Some games just don’t go according to the script. No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) had to dig deep and rally in the fourth quarter at home after being down by 10 to avoid being upset at home by Syracuse (4-1, 1-1 ACC), and they did it despite losing starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the first half. Clemson scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the game with Travis Etienne scoring his third touchdown of the game for a wild 27-23 victory.
Lawrence, in the same week he was named the team’s starting quarterback, was knocked out of the game for good in the second quarter when he took a blow to the head while running with the football. After an examination in the medical tent on the sidelines, Lawrence had his helmet taken away and he left the field to the locker room for more examination shortly before halftime. As the second half opened, it was reported he was done for the day. Chase Brice, another freshman, took over on offense, but the Tigers went to rely on the defense and the running game for the bulk of the second half.
Syracuse took a 10-point lead shortly after a muffed punt return by Clemson’s Amari Rodgers gave the Orange a 1st-and-Goal with a fourth down push up the middle with quarterback Eric Dungey handling the football early in the fourth quarter. Clemson running back Travis Etienne led the charge for a quick response though, cutting the lead back down to just three points on a quick six-play drive that took under fewer than two minutes to execute.
As the Syracuse defense was growing tired, Etienne became the difference-maker on his way to over 200 rushing yards. Etienne finished with 203 yards to go with his three touchdowns. Clemson needed it, as Syracuse played well defensively for much of the game until wearing down against a deeper team loaded with more talent.
Brice took a while to get comfortable, but came through with flying colors on Clemson’s late touchdown drive, completing a key pass on fourth down and picking up more yards on the ground on the very next play to get Clemson on the doorstep of a touchdown.
Next up for Clemson is a road trip to Wake Forest. The Tigers will wait to see what the status of Lawrence is, but Clemson will look to extend their winning streak against Wake Forest to 10 next Saturday regardless of who the quarterback is. Clemson has won 25 straight meetings against Wake Forest when the Tigers are ranked. The last loss to Wake Forest by a ranked Clemson team was in 1945, when No. 18 Clemson lost 13-6.
Syracuse will also be on the road next week. The Orange travel to Pittsburgh next weekend for another ACC matchup, this one a cross-division showdown between old Big East foes. Syracuse won last year’s meeting, 27-24, but the last time the game was played in Pittsburgh turned into an epic shootout. Syracuse lost their 2016 meeting at Pitt by a score of 76-61.