Brent Venables remembers all too well what Clemson’s last trip to Syracuse was like.
“They were all charged up. They played with a lot of aggression and were very physical,” Clemson’s defensive coordinator recalled on Monday. “They lined up and beat us. It was not anything that was a fluke.
“They outperformed us, they outcompeted us and outcoached us, all of those things.”
The Orange beat Clemson 27-24, it’s the only loss the top-ranked Tigers have suffered in ACC play since the start of the 2017 season. They did it by running up 440 yards on Clemson’s top 5 defense.
But they gave the Tigers fits last year, too. They are the last team to have a lead on Clemson in the fourth quarter. Led by former quarterback Eric Dungey, Syracuse led 23-13 after a Dungey 1-yard touchdown with 12:58 to play in Week 5.
The Tigers of course rallied behind the running of Travis Etienne’s 203 yards and a 20-yard fourth down pass from backup quarterback Chase Brice to Tee Higgins to keep the game-winning drive alive for a 27-23 victory.
What is it about Syracuse that causes Venables’ defense so much trouble?
“They make you defend every patch of grass,” he said. “They do a great job with their scheme and their run-and-pass game and their RPOs. Then all the exotics and trickery, if you will, that comes off of it. If they have an ark pass, they have an ark that can go. If they have a jet, then they have a jet pass. They have the throwbacks. They have the double pass they will throw back to the quarterback. They do a lot that forces you to play with a lot of discipline.”
The Tigers (2-0) weren’t very disciplined when they last visited the Dome. They were slow getting the calls in and lining up and there were busted coverages all over the field. Dungy made them pay by throwing for 278 yards on 20-of-33 passing and 3 touchdowns. He also ran for 61 yards.
“We got to do a good job of getting our calls and getting our hands in the dirt,” Venables said. “We have to play with fundamentals and technique and being assignment sound. That is always really, really important.”
Clemson’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach says they have to be very option like with the discipline it takes and the philosophy that it takes to slow down the Orange’s offense. And when it comes to using tempo?
“They do it when they feel like they need to,” Venables said. “That is not something they have forgotten how to do. I can promise you.”
Clemson and Syracuse will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised by ABC.
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