The closest Syracuse has come this year to playing in the atmosphere it will see on Saturday at Clemson’s Death Valley, was when it played Notre Dame at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Oct. 1.
The Irish beat the Orange that afternoon, 50-33, in a game head coach Dino Babers said his team did not handle the environment very well. If Syracuse had issues with the 62,794 people on a neutral field in a pro stadium, what does that mean for Saturday’s game when most of the 82,000 on hand will be pulling for the Tigers in one of college football’s loudest and best venues?
“I didn’t think we handled it very well, the noise, the distractions. I thought we were in the game at half-time and we were … you know, I thought that we didn’t handle it well and hopefully we’ll handle it a lot better in Death Valley.”
Not many have handled the noise in Death Valley, just ask No. 7 Louisville. The Cardinals’ offensive line jumped offside five times and once they were called for a delay of game. NC State had some of the same issues a few weeks later.
Clemson’s loud fans have played a big role in the Tigers’ 20-game winning streak at home – the nation’s longest active streak.
Death Valley is just another advantage the Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC) have on Syracuse, a team they outmatch at just about every position. Babers is communicating through the media that Saturday is more of a David vs. Goliath kind of game than anything else.
“We probably have to play our best game. They probably have to play not their best game,” Babers said. “But the really cool thing about football is that the ball is not round. Okay!? It does not bounce correctly all the time and if we get a couple of bounces our way then maybe, maybe we get a chance. Maybe!
“But don’t bet the house on it brother (smiling). This is an excellent football team. It’s at their place and they are highly motivated. But give us a slingshot and a rock.”
The Orange (4-4, 2-2 ACC) has improved. They have won their last two games, first knocking off No. 19 Virginia Tech in the Carrier Dome and then going on the road and beating a Boston College team that knocked off NC State last week in Raleigh, N.C.
“Syracuse is a dangerous team. Really dangerous,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I have a lot of respect for that staff. You can tell that team has responded.”
And that’s what gives Babers hope that their trip to Death Valley, no matter how difficult the task, will be a lot better than their trip to East Rutherford was last month.
“I think the biggest thing is just the belief in what’s going on. I think the Virginia Tech win solidified the team together as a family, and it enabled us to go out and play a Boston College team, where we were not favored to win, and we were playing on their Homecoming Game, to have to find a way to win that game. That was a very difficult game. And based off of what Boston College did (last) week versus NC State and what NC State did versus Clemson, you can see how good of a football team not only NC State was, but also Boston College.
“I think any time you go into a hostile environment, as long as you’re together, you have a chance.”
–Photo Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports