When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was asked what Syracuse has done, besides knocking out the Tigers’ quarterback, to make things difficult the last two years, he did not hesitate with his answer.
“Knocked our quarterback out,” he said while laughing. “I don’t know what else to say.”
In each of the last three years, Syracuse has knocked Clemson’s starting quarterback out of the game. The Tigers were far enough ahead when Deshaun Watson was knocked out late in the second quarter of the 2016 game that it did not matter, but that was not the case the last two years.
In 2017, Kelly Bryant was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the second quarter in what was a close game. The Orange went on to beat the Tigers, 27-24. It was Clemson’s last loss in the regular season and last loss to an ACC opponent.
Last year, Trevor Lawrence was knocked out of the game with a neck strain in the second quarter with the Tigers trailing, 16-7. Backup Chase Brice came off the bench to lead the eventual national champions to two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 27-23 victory.
“They were a good team,” Swinney said. “(Eric) Dungey was a good player. They have some really good weapons. They’ve been physical in the trenches, they played with great effort, they played with passion, and they played with belief. Those are all things created and instill by Dino (Babers).
“But when you go on the road and you lose your starting quarterback and you roll a guy out there that has not played, then you turn it over … We had three turnovers last year and I think one of them on the 10-yard line.”
Dungey scored on a 2-yard touchdown after the fumble to give the Orange a 23-13 lead with 12:58 to play in the game.
“First of all, you have to not lose to Clemson,” Swinney said. “You have to take care of the ball. You can’t control the things that they control. You have to focus on the things that you can control. So, again, last year you go in and we had really a good flow of the game going and then the next thing you know there is the old crazy scramble drill and Trevor is knocked out. Now, your third-team quarterback, who has not played is running out there and it was shaky. It took a while to kind of settle down.
“Again, we had three turnovers in that game, and one of them literally on the 10-yard line. So, it starts with that. It starts with doing the things that you need to do to make them have to go to the length of the field. Our plan to win. We talk about our effort, and our effort has been good. But not having mental errors. Having more big plays than them and winning the turnover margin and being the least penalized team. Those are the things so that you can win that field position battle and keep them on a long field.”
Swinney says if you go back and look at the last two games, they have turned the football over, and the Orange has done a good job creating some turnovers. The Tigers have had some mental errors and had some busted plays as well.
“We had some plays when we did not bust and they flat out made some plays,” he said. “We went up there two years ago and we could not cover them. We were all over them. They either made the play or we passed interfered the whole game. It was awful.
“Then the offense could not help the defense because we were dysfunctional. Our quarterback got hurt. We turned it over and we were not very good in special teams. We got beat. That is what happens.”
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