Top-ranked Clemson avoids letdown at pesky Syracuse

clemfoot-cuseA wild first five minutes set the tone for a back and forth affair inside the Carrier Dome, but at the end of the day Clemson emerged victorious over Syracuse by a score of 37-27. The win moved the No. 1 Tigers to 10-0 on the season, giving the program their fifth consecutive 10-win season. Clemson will have a chance to go undefeated in ACC play next week against Wake Forest.

Deshaun Watson was once again brilliant for the Tigers, accounting for a career-high 461 yards of total offense. The sophomore signal-caller threw for 360 and rushed for 101, while tossing two touchdowns and adding a third on the ground. His favorite target was Charone Peake, who had a career-high 120 yards through the air and tied another with seven grabs.

Clemson got off to a fast start on the first play from scrimmage, when Watson unleashed a 64-yard strike to Peake. That put the Tigers inside the 10-yard-line of the Orange, and Gallman dashed in on the next play to open the scoring. Watson made it 14-0 with a quarterback keeper on a zone read following a Syracuse fumble on its first play.

A pair of fumbles erased the good vibes, as Syracuse knotted the game at 14 apiece late in the opening quarter. But Watson settled the Tigers again, throwing beautiful touchdowns to Peake and freshman Deon Cain to help Clemson push ahead 31-17 at halftime.

The Orange closed the gap even further, trailing just 31-24 after the third quarter. With the crowd at a fever pitch, Clemson faced fourth-and-two on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Wayne Gallman took a pitch and ran 14 yards to the left for a first down, setting up the second of Greg Huegel’s three field goals Saturday. The freshman kicker is a perfect 15-15 in ACC games for the Tigers.

Clemson ran out the clock over the final 5:57 of the game, cementing the team’s 19th win over a 20-game stretch dating to last season.

The Tigers return to Memorial Stadium next weekend to close out the home portion of the schedule. Clemson takes on Wake Forest at 3:30 p.m. The game has been designated as Military Appreciation Day.

– Photo courtesy of CU Athletics

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