When No. 1 Clemson’s game against Syracuse was hanging in the balance, the Tigers’ defense stepped up to make a game-changing play and propel the team to a 47-21 victory on Saturday at Death Valley.
With the Orange trailing by only six points late in the third quarter, Syracuse quarterback Rex Culpepper was sacked by Mike Jones and Bryan Bresee, the latter of whom punched the ball out from Culpepper’s possession.
Cornerback Andrew Booth was Johnny on the spot, scooping up the fumble and returning it 21 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 34-21 lead with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Clemson struggled to put Syracuse away when it had chances to throughout the game, allowing the Orange to hang around and make it a much closer affair than most expected coming in.
An 83-yard touchdown pass from Culpepper to Nykeim Johnson cut Syracuse’s deficit to 27-21 at the 8:41 mark of the third quarter. But Clemson’s defense responded with the pivotal strip-sack and score, and the Tigers rolled from there.
After forcing a three-and-out on Syracuse’s next possession, Clemson took over at its own 33-yard line and needed just four plays to go 67 yards in 1:10. The quick drive was capped off by a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Travis Etienne that made the score 40-21 early in the fourth quarter.
Jones then intercepted Culpepper on Syracuse’s next possession and returned it to the Orange 3-yard line, setting up another Etienne rushing score – his third of the game – a 1-yarder with 10:45 remaining that provided the final 47-21 margin and essentially ended all hopes of a Syracuse upset.
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