Syracuse moved the ball effectively in the first half Saturday with 221 yards of total offense at the break thanks in part to a few big plays in the passing game by veteran quarterback Eric Dungey.
Halfway through the game the Orange had all of the momentum on their sideline after the injury of Trevor Lawrence it seemed that Memorial Stadium was deflated. Second-ranked Clemson entered the locker room down nine points to the one team it lost two in 2017 and something had to change.
The Clemson defense stepped up when it needed to in the second half, stifling the high-flying attack from Syracuse and holding it to just 90 yards in the final two quarters on the way to a 27-23 victory to remain unbeaten.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables knew Syracuse could move the ball against his defense based off its offensive scheme, but he was proud of the way his defense responded particularly in the second half.
“We didn’t go into the game saying ‘we aren’t going to let them move the ball at all,’” Venables said. “They are too good and have good schemes, but we wanted to get in a rhythm and feel in control of things.”
Syracuse (4-1, 1-1 ACC) was able to push tempo a lot in the first half matching the Tigers running 37 plays, but in the second half the orange were held to just 30 plays in the second half as the Clemson defense stepped up.
Venables is proud of the way his defense bowed their backs on Saturday especially given all of the adversity they faced throughout the game.
Entering the game Clemson was without corners Mark Fields due to suspension and Mario Goodrich who is a little banged up. Adding to the issue of depth at that position, Trayvon Mullen went down in the third quarter with a sprained ankle.
Meaning freshman Kyler McMichael had to step up and recorded a tackle as well as A.J. Terrell, who had a crucial interception in the third quarter that led to a Greg Huegel field goal.
The Clemson defense buckled down when things got difficult for the offense and gave them opportunities to come back from the late deficit.
“With the exception of a few plays in the first half we played well and I’m very proud of them,” Venables said. “We faced adversity and responded particularly in the second half when we really had to complement each other and help, I’m really proud of our guys.”
Clemson is back in action on the road next weekend in Winston-Salem, N.C. against Wake Forest.