Down 17-6 early in the third quarter, Syracuse had the ball at Clemson's 9 following an interception by Chris Frederick. Any points from the Orange make it a one-score game. On the first play of the drive, DeVito was pressured and forced to scramble to his right. Instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds, DeVito threw a layup to Mario Goodrich for a pick.
No team can afford to leave points on the board to Clemson, and to make matters worse, the Tigers scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. It's unclear who exactly DeVito was targeting, but next time he should throw that ball into the 10th row and live to fight another day. Instead, for the second time in three weeks, he threw a bad interception in the red zone.
ONE ORANGE to the Syracuse offensive line. It's unfair to be too hard on DeVito, since Clemson's defense overwhelmed the Orange's blockers the entire night. DeVito was sacked eight times, and even when Clemson didn't bring him down, the Syracuse quarterback was often forced to depart the pocket early.
Clemson has some NFL talent on its defense, so it was unlikely Syracuse would keep DeVito upright the entire game. But sacks are drive-killers, and eight is simply too many to give up.
NUMBER OF THE GAME: 612. That's how many total yards Clemson finished with against a Syracuse defense that was considered one of the best in the ACC prior to the season. Lawrence, who will likely be a top pick in the NFL draft once he becomes eligible, wasn't sharp, but coach Dabo Swinney's offense is still tough even at less than its best.
Syracuse (1-2) is home against Western Michigan (2-1). This looked like a sure win for the Orange before the season against a MAC opponent, but the Broncos have scored at least 48 points in all three of their games so far this year. It's still early in the season (obviously), but another loss at home puts a huge damper on Syracuse's chances of playing in a significant bowl game later this season.