Syracuse knew it would take a near miracle to come back on the third ranked team in the country when facing a 35-7 halftime deficit. In order to make that become a reality, the Orange took risks in all three phases to get the job done. Those risks has mixed results.
Syracuse pulled out the bag of tricks in the second half to try to catch Clemson off guard. In the third quarter, Ashton Broyld came in motion at full speed behind Terrel Hunt. When the ball was snapped, Hunt threw the ball backwards in the flat to Broyld. Broyld then stopped, looked back to Hunt, and threw the ball to the other wise of the field to Syracuse's quarterback. Hunt caught the ball and raced up field for a seven yard gain.
It wasn't as big of a gain as the Orange had hoped, but it was still an exciting play that netted positive yards.
In the fourth quarter, Syracuse used Broyld for some razzle dazzle once again. Hunt threw the pass backwards to Broyld who immediately looked downfield to Chris Clark. Unfortunately, Clark was being double teamed and the ball was underthrown. But when Clark tried to come back to the ball, he was interfered with and drew the flag.
The Orange also went for it on a couple of fourth downs in the second half with mixed results. Trailing 35-14 and facing a fourth and one at their own 37, head coach Scott Shafer elected to go for it. Utilizing the read-option, Hunt read the Tiger defensive end collapsing to the inside. Hunt kept the ball and sprinted to the open area where he gained 11 yards and a first down.
Two Syracuse possessions later, they went for it on fourth down again. This time, it was fourth and four at the Clemson 13. Terrel Hunt looked for Chris Clark and threw a dart to the senior receiver. However, Clemson's talented corner Bashaud Breeland had tight coverage and knocked the ball away.
Syracuse dialed up pressure time and time again to try to get to Clemson quarterback Tajh Broyld. They had some success as they finished with four sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
But the pressure also burned the Orange. Late in the third quarter, with Syracuse down 21 and trying to get back into the game, Boyd made them pay for bringing extra rushers. With Syracuse blitzing, the corners were left in man coverage on the outside with no safety help over the top. When Boyd saw Ri'Shard Anderson on Sammie Watkins.
Boyd threw the ball downfield despite Anderson being several steps ahead of Watkins. With no help for Anderson, Boyd knew he could loft the ball down the field and either Watkins would get there or it would fall incomplete. Using his next level speed, Watkins accelerated under the ball and sprinted past Anderson for a 91-yard game-clinching touchdown.
On third and nine at their own 43, Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt threw a dart over the middle to Ashton Broyld who was wide open for a first down. But the ball rattled out of Broyld's hands and hit the turf. The crowd let out a groan knowing another opportunity to get back into the game had escaped the Orange.
But that's when one of Syracuse's biggest plays occurred. On fourth and nine, Syracuse lined up to punt and give the ball back to Clemson's high-octane offense. DeVante McFarlane was the up back in the formation. The ball was snapped directly to the backup running back, and he immediately took off to the right side of the formation to run off tackle.
McFarlane ran through a hole created by Nick Robinson who crashed into the middle and Lewellyn Coker who kicked out to block a sprinting Cordrea Tankersley. That opened a gap big enough for McFarlane to explode through and get into the open field where he took it 38-yards in total all the way to the Clemson 19.
Mixed results for some of Syracuse's risk taking. They were aggressive, as underdogs need to be to pull upsets of this magnitude. While exciting, don't expect to see these as regulars in the game plans going forward.