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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019 at 5:07 am

Syracuse Falls to #1 Clemson In Front of Sellout Crowd

By Sean Scott

CitrusTV Football Reporter

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It was the first sellout in the Dome since 1998. More than 50,000 people packed the Dome in hopes of watching another miraculous Syracuse (1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) upset of Clemson (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast), like the memorable 2017 win.

But there would be no upset this time around. The top-ranked, defending national champion Tigers rolled to a 41-6 victory over the Orange. Syracuse could not find any rhythm offensively against a stifling Clemson defense, and the Orange defense continued to struggle after giving up 63 points a week ago.

The key moment came in the third quarter. After Chris Fredrick intercepted a Trevor Lawrence pass and ran it inside the Clemson five yard line, Syracuse had a prime opportunity to cut into the 17-6 halftime deficit. Instead, on the first play of the drive, Tommy Devito missed an open receiver and threw late. Clemson picked off the forced pass and Syracuse never had another chance to crawl back in the game. Head coach Dino Babers says he still has faith in the quarterback despite another bad turnover.

“It’s just something – young quarterbacks they’re going to make mistakes,” Babers said. “They get better and they get better and they get better. And like anything, when you touch the oven and it’s hot, you get burned and you don’t touch the oven again. I was kinda disappointed that it happened in the same place, in the same situation… I didn’t think I was going to be up here talking about that again, but I really don’t believe it will happen again… It was a little disappointing, but he’s still my guy.”

Without starting center Sam Heckel, the offensive line had to be shuffled around, but the makeshift group was no match for Clemson’s athletic defense. After allowing four sacks to Maryland a week ago, Syracuse allowed eight more sacks on Saturday against a relentless Clemson pass rush. Despite criticism from the media, coach Dino Babers says it’s not all on the offensive line.

“I can tell you right now there were two sacks on someone else and I’m not going to say the name and that person wasn’t in the offensive line at all,” Babers said. “It’s not a simple offense. It’s a complex offense, and everyone has to do their part. It only takes one guy to break down offensively for something bad to happen and then you want to pin it on one group of individuals and that’s really not the case.”

Playing in front of the third largest attendance in Syracuse football history, the Orange hoped to provide the community with a monumental upset. Despite the loss, senior running back Moe Neal says playing in this type of game has always been a goal of his.

“Coming in, that was a goal of mine when I stepped foot on campus four years ago,” Neal said. “Just to play in front of a sellout crowd in the Dome and it was amazing. The fans were rocking, a lot of energy and [we’re] disappointed we couldn’t get them a win.”

Babers echoed Neal’s disappointment in not giving the fans a win.

“I’m just sad we couldn’t do more for the community,” Babers said. “They wanted the giant upset and all that stuff and we sure wanted to deliver for them and the student body was fantastic, the band and the entire city support, so we’re disappointed we couldn’t deliver, but our guys will be back. Our guys will be ready to go.”

After back-to-back blowout losses, the team remains confident they have the skill to compete in the ACC. Babers said he thinks Syracuse will be one of the teams people are talking about at the end of 2019. Quarterback Tommy Devito says the key to regrouping is for the Orange to remain positive.

“Just making sure we’re all together and that everything stays positive because it can go downhill in a hurry,” Devito said. “You see a lot of teams sometimes take one loss, two losses and they decide to put their head down, but for our case it stops. We’ve got to keep climbing that mountain.”

Syracuse looks to rebound with another home game on Saturday, this time against Western Michigan. The Orange beat the Broncos 55-42 on the road last season. Kickoff is set for noon.

@sescott@syr.edu | @TheNumberGuru