Commentary: Top-ranked Clemson trounces ‘Cuse

Commentary: Clemson trounces Cuse 41-6

The Tigers' defense swallows the Orange's offense in all but a couple of cases in 41-6 homecoming loss.
Published: September 15, 2019
SU Vs Clemson
Clemson running back Chez Mellusi runs past Syracuse defenders Devon Clarke (11), Mikel Jones (13) and Kingsley Jonathan (57) during Saturday's homecoming showdown in the Carrier Dome.

More than 50,000 fans packed the Carrier Dome Saturday for the latest rematch between Syracuse and Clemson, making for the third-highest all-time attendance in stadium history.

But by the time the top-ranked Tigers poured on 14 points to an already seemingly insurmountable lead in the fourth quarter, only a fraction of the Dome’s seats remained occupied.

In a 41-6 drubbing that put a damper on SU’s homecoming weekend high, Clemson defense swallowed the Syracuse offense in all but a couple of cases.

However, the Clemson defense did not stifle the Orange offense entirely. Instead, only in a few of their best chances. Red zone trips for the Orange were forgotten with the lack of points that accompanied them. Yet the Orange were able to piece together some impressive drives against what’s believed to be one of the better defenses in all of college football.

That Tiger defense performed in a way that more than supports the national repertoire they’ve grown over the years under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. During the second quarter, the Tiger defense set up one of many 2nd or 3rd and long situations for Tommy DeVito and the Orange. On 3rd and 25, Devito completed a six-yard pass. An obvious punting situation for the Orange. And punt, Syracuse did.

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Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry runs past three Orange players during Saturday's 41-6 loss to the Tigers.

As the Clemson defense came off the field, after what was by most metrics a well-played defensive possession, Venables was anything but satisfied. He was fuming. And he ensured that graduate starting linebacker and team captain Chad Smith knew about it.

They finally beat the Orange, with relative ease. You’d think some success would bring a sigh of relief from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff. Quite the opposite.

I believe Dino knows this about Clemson’s football program. It’s why they’ve been able to compete, and beat, the seemingly invincible Crimson Tide and Nick Saban. Dino not only knows that Clemson operates this way. I believe he wants to emulate the Tigers. Who wouldn’t?

However, on this night, one in which Trevor Lawrence nearly touched 400 yards passing, Babers had to handle his job differently than Swinney. Babers had to support—be that through a scolding yell or an arm around a player’s shoulder. In many cases, I witnessed the Syracuse head man choose the latter.

Dino Babers watches from the sideline.
SU coach Dino Babers watches from the sideline as his team was unable to match the top-ranked Tigers.

Yes, the university community, and likely those in Tuscaloosa as well, wanted the Orange to upset the Tigers like they did in 2017. But put the past several years in perspective: can anyone really expect the Orange — or any team in the country for that matter — to tango with Clemson for four quarters, three years in a row? It seems like an unreasonable ask for anyone not named Alabama.

Don’t think I’m saying this Syracuse team can’t compete with Clemson. They can. We saw it the past two years. Sure, Devito is the new quarterback and with that comes all sorts of growing pains. But this team is talented, and that shouldn’t be forgotten amidst the talk following tonight’s loss.

As a member of the media attending the game, amongst the journalists in the press box, I feel a special obligation to take detailed notes throughout a game. I have one note that I think, in the moment, I wrote better than anything I could curate after the fact.

“Trishton Jackson comes onto the field with 13:03 in the fourth to hype up the defense … A leader. Dino has a conversation with Devito during the same break. Orange trail by double digits, but good things are happening. The program continues to move in a forward direction, regardless of the result. A staple during the tenure of Babers.”

I have hope for the future of Syracuse Football. It’s understandable to walk away from tonight’s performance disappointed. But don’t for a second think Babers will walk away disappointed, at least for too long. He’ll prepare his team to move forward like he always does.

It hasn’t been an ideal start to the season. Yet, in my mind, improving and growing from games like these separates some coaches from the rest, just as much as upsetting a top-ranked team in the country does.

Rest assured, Dino Babers is unlike the rest.