Tigers had 8 sacks and 15 tackles for loss
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Clemson’s defense owned the night Saturday at The Dome in Syracuse, New York.
After quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw two third quarter interceptions that set the Orange up twice inside the Clemson 10-yard line, the defense bailed him out both times without giving up a point.
The first time Mario Goodrich intercepted Syracuse’s Tommy DeVito at the 4-yard line. On the second interception, the defense bowed up and got a stop on downs after the Orange started the drive at the Tigers’ 3-yard line.
When the dusted settled, Clemson’s defense left no doubt against the Orange this year with a 41-6 victory.
Besides the goal-line stand and the interception, the defense stopped Syracuse on another fourth down with an Isaiah Simmons sack, while the defense as a whole totaled 8 sacks in the game. Clemson also had 15 tackles for loss, the most in the Dabo Swinney era.
The top-ranked Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC) sacked, hit and pressured DeVito all night long. The Orange struggled to run the ball as well, finishing with just 15 yards on 42 carries. Syracuse was just 4 of 19 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down.
Syracuse (1-2, 0-1 ACC) totaled just 187 yards and just 51 in the second half.
Clemson took control of the game in the third quarter despite Lawrence’s interceptions. After he had a sideline pass picked off and returned inside the Clemson 10, Goodrich picked off DeVito on the next play at the 4-yard line to end the threat.
The Tigers took advantage of the turnover three plays later when Amari Rodgers, the offensive star of the game, took a third down pass, somehow stayed in bounds and then raced 87 yards down the near sideline for a touchdown. It was the fourth longest touchdown pass in Clemson history.
That gave the Tigers a 24-6 lead with 9:42 to play in the third.
After the defense forced another three-and-out, Syracuse’s Trill Williams picked off Lawrence at the Clemson 44 and returned it 41 yards to the Clemson 3 where running back Travis Etienne tracked him down from behind.
On first-and-goal, the Orange got a yard and on second down they got no gain. On third down, DeVito tried to fool the Tigers with a naked bootleg, but Simmons read the play and dropped DeVito for a yard loss. Then on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, pressure forced DeVito to run up the middle where he was tackled at the 2 by Chad Smith and Justin Foster.
Lawrence and the offense followed with a 78-yard drive, which ended with a 37-yard B.T. Potter field goal for a 27-6 lead with 2:24 to play in the third quarter.
Though the offense had some hiccups here and there, it still totaled 612 yards, while Lawrence finished the night with 395 passing yards on 22 of 39 passing with three touchdown passes. He had touchdown passes of 16 yards and 87 yards to Rodgers and a 7-yard scoring pass to freshman Frank Ladson.
Rodgers finished the game with four catches for 121 yards, in just his second game back from a torn ACL injury he suffered on March 23. Tee Higgins led the Tigers with seven catches for 150 yards. He had receptions of 38 and 58 yards in the game.
Etienne finished the night with 76 yards on the ground. Clemson finished with 221 rushing yards.
The Tigers took a 7-0 lead at the 10:29 mark of the first quarter when Lawrence found Rodgers wide open in the end zone from 16 yards out. The touchdown capped a seven-play, 79-yard drive that took 2:44 off the clock.
On the drive Lawrence hit Higgins for a 16-yard reception and then again for 7 yards before finding Rodgers for a 16-yard pass that moved the football to the Cuse 25. A play later, Lawrence pumped faked the ball to his right and then looked down the seam where Rodgers was wide open for the touchdown.
Clemson extended its lead to 14-0 when Lawrence kept the ball around the left side for a 1-yard touchdown with 5:34 to play in the first quarter. The big play of the drive was a 35-yard Lawrence-to-Higgins pass to the Syracuse 38. A roughing the passer penalty added another 15 yards and moved the ball to the 23.
Etienne then got the ball to the 1 on the next couple of plays to set up Lawrence’s touchdown.
The Orange added a 29-yard field goal with 12:24 to play in the half and Potter banged home a 40-yard kick of his own following a long pass to Higgins. That gave the Tigers a 17-3 lead with 4:31 to play in the half.
Syracuse added a 23-yard field goal with 2:00 to play to make the score 17-6 at the break.
Chez Mellusi added a 57-yard touchdown with 48 seconds to play in the game to cap the scoring.
Clemson returns home next Saturday against Charlotte. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
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