Syracuse the only ACC team without a conference win
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse is the lone team in the Atlantic Coast Conference without a league win, yet coach Dino Babers continues to operate on an even keel.
"I don't think there's a game in the ACC we've been out of, and I'm proud of that part," Babers said Monday. "I don't think the guys have quit. Being close — some people think that's really cool, but we're not in it to be close. Everybody here wants to get a win."
Against the Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 in the country, any chance for an upset win before a sold-out Carrier Dome crowd was lost early in the third quarter with the Orange trailing 17-6. Quarterback Tommy DeVito was sacked for a 10-yard loss on a third-and-3 play from near midfield and Syracuse had to punt. After Chris Fredrick intercepted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence on the ensuing possession and returned the ball to the Clemson 9, DeVito threw a pick on the next play, the Tigers responded with a quick score and that was it.
North Carolina State built a 16-0 lead in the third quarter, then survived a late Syracuse push, escaping when time ran out on the Orange. And Pitt rushed to a 24-6 halftime lead and withstood a late surge keyed by backup quarterback Clayton Welch, a redshirt senior who is a junior college transfer getting his first extended time under center after DeVito was injured.
One common thread punctuated those losses: sacks. Clemson and N.C. State each registered eight and Pitt had nine, the most for the Panthers since 2001. On the season, Syracuse has allowed 35 sacks, the top mark in the nation, behind its injury-plagued offensive line.
"The thing that we need to do is we need to grow, and we're not growing fast enough for me," Babers said. "You have to have more than one protection. Wide receivers are not doing the things they're supposed to do. It's all spread out."
Babers hinted at possible lineup changes when the Orange visit Florida State (3-4, 2-3) on Saturday.
"More people are going to get opportunities, and what they do with those opportunities in practice will let us know whether they're going to get an opportunity (in games)," he said. "At certain positions it's really important for continuity. Now I think we're at the point where we'll break up that continuity and make sure we have the right people."
Still, Babers saw another ray of hope in the latest loss because the game could have gone the other way against a team on the rise. On Syracuse's first play from scrimmage against Pitt, DeVito threw a perfect pass over the middle to a wide-open Trishton Jackson and he dropped the ball with an open field beckoning.
"That play happened exactly the way we thought it was going to happen," Babers said. "The throw was where we thought it could be. The young man dropped it, but that's not like him. Over the long haul, his percentage is extremely good. It was unfortunate."
As was Evan Foster's drop of an interception attempt at the Pitt 21 in the second quarter, a chance at a pick-six lost when the ball bounced off his hands to the turf along the sideline.
Babers said he would find out the status of the team's injured players on Monday night. DeVito, who was hit hard in the third quarter and left the game, is listed as the starter against the Seminoles.
"If he's able to go, we're going to play him. He's our best guy," Babers said. "If not, we'll play somebody else."