Down 2 QBs, Clem­son ral­lies past Syracuse

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - By Pete Iacobelli AP Sports Writer

CLEM­SON, S.C. — Should No. 3 Clem­son ful­fill its cham­pi­onship as­pi­ra­tions this sea­son, pre­pare to hear plenty about “The Drive.”

With new start­ing quar­ter­back Trevor Lawrence knocked out of the game, re­serve Chase Brice — who was about sixth on the depth chart last Jan­uary — guided a 94-yard, fourth-quar­ter scor­ing drive that ended with Travis Eti­enne’s 2-yard touch­down run with 41 sec­onds and gave the Tigers a 27-23 vic­tory against Syracuse on Satur­day.

“I’ll never for­get this one,” Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney said. “Some might say it’s the fifth game of the year, but it’s more than that. I saw a team that didn’t quit.”

This one was hard to for­get, both for the week Clem­son (5-0, 2-0 At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence) en­dured in go­ing from hav­ing one too many start­ing-cal­iber QBs to hav­ing none by the fourth quar­ter to the game’s dra­matic fin­ish.

Lawrence, a 6-foot-6 five-star fresh­man, sup­planted se­nior Kelly Bryant as starter. A day later, Bryant said he was trans­fer­ring and that he felt he did not get a fair shake at keep­ing the job.

Then in the sec­ond quar­ter, a shaky Lawrence took hard hit to the head, wob­bled to the side­lines and did not re­turn.

Things looked bleak for the Tigers when Eric Dungey’s sec­ond 1-yard rush­ing TD put Syracuse up 23-13 with less than 13 min­utes left. That’s when Clem­son put to­gether a pair of touch­down drives to stay un­beaten and avoid a sec­ond straight sea­son of be­ing up­set by Syracuse.

Eti­enne an­swered Dungey’s score less than two min­utes later with a 26-yard run that cut it to 23-20.

Five min­utes later, Clem­son em­barked on what might turn out to be the sea­son’s defin­ing drive.

“I think I’ll re­mem­ber that for­ever,” coof­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jeff Scott said.

That was ap­par­ent. Brice, a red­shirt fresh­man with eight ca­reer passes be­fore Satur­day, com­pleted a 20-yard pass to Tee Hig­gins on fourth-and-6 to keep the drive go­ing. Brice ran for 17 yards to get the Tigers in­side the 20. And Eti­enne car­ried it across the goal line to send Memo­rial Sta­dium into a frenzy.

“They told us some­one had to step up,” said Eti­enne, a sopho­more who had a ca­reer high 203 yards and three TDs. “We all de­cided it had to be us.”

Dungey was sacked twice by fresh­man Xavier Thomas on Syracuse’s fi­nal drive. The Or­ange (4-1, 1-1) were try­ing for their first 5-0 start since 1987. Dungey fin­ished with two rush­ing touch­downs. He was 26 of 41 pass­ing for 250 yards and an in­ter­cep­tion.

The win capped an odd week for the Tigers, who lost a pop­u­lar, charis­matic leader — and po­ten­tial safety net in Lawrence’s ab­sence — in Bryant. And now Lawrence’s sta­tus is up in the air. The crowd went silent as Lawrence lay on the turf af­ter get­ting hit hard to the head in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Swin­ney said Bryant would be wel­come back to the team if he changed his mind. A new NCAA rule al­lows play­ers to par­tic­i­pate in four games and still take a red­shirt sea­son. Bryant’s plan is to red­shirt this sea­son and trans­fer to an­other school, where he would el­i­gi­ble to play im­me­di­ately next sea­son be­cause he has al­ready grad­u­ated.

Lawrence, the for­mer five-star re­cruit, was so-so in his start­ing de­but. Lawrence fum­bled on his sec­ond snap and 10 of 15 for 93 yards. Brice en­tered right be­fore half­time and fin­ished with 83 yards pass­ing.

Clem­son right guard Sean Pol­lard, a ju­nior, said the team was dis­ap­pointed by Bryant’s de­par­ture. But Swin­ney and the coaches kept play­ers in­formed about ev­ery­thing. Whis­pers of a di­vided locker room were non­sense, Pol­lard said. “Peo­ple just don’t know any­thing about us if they thought that,” he said.

Lawrence has con­cus­sion-like symp­toms, Swin­ney said. He wanted to re­turn, but the coach told him, “‘You don’t mess with that.’”

Syracuse: The Or­ange had chances to put this one away and make it two straight vic­to­ries against Clem­son, but could not over­come the Tigers’ ta­lented de­fense in the sec­ond half.

Clem­son: The Tigers would surely love a bye week so Lawrence could heal and the play­ers could have some to ab­sorb their chaotic week. This vic­tory should help gal­va­nize the team as it goes for a fourth straight ACC crown.

Dungey said the team was up­set about its loss, but ea­ger to re­turn to work and show there’s sub­stance be­hind their 4-0 start. “We’re not go­ing to let this one get to us, al­though it hurts right now,” he said.

Clem­son an­nounced shortly be­fore kick­off two re­serves in corner­back Mark Fields and re­ceiver Cor­nell Pow­ell would not play.

Syracuse fin­ishes a two-game road swing at Pitts­burgh next Satur­day.

Clem­son heads to Wake For­est next Satur­day.

/ AP-Richard Shiro

Clem­son’s Tavien Feaster breaks out of the back­field for a first down dur­ing the sec­ond half of Satur­day’s game against Syracuse in Clem­son, S.C. Clem­son won 27-23.

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