Friday the 13th lived up to its reputation for No. 2 Clemson.
The Tigers lost their starting quarterback due to a concussion, saw their defense inexplicably get turned around in a track meet, had one of the worst fake punts of the season and never led all night long. More ghastly though, Clemson saw Syracuse secure the biggest victory of the Dino Babers era as the Orange looked like the better side from kickoff to the final whistle in a massive 27-24 upset that will shake up both ACC and College Football Playoff races.
Quarterback Eric Dungey led the way for the home team at the Carrier Dome, throwing for 278 yards and three touchdowns despite facing one of the best defensive lines in the country on every snap. He also provided an incredible dimension with his legs in rushing for 61 yards — including the game-sealing first down with just over 90 seconds to go. The fast-paced offense racked up numerous multi-play drives as the marched up and down the field from the opening kickoff and seemed to have an answer just about every time.
The Tigers simply did not come to play on Friday night, looking sluggish from the get go. Not helping matters was the loss of starting quarterback Kelly Bryant, who didn’t look fully healthy while dealing with an ankle injury and then suffered a concussion on a scramble just before halftime. While the run game of Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster both scored long touchdowns, there never was much of a rhythm to the offense as they stalled out on several drives.
Were it not for a Tanner Muse 63 yard scoop-and-score fumble return in the first half, things could have been even worse for the defending national champions.
If there is one silver lining for Dabo Swinney’s group it was that they were in a similar spot last season, losing to Pitt at home before eventually rallying to win the league and the national title. Things might be a little tougher this time around, but the path remains the same inside the division (and on the national stage) with games against a ranked N.C. State team and big name in Florida State still to come. Perhaps most crucially, a bye week awaits the team once they return back home and will provide some much needed rest after some significant injuries in the first half of the year.
Syracuse doesn’t really care about all that talk though, for there was nothing freaky on Friday for the Orange as they pulled off one of the memorable upsets of the season so far.