Dino Babers is such a great coach he has quickly gotten Syracuse back to respectability
On October 13 back in 2017, the unbeaten Tigers rolled into the Carrier Dome ranked number two in the country. The Tigers were the defending national champs and still getting used to life after Deshaun Watson.
Kelly Bryant was the guy taking the snaps and due to its inability to consistently stretch the field, the offense had more of a ground and pound feel to it than it had in recent years, which led it to be far less dynamic.
The Saturday before, against Wake Forest, Bryant had sprained an ankle. Watching him in pregame that night, it was clear he wasn’t close to 100%. His mobility was severely impacted leading to him taking a viscous hit before halftime that led to a concussion.
It’s easy to point to the Bryant injury as to why Clemson lost that game. Sure, it played a part, but the team didn’t bring its A-Game that night. Sometimes complacency can be a great teams biggest enemy and it seemed like that at least played a role on this night.
Syracuse had a 10 play 72 yard TD drive on its opening possession and really never looked back. The Orange’s uptempo offense gave the Tiger defense fits all night long, as Eric Dungey carved out himself a place in the Syracuse history books, leading his team to the program’s biggest win since 1984.
Last season, many fans were expecting revenge. The Tigers had Syracuse coming to Death Valley. That’s not quite how it played out, however. As we all know, Clemson was fortunate to have gotten a win that day.
The game was Trevor Lawrence’s first career start. It came just days after an emotional week that saw Kelly Bryant decide to leave the team midseason and seek a transfer. Then, disaster strikes as Lawrence goes down early in the second quarter. The team had already been through an emotional rollercoaster that week and now the starting QB is injured. Again. The toll it was taking emotionally was evident as the first half unfolded.
Coming out of the locker room the Tigers trailed 16-7 and Syracuse seemed to have all the momentum. Something happened in that locker during halftime though. What it was, only the people inside know, but the team that came out of that locker room didn’t remotely resemble the same deflated one that went into it.
The defense led the way in a second half comeback that saw the Tigers score with just over two minutes left to win 27-23. Chase Brice’s laser to Tee Higgins on a 4th and 6 helped etch his name in Tiger history, similar to the way Dungey had done a year earlier.
Those two games, and the way they played out, have turned this series into more of a rivalry than it had been in the years before. This season the Tigers will make the trip back up to upstate New York in Week 3 and the game has already been scheduled as a nationally televised primetime matchup.
If there’s one thing you can bank on in recent seasons, it’s that Dabo Swinney has his team’s ready to play in Saturday night road matchups Especially the ones that are nationally televised in that primetime slot. When ESPN scheduled this one for 8pm in front of a national audience, they might as well have dug the Syracuse grave.
Not only does the Orange have to replace QB Eric Dungey, but they also have to replace three offensive lineman. Tommy Devito has seen plenty of action the past couple of seasons, but against this Tiger pass rush, it might be a long night for Dino Babers guys.
Make no mistake, Syracuse is a program on the rise and as long as they can keep Babers in place, that progression isn’t slowing anytime soon. The plain truth is, when comparing these two teams, one brings much more talent to the table. It’s also safe to assume, that team with more talent will also be bringing with it a huge chip on its shoulder. This team will arrive in Syracuse looking to do what it should’ve done last season, and that’s show the rest of the country the true pecking order in the ACC and how wide the gap truly is between the rest of the conference.
*** This is just one idiot writers opinion, and should be taken as such.