CLEMSON – The No. 3 Tigers are excited to take their show on the road this week to a new ACC atmosphere.
Where exactly Syracuse, N.Y. is and what to expect from the on-campus Carrier Dome is another idea.
“They play in the (New York) Giants’ stadium, right?” one Tiger o-lineman asked.
No, in fact, there’s 243 miles of road between the Meadowlands’ MetLife Stadium and Syracuse’s structure in Upstate N.Y., but for even Tiger coaches, the trip up north and to the dome is something new.
“Just thinking out loud, there’s the Alamo Dome in San Antonio is a smaller dome where they play basketball,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said, recalling places similar he’s been to Monday. “The fans are right on top of you there. That’s probably as close – I’ve never been up there so it’s hard to compare.”
Syracuse 'D' brings the pressure
“You just have to get the good depth perception on things, but it’s only an issue if you make it an issue. It’s still pitching and catching and throwing. We’re not going to make any excuses. It doesn’t matter where we play. If we play in a parking lot – gravel, rocks. It doesn’t matter.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said they’ll break from their normal road routine for a Friday stadium walkthrough, which helps on a couple fronts.
“Getting used to the field. If he’ll let us, putting on our cleats and walk a little bit out there just to see how it feels because it’s a new stadium,” senior left tackle Brandon Thomas said. “I’ve never been up there, but I’ve heard it’s pretty warm in there. I think we’ll be used it, especially practicing in the indoor facility (in the summer).”
The 52,000-capacity, non-air-conditioned structure is known as the “Loud House,” but lately, that’s been that way more on the basketball side, as it serves as a multi-purpose facility for Orange athletics.
From 1991-2001, the Orange won 91 games under former coach Paul Pasqualoni – including a 41-0 victory in the one and only matchup of Clemson and Syracuse in the 1995 Gator Bowl. Post-2001, a losing season and two 6-6 years sent Pasqualoni packing, and the Orange have averaged five wins a season since.
SU alum Doug Marrone took over the program in 2009 and guided them to two eight win seasons – capping it with a 38-14 victory over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl last year – before bolting for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills in the offseason. That left former defensive coordinator Scott Shafer in charge this season for the Orange’s 2-2 start.
Like the Tigers, Syracuse has a single national title they can point to (1959).
Clemson’s signal-caller has respect for the program, readying for the road trip.
“It’s legendary. My guy Donovan (McNabb) played in there,” Boyd said. “I’m very excited to go down there and compete. Hey, we ask for solid orange, right? We’re going to get it up there. It’s going to be a fun one and I can’t wait for it.”
Boyd’s bounceback performance against Wake Forest – with four total touchdowns and throwing for over 300 yards for the first time this season (311) and a 12th career game – has the Tigers thinking more in the midst of a six-Saturday stretch of games.
His offensive coordinator said the early season issues were partly due to a learning curve for both him and his QB even in a third year together.
“It’s not all on Tajh,” Morris said. “You try to call it like you did last year or the year before. You try to gameplan like you tried before, but what you find is every year is different. It takes you awhile to learn the personality of your team and what clicks with them.
“Tajh was trying to play like he was last year and relying on guys that weren’t here this year. It’s just learning from each other in the heat of battle.”
Taking a veteran group into what could be a hostile, loud crowd for Syracuse’s ACC debut only helps this weekend.
“We’ve been in every situation you can imagine,” Boyd said. “We’ve been down – we’ve been up. We’ve been on the road and lost games on the road. The thing for us is going out there and taking all of those experiences and building them up.
“That’s the best thing about this team is all the experience we have on offense. There’s nothing that can substitute for that.”