Welcome party: Tigers steamroll SU, 49-14

Tajh Boyd sets a Clemson record with 455 yards and five TD passes in No. 3 Tigers' runaway

Clemson's Germone Hopper nearly catches a pass in the end zone around Syracuse's Julian Whigham during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Germone Hopper nearly catches a pass in the end zone around Syracuse's Julian Whigham during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.

Each team had planned an ACC welcoming party for the other.

It didn't take long for anyone, near or far, to figure out that Clemson's plan had teeth, while Syracuse's mostly amounted to verbal bluster and wishful thinking.

The unbeaten, third-ranked Tigers flexed their muscles in impressive fashion on Saturday, as Dabo Swinney's team steamrolled Syracuse 49-14 at the Carrier Dome and spoiled the Orange's long-awaited ACC debut.

There were times, in fact, when the Tigers made the Orange look a bit like Wake Forest.

Just like a week ago, Clemson struck for a third-play touchdown - this time a picture-perfect delivery from Tajh Boyd to a wide-open Adam Humphries, running uncovered behind the Orange's befuddled secondary.

"We knew we needed to establish some momentum early, and that's what we were able to do," said Swinney. "We were expecting a four-quarter game, and knew they wouldn't quit. So it was important for us to get something going in the first quarter."

After an exchange of punts that included a defensive three-and-out, the Tigers struck again - this time by responding to the longest punt in Syracuse history (74 yards) with a 92-yard touchdown drive that included a 23-yard throw-back screen from Boyd to Zac Brooks, passes of 15 and 18 yards to Rod McDowell and Sammy Watkins, and finished off by a one-yard touchdown run by Brooks.

Clemson's early-game surge continued with another defensive three-and-out, followed by back-to-back runs of 16 yards by Boyd and 12 by McDowell, and then a 42-touchdown strike from Boyd to (again) Humphries on an uncovered wheel route.

Twelve of the Tigers' first 25 plays went for 10 yards or more, as Clemson built its 21-0 lead.

"The plays were there, and we made them," said Humphries. "We felt like we could win some matchups, and we did."

"With all the blitzes and pressure that Syracuse brings, we knew there would be a chance to make plays, and that's what we did," Swinney said.

Just like in last week's romp over the Demon Deacons, the opposition made a brief run at making a game of it.

On a first-down play from the Syracuse 26, Jerome Smith - a returning 1,000 yard rusher - broke through Clemson's containment and put on a show, the 225-pounder outrunning Clemson's fastest defensive backs for a 76-yard touchdown.

A defensive three-and-out by the Orange - its first of the game - put the ball back in the hands of the Syracuse offense.

But to no avail.

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland did his best Nuk Hopkins imitation in stealing a deep pass from a Syracuse receiver, and Tigers cashed in on the turnover with a 19-yard pass from Boyd to Stanton Seckinger, a 29-yard reception-and-roughing penalty on a pass from Boyd to Martavis Bryant, and then a perfectly executed 18-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Seckinger.

After another defensive three-and-out, the Tigers struck again, this time with Boyd connecting with Bryant for a 40-yard touchdown, putting Clemson up 35-7.

The Tigers let two more scoring chances slip away in the final minutes of the first half, and, in the process, gave the Orange another glimmer of hope.

An interception by Darius Robinson gave the Tigers the ball at the Syracuse 30, but after two near misses at the goal line, Boyd was sacked on a third-down play. Chandler Catanzaro came on and drilled a 52-yard field goal, but the play was nullified by a delay of game call against the Tigers.

Backed up five yards, Swinney chose to punt, and Pinion pinned the Orange back at its six-yard line.

The Tiger defense responded with a three-and-out, and Clemson got the ball back at the Syracuse 48 with 5:04 remaining. A 25-yard pass from Boyd to Byrant put the Tigers in scoring position, but on a second-down play from the 26, Boyd's pass for Mike Williams bounced off the receiver's hands and was intercepted by the Orange. It was the first interception thrown by Boyd this season.

Clemson's defense countered with another three-and-out stand inside the Syracuse 10, and the Tigers got the ball back in advantageous position after a 20-yard punt return by Humphries. A 24-yard pass from Boyd to Williams gave the Tigers a first-and-goal at the five. But on third-and-goal play from the two, Brooks was swarmed for a three-yard loss, and on fourth down, Swinney passed up sure points on a chip-shot field goal, and Boyd was smothered as he tried to run into the middle of the Syracuse line.

Syracuse did its best to make a game of it in the third quarter.

The Orange took the ball at beginning of the second half and struck for a touchdown, and then, two series later, intercepted another deflected pass by Boyd and threatened inside the red zone.

Syracuse dodged a bullet when quarterback Terrel Hunt, as was being sacked by Vic Beasley on a third-and-11 play from the Clemson 14, threw the ball into the hands of Korrin Wiggins, who raced the length of the field for an apparent touchdown. Hunt was ruled down on the play, however, and Syracuse's Ryan Norton then missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.

Moments later, the Orange had the ball again, again threatening after a 38-yard 'puntrooskie-ish' fake gave Syracuse and first down at the Clemson 18.

At that point, cornerback Breeland took matters into his own hands, first with a second-down PBU, then with a touchdown-saving tackle on a throw-back play, and finally with smothering covering on a fourth-and-three play from the 13.

Then the Tigers struck for a spectacular finishing touch.

After Rod McDowell was dropped for a four-yard loss on first down, Boyd dropped back and fired deep for Watkins, who accelerated past a Syracuse defender, hauled in a perfectly-placed pass, and streaked 91 yards for a touchdown.

It was the second longest pass play in Clemson history, and sealed the deal for the unbeaten Tigers.

"What a throw," said Swinney. "Sammy just took off on it."

"When I saw Sammy running underneath it, I just looked over at Coach (Chad) Morris, and for both of us, it was just like 'wow!'

Boyd, who finished the game by completing 20-of-27 passes for a school-record 455 yards and five touchdowns, spent the rest of the final quarter on the sideline with an injured left (non-throwing) thumb.

Cole Stoudt directed the Tigers' final scoring drive, with C.J. Davidson scoring the touchdown on a one-yard run.

When all was said and done, Swinney was most pleased with his defense, which allowed 14 points or less for its fourth straight game - a first for the Tigers in 13 years. Clemson intercepted four passes and held the Orange to just 3-of-18 on third-down conversions.

"They got the touchdown to open the third quarter, but after that our defense just slammed the door," said Swinney. "They're showing up, game after game, play after play."

"They're really playing some D," Boyd said. "There's a lot of camaraderie among those guys. I just kept telling them to go get the ball back, and we'd go score."

"Our first half was OK, but we were better in the second half," said Vic Beasley, who had two sacks and four tackles for loss. "We knew they'd come out determined, and that we needed to match their determination. We cut loose and had a good time."

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Comments » 2

TigerFan95 writes:

A blowout score but Im still unimpressed with our O-line and running game. We are not elite in those areas and I have a feeling it will catch up with us at some point.

michtiger writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

A blowout score but Im still unimpressed with our O-line and running game. We are not elite in those areas and I have a feeling it will catch up with us at some point.

Tiger fan you are seeing what we all see. love this team but OL a little behind. DL is going well. But even the weak teams are getting big plays off LBs and CBs. even if it is second or third team 300 plus rushingyds is a little scary. I think some comes from the mix and match of players and that will pay off. Against FSU we need 60 min of full attention. No lack of focus with lead.

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