No. 21 Clemson, Stoudt outlast Syracuse 16-6
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has little choice but to swallow hard and get used to wins like by these by the 21st-ranked Tigers.
Clemson managed one offensive touchdown for the second time in three games, yet outlasted Syracuse 16-6 behind three field goals and another stellar performance by the country’s fifth-best defense.
”I guess it’s kind of business as usual the last few weeks,” Morris said. ”Find a way to win, find a way to get it done.”
The Tigers had gotten things done the previous two years with a high-powered, quick-strike attack that averaged more than 500 yards and 40 points a game – and built Morris’ reputation as an offensive guru.
Things haven’t played out that way for the Tigers (6-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) the past three games. Clemson’s offense was bailed out by its defense that held Syracuse (3-5, 1-3) to 170 yards and rattled true freshman quarterback AJ Long all night.
”There’s no frustration. There’s nothing to be frustrated about,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. ”We know what our job is and we want to do it in all situations.”
Clemson took the lead for good on Ammon Lakip’s third field goal – a 41-yarder in the third quarter. Cole Stoudt threw a 19-yard TD pass to tight end Stanton Seckinger. Then the Tigers put the game away, holding the ball for the final 8:17 to close out a 5-0 October after their first 1-2 start in 10 years.
”We keep finding ways,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. ”This is a battle-tested group. They’re tough minded.”
Stoudt finished for 24 of 35 for 209 yards. He also had three of Clemson’s four turnovers – two interceptions and a fumble – after it came in with just six turnovers its first seven games.
”Hey, a win’s a win,” Stoudt said. ”There were some mistakes here and there, especially in the first half. In the locker room, we got challenged and we came out in the second half and made some plays.”
Stoudt was starting a second straight game for injured quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Lakip had kicks of 38, 18 and 41 yards.
Wayne Gallman finished with 101 yards, the first time a running back has cracked the 100-yard mark this season for the Tigers.
Stoudt hung tough in a Clemson victory for the second straight time after trailing in the second half. A week ago, Boston College led 13-10 before Stoudt led a touchdown drive for the 17-13 win.
This time, he fought through a difficult three quarters before finally finding his footing. After Clemson moved in front on Lakip’s final kick, Stoudt had a 17-yard pass to Mike Williams that move the Tigers to Syracuse 23. Two plays later, he found Seckinger.
Clemson iced the game with a final drive that lasted more than eight minutes to run out the clock.
”Mistakes happen. That’s football,” he said. ”I have a mentality of `Hey, let’s go on to the next play.’ You can’t really do anything about the past.”
Syracuse freshman AJ Long, making his second career start, was sacked four times and held to 82 yards passing. Prince-Tyson Gulley ran for 80 yards, accounting for most of the rest of Syracuse’s offense.
Syracuse has lost five of its past six games.
”I liked our toughness and resiliency throughout the course of a very difficult, physical football game,” Orange coach Scott Shafer said.
This time, though, Clemson’s offense continued its freefall without injured quarterback starter Watson. The Tigers, who averaged better than 500 yards a game, the previous two seasons, managed just 157 in the opening half and gave the ball away with two fumbles and an interception.
Two of the turnovers led to Syracuse points.
Cornerback Brandon Reddish picked off Stoudt’s pass with the Tigers in Syracuse territory. The Orange turned that mistake into Cole Murphy’s 43-yard field goal.
Clemson was driving inside the Syracuse 10 right before halftime when C.J. Davidson mishandled a pitch from Stoudt and Syracuse defensive end Robert Welsh recovered.
Clemson got the ball back one final time with 1:22 left when linebacker Dyshawn Davis stripped Stoudt of the ball on the Tigers 22. While Clemson’s defense pushed the Orange back, Murphy added a career-long 50-yard field goal – Syracuse’s longest kick in six years – for a 6-3 halftime lead.
The Tigers have only one less productive half, points-wise, in offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ four seasons than they did against Syracuse – when they were shutout the second half of a 45-21 loss at Georgia on Aug. 30.
”This is a group that could use a week off,” said Morris, Clemson’s coordinator.
The Tigers have next week free before facing Wake Forest on Nov. 6