Syracuse, N.Y. – There was more hype and anticipation surrounding Syracuse's ACC opener against the third ranked Clemson Tigers than any game in recent memory. The result was a near capacity crowd of 48,961 within the walls of the Carrier Dome. But most of the fans in attendance left disappointed.
Despite an electric atmosphere at the kickoff, Clemson put their foot on the gas from the start and never let up. It only took Tajh Boyd three plays and 38 seconds to establish his dominance over the Orange, finishing the first drive with a 60-yard touchdown pass to slot receiver Adam Humphries.
The Tigers only rolled from there scoring on their next two possessions, including a 42-yard scoring toss from Boyd to Humphries on a near identical play to the first touchdown. Both were the result of blow assignments by the Orange secondary who struggled en route to giving up 455 yards and five scores through the air to Clemson's Heisman Trophy candidate.
"We need to do a better job," head coach Scott Shafer said after the game. "We played a hell of a football team. They have a great coach and a great coaching staff. We just weren't good enough today. We gave them too many plays."
Syracuse did have chances to get back in it. Jerome Smith rattled off a 66-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career, to start the second quarter. Smith finished with 125-yards on 18 carries.
In what would be the story of the day for the Orange, missed opportunities by the offense cost them any chance. They failed to move the ball after the defense stopped Clemson on the ensuing possession, and the Tigers continued to pull away.
The Orange came out firing, however, in the second half and appeared to have some momentum on their side. A Prince-Tyson Gulley 28-yard run capped off a quick drive to open the third quarter to pull the Orange within 21. Despite forcing a turnover and driving inside the Clemson 20-yard line twice, Syracuse couldn't pull any closer.
After a Ryan Norton missed 42-yard field goal, Syracuse got the ball back and used a 38-yard run by DeVante McFarlane on a fake punt to put the Orange back within striking distance. But they couldn't maintain the momentum as they were stopped on a fourth down play inside the 15-yard line.
Two plays later, Tajh Boyd sealed it with a 91-yard strike to Sammie Watkins, who raced by Ri'Shard Anderson for the score.
Syracuse gave up 624-yards of offense to the high powered Clemson Tigers. They gave more than double their season average coming in through the air. The Orange were outmatched in both speed and talent seemingly all over the field. While the secondary struggled to contain the talented Tiger receivers, Syracuse's own skill position players failed to get separation down the field.
Now the Orange must turn their attention to their first road game in ACC play.
"Very disappointed," quarterback Terrel Hunt, who finished 8-24 for 52-yards passing with three interceptions said. "But at the same time we lost to a good team. We beat ourselves too. We had some things that we didn't capitalize on. So be it. We just have to take it on the chin and go onto the next one."
Syracuse faces North Carolina State on October 12th at 3:30pm eastern.