Earlier this week Syracuse head coach Dino Babers compared Saturday’s trip to Death Valley against No. 2 Clemson as a David vs. Goliath type matchup, saying “give us a slingshot and a rock.”
Syracuse might have brought the sling shot, but no one loaded the rock as the Tigers hammered the Orange 54-0. Of course it helped that the Clemson offense had perhaps its best game of the season totaling 567 yards, which included 370 passing yards from both Deshaun Watson and Nick Schuessler.
Watson completed 13 of 16 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, while Schuessler came off the bench and hit 11 of 17 passes for 177 yards and two more scores. It marked the first time in Clemson history that two quarterbacks threw for 169 yards or more in the same game.
Watson left the game late in the second quarter with a bruised shoulder with Clemson driving. He could have returned in the second half, but there was no need with Schuessler playing well.
The senior threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Artavis Scott just before halftime, and then found Deon Cain in the back of the end zone in the third quarter for his second score.
Watson also threw a touchdown pass to Cain … a perfectly thrown 65-yard scoring toss, while also hitting Mike Williams on a 14-yard touchdown. The junior quarterback also ran for a one-yard score.
Running back Wayne Gallman had a five-yard run and safety Tanner Muse returned a crazy interception that bounced off a cleat of a Syracuse player and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Tigers a 54-0 lead with 7:40 to play in the game.
As good as Clemson was on offense, the defense was just as good. The Tigers held the Orange to 277 total yards for their second shutout of the season. They also shutout S.C. State, 59-0, on Sept. 17. It’s the first time a Clemson defense recorded two shutouts in the same season since 2014.
The defense forced three turnovers overall, all interceptions while sacking the ‘Cuse two times. The Orange (4-5, 2-3 ACC) was 5 of 16 on third down.
Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC) blew the game open when it scored three touchdowns on three straight drives of 86 or more yards in the second quarter as the Tigers rolled to a 30-0 halftime lead.
Watson guided the Tigers on drives of 95 and 89 yards and started an 86-yard scoring drive before going down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Schuessler came in relief and completed the drive with a 5-yard scoring pass to Artavis Scott with 1:27 left in the first half.
Before leaving the game, Watson scored three touchdowns on 13 of 16 passing for 169 yards, while rushing for 39 yards. He had a one-yard touchdown run that gave Clemson a 10-0 lead with 3:47 to play in the first quarter. He then followed that with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Cain and a 14-yard scoring pass to Williams.
Clemson outgained the Orange 330 yards to 35 in the second quarter. The Tigers had 396 total yards in the first half.
Watson was not the only quarterback to leave the game early. Syracuse’s Eric Dungey left the game midway through the first quarter with what looked like a concussion after being hit by Ben Boulware and Dorian O’Daniel.
Clemson can clinch the ACC’s Atlantic Division with a win over Pitt next Saturday in Death Valley. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
–Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports