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Syracuse leaves ‘a lot of meat on the bone’ in 41-6 loss to No. 1 Clemson

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 14, 2019 at 11:20 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham The near-record Carrier Dome crowd roared, adding to the chaos of what just unfolded. Syracuse had the swing it needed early in the third quarter: Offense on the field, goal-to-go from the Clemson 9-yard line after a Chris Fredrick interception and return. With a touchdown, the Orange could cut Clemson’s tenuous lead to four.  Tommy DeVito took the snap, left the pocket to his right like so many plays before and fired down the sideline. Where he expected a receiver, the ball found Clemson’s Mario Goodrich. As DeVito convened with his teammates on the sideline following another of SU’s best chances — and one more wasted — to score a touchdown, he told them, “That’s on me,” while pointing at the “13” on his chest.That two-play sequence served as the microcosm of Syracuse’s (1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) 41-6 loss against No. 1 Clemson (3-0, 2-0) in the Carrier Dome on Saturday night. The Tigers uncharacteristically gave the Orange chance after chance to stay in the game, almost daring another upset bid. But every time SU had a chance to punch in a touchdown, to close the gap on Clemson — to show it was closing the gap on Clemson’s program — the Orange were repeatedly beaten by their own mistakes. “We left a lot of meat on the bone out there,” head coach Dino Babers said. “There were some balls that went through some people’s hands and some decisions that you wish you had back. And when you’re playing against somebody that hasn’t lost a bunch of games, you have to get ahead of them.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMax Freund | Staff PhotographerTwo years ago on the same field, a seismic college football event occurred. Syracuse didn’t finish the season strong, but on the night of Oct. 13, 2017, SU took its biggest step from doormat to contender under Babers. It showed the world Syracuse was changing for the better and more wins would come. A week after getting blown away by Maryland, the Orange were saddled with the unenviable task of proving its worth against a team that Babers said could be the best of its era. Despite surrendering 17 points by halftime, SU largely held Clemson’s potent offense in check, limited Travis Etienne and squeezed just enough out of the offense to think in the second half, the Orange could finally turn red zone chances into touchdowns.But the warning signs of a blowout were evident, too. DeVito rarely had enough, if any, time in the pocket. He was sacked six times in the first half. On one play in the first quarter, DeVito managed to finagle his way from a collapsing pocket and roll out to his right, eventually getting dragged down by Isaiah Simmons. The offensive line was still called for holding on the play. Even when DeVito threw into open windows, his receivers struggled. Taj Harris dropped a crossing route for a first down on SU’s opening driving, forcing a punt instead. At the end of the first quarter, DeVito ripped a long ball to the end zone that dropped through Trishton Jackson’s outstretched hands. A flag would’ve negated the play but the drop still elicited an exasperated “Oh” from a raucous crowd.Four times the Orange reached the red zone and four times it failed to score a touchdown. In the first half, while SU hovered within a couple scores of the Tigers, Babers twice opted to kick field goals in the red zone. “My thinking was, based off of who we’re playing, based off the down and distances, based off of where we’re at, let’s take the points,” Babers said. “Defense is playing well, let’s get the game to the second half. And I’m sure there will be opportunities in the second half if we need them.”Max Freund | Staff PhotographerBabers was right. Twice more, SU ended up inside the Clemson 10-yard line, both courtesy of Trevor Lawrence interceptions. The first was Fredrick’s. The second came late in the third quarter as Lawrence stared down Trill Williams before throwing the ball right to him. Williams returned the interception to the Clemson 3-yard line, juking Lawrence in the process. The Carrier Dome erupted in cheers, 50,248 orange-clad fans springing to their feet. Three straight rushes followed — two handoffs and a snuffed-out bootleg — setting up a 4th-and-goal that Babers deemed worthy. As DeVito opted to not throw the wheel route to Abdul Adams and cut upfield into a thicket of bodies, the first-year starter was swallowed up by Clemson’s defensive line. Two interceptions left Syracuse with two short fields — three and nine yards, respectively — and both times, SU failed to score a single point. Clemson scored touchdowns on both ensuing drives, stretching the score to three possessions.DeVito took some of the blame for the Orange’s struggles, saying that he’s “just trying to be the best leader possible and try to move the offense down the field.” And while he did throw a pick, four missed touchdown attempts from inside the 20 is not solely the quarterback’s, or anyone’s, entire responsibility. Regardless, it cost Syracuse. Max Freund | Staff PhotographerIn 2017, just not getting blown out was enough to show improvement. Instead, the Orange pulled a shocking upset. In 2019, two years and one glorious, 10-win season removed from that upset, covering the spread wasn’t enough anymore. Syracuse had a chance to show that 2018 wasn’t a fluke, but the new normal. For two and a half quarters, it succeeded. The Orange may have done enough to prove they’re not a pushover, even if the missed chances left a bitter taste. “I’m obviously a little disappointed on the point production,” Babers said. “We had the ball on the three-yard line, we ran it in there two times, and we hardly got anything. You want to get mad.”  As Babers emerged from the tunnel just before kick off, his team trailing behind him, he paused and stood at the threshold of Ernie Davis Legends Field. The fourth-year head coach turned and examined the whole arena, acknowledging the sold-out crowd revving up for the biggest game in Syracuse in 20 years. It was everything he’d hoped to build, everything he laid out in his introductory press conference speech — where he asked those in attendance to close their eyes — that boomed over the loudspeakers. Babers basked in the noise before taking the field. Except Saturday, the eyes were open, and they were on the Orange.SU stood in and held up as long as it could. But eventually, when it really mattered, Syracuse blinked. Commentslast_img read more