In a game full of highlight worthy plays, none might have been more crucial in second-ranked Clemson’s 54-0 shutout victory over Syracuse on Saturday than defensive back Ryan Carter’s first-quarter interception.
Carter picked off Syracuse’s Eric Dungey on the Orange’s 32-yard-line with 4:51 left in the first quarter, giving Clemson excellent field position for Deshaun Watson to put the Tigers up 10-0.
The interception seemed to ignite everyone in Death Valley and Clemson went on to score on its next four drives. The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) have struggled with starting fast this year, but the turnover gave the offense some breathing room and they capitalized.
“I feel like it definitely created a lot of momentum as far as giving the crowd energy, great energy,” said Carter. “I felt like it was a good play to get things going.”
Carter disguised his coverage well, making it appear as if Dungey had an easy look.
“I saw him try to do a zone … I sat back and tried to get into the line of flight because I knew they were going to try and throw a slant backside,” he said. “I tried to get in that window and it just came right to me.”
It’s hard to believe it was Carter’s first career interception at Clemson considering how easy he made it look.
“Definitely the easiest pick I have ever made,” the junior said. “It came right to me and I’m not complaining.”
Given that the Tigers’ offense has struggled at times this year, the turnover gave them some breathing room and great field position.
With the offense humming to tune of 567 total yards on the day, the defense took care of the rest, limiting Syracuse to 277 total yards (they are averaging 486.8 yards per game this season), while creating three turnovers in the shutout victory.
“It’s so hard to shut out a team at this level,” said Carter. “Even from the ones to the twos to the threes, everybody was just doing their job…it was collectively a great group effort.”
Carter wasn’t the only player on the team to record his first interception. Freshman Tanner Muse returned a pinball pick 64 yards to the house, the first freshman to do so since the late Wayne Simmons brought one back in 1989 against Florida State.
Muse said he is just taking advantage of his opportunities to help the defense get to a championship level.
“Coach (Dabo) Swinney has been about getting our turnover margin up…I think we are plus two right now…because the teams that have been in the national championship have been in the plus ten or more” he said.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables had high praise for Carter’s impressive play.
“They’re forcing him in there with the play-action and he started to come up and just popped back out of the hole,” he said. “It was a good tempo setter for the day and it probably gave our guys some confidence.”