Defense had a lot of fun keeping Syracuse out of the end zone

Defense had a lot of fun keeping Syracuse out of the end zone

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Defense had a lot of fun keeping Syracuse out of the end zone

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Clemson held the Orange to 187 total yards, 15 yards rushing

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Clemson defense had a lot of fun Saturday night at The Dome.

The top-ranked Tigers had two stops inside its own 10-yard line, while sacking Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito 8 times and recording 15 tackles for loss in a 41-6 victory over Syracuse in Syracuse, New York.

“What a lot of fun. That was exhausting,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said afterward.

If anyone was exhausted it was Syracuse, who seemed as if it ran into an orange-and-white brick wall over and over again and never made a real dent.

The Orange (1-2, 0-1 ACC) totaled just 187 yards of offense, including just 51 in the second half. They ran for just 15 yards on 42 carries overall.

“I am really proud of guys and our coaches, just watching them grow up before our eyes,” Venables said. “We left so much on the table, but that third quarter and really that second half. What a performance. That is how you learn and grow when you are faced with adversity.”

The adversity came after two Trevor Lawrence interceptions in the third quarter, which allowed Syracuse to start at the Clemson 9- and 3-yard lines.

“We definitely pride ourselves when we are in those situations,” linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “Every time we get out there, we are like, ‘This is what we are made for. This is what we are made for. We got this.’ It just happens so quick. All the plays just go so quick.”

Clemson’s defense really took control of the game in the third quarter. After Lawrence had a sideline pass picked off and returned to the Clemson 8, corner Mario Goodrich picked off DeVito on the next play at the 4-yard line to end the threat.

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 three where running back Travis Etienne tracked him down from behind.

On first-and-goal, the Orange got a yard while on second down it went for no gain. On third down, DeVito tried to fool the Tigers with a naked bootleg to his right, but Simmons read the play and dropped him for a yard loss.

“I want to say I kind of baited him. I was crashing down hard. I crashed down hard twice,” Simmons said. “I was like, ‘They have to pull it. That would be the smart thing to do.’ I would have done it as well. I had to make sure I was ready to play the dive, but also the boot and he booted it.

“I kind of felt it coming.”

After Simmons tackle for loss, on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, pressure forced DeVito to run up the middle where he was tackled at the 2-yard line by linebacker Chad Smith and defensive end Justin Foster.

“I would say those (goal line) stands, those are probably the most fun that we have out there together, just because it is so hard to win down there in that little bit of space,” Simmons said.

But the Tigers (3-0, 2-0 ACC) won twice down there and then stopped Syracuse on fourth-and-two at their own 33 when Simmons came free untouched on an all-out blitz and threw DeVito for an 8-yard loss with 1:00 to play in the third quarter.

Simmons finished the game with 11 tackles to lead the Tigers, including 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.

“It felt like we were working practice,” Venables said. “We practiced the pop pass, too. That was fun to watch. It was kind of a microcosm of the week because it seems like about a year of practice, video, meetings and all of that from week-to-week that you put in.”

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