Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has the key for the second-ranked Tigers to slow down Syracuse’s fast paced offense tonight in the Carrier Dome.
“Do your job,” he said.
But is stopping the Orange really that easy? Syracuse leads the nation in total plays run, averaging 86 plays per outing. It does it with a pace that wears down defenses and has them gasping for air with their hands on their hips by the middle of the third quarter.
It also helps they have one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC in Eric Dungey and two of the best receivers in the country in Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips.
“They have a great system,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “It is the second year within that system. They have a quarterback that is very confident. He has a big arm and is mobile. Between Philips and Ishmael, the tight ends and backs, and a few other guys, they are doing a great job distributing the ball and getting the ball out fast and making a lot of big-time plays.
“It will be a huge challenge for us.”
It is going to be even a bigger challenge for defensive ends Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell. The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) are not very deep at defensive end and if Syracuse is in rhythm offensively, it could mean the two will be on the field for 80 plays.
“The defensive end position is really stretched thin,” Bryant said. “We drop a lot, we rush, we have to play in the box … It is hard but our coaches do a great job getting us prepared throughout the week. They put us in stressful situations in practice and when the game comes, it is a lot slower for us and we can function a lot better.”
And that is what Swinney wants, the tempo not affecting his defense at all.
“The temp should not really affect that if we are locked in,” Swinney said. “Brent has to get the call in and we have to make sure everyone is ready to go.
“I don’t think there is any question whether it is a tempo offense or any offense. You want a three-and-out. You don’t want them to get into any rhythm or type of balance in what they are doing. We want to keep them off balance and you want to control the line of scrimmage.”
Venables says the Orange (3-3, 1-1 ACC) will only go fast if Clemson lets them go fast. Swinney says it can be the Tigers’ advantage if they are able to get Syracuse off the field every three plays.
“Hopefully, they are hurrying and getting off the field and putting our offense back out there,” the Clemson coach said. “I think that frustrates a tempo offense more than anything when they can’t really get in rhythm so now you are playing really fast to punt and that would be a great thing.”