Though the statistics will say Syracuse held Clemson to 314 yards of total offense in the Tigers’ 17-14 victory on Friday. What it will not tell you is some of what happened on the turf inside the Carrier Dome had little to do with what the Orange was doing and more about what the Tigers did to themselves.
All night, Clemson suffered from self-inflected wounds. Dropped passes, holding calls, illegal procedures, bad snaps and the list goes on and on.
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said had his best game of the season, agreed that it was a little frustrating watching the mistakes cost them from executing the game plan.
“You always want to make those plays,” he said. “Having those little setbacks right there, those are little things that we can overcome and be able to take away and not shoot ourselves in the foot. That was a big thing we talked about in the locker room.
“If we can just clean up on that stuff right there at times. We just have to be able to come out there and make a collective decision to be able to go out there and finish drives and not have that happen again. If we do not have to deal with that stuff right there, who knows how many points we would have put up. Who knows how well the drives were moving? It is just little stuff like that just sucks.”
Uiagalelei completed 21 of 34 passes for 181 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Ngata in the first quarter. However, his numbers could have been so much more.
Though Uiagalelei did miss on a couple of throws, once again his receivers had issues catching the football. Justyn Ross dropped a pass in the first quarter when he was wide open in the middle of the field. That came on a third-down play, forcing Clemson to have to punt.
Ross later dropped another pass in the third quarter on a crucial third-down play. Tight end Davis Allen, who had a career day with eight catches for 49 yards, also dropped a pass, while a holding penalty on Ross negated a nice catch-and-run for Allen in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers also had a bad snap from center Mason Trotter go over Uiagalelei’s head, costing them 18 yards and ending what was a promising drive.
“It is what it is. We can’t do nothing about it now,” Uiagalelei said. “We have to move on to this week. We have a challenge. Pitt is coming up next. We have a big challenge. We are ready to accept the challenge and we are ready to go to work this week
The Tigers (4-2, 3-1 ACC) better do a lot then. Next week, they travel to Pittsburgh to play a Pitt team that is scoring on just about everyone as it leads the nation in scoring.
Swinney said until the offense gets things cleaned up and starts playing consistent, they are going to have to continue to lean on their defense.
“Defense is the strength of our team right now,” he said. “Until our offense grows up a little bit and starts playing a little cleaner. Again, we did a lot of good things, but we have to find a way to win. That is all we are assigned to. We are going to do whatever we have to do to win a game.”
On Friday, the Tigers did just enough, thanks to Andre Szmyt’s miss from 48 yards out with 38 seconds to play.
“We did enough to win the game and that is the objective,” Swinney said. “We have a lot of work to keep improving, but we have won two in a row and that is some momentum for us”
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