Clemson’s Football History vs. Syracuse

Editor’s Note: This is part of an All Clemson series of stories, which breaks down Clemson Football’s history against its 10 Power 5 Conference opponents for the 2023 season. In each story, All Clemson Tigers will recap a Memorable Game, Memorable Play, Significant Win, Significant Loss, Did You Know, Top Individual Performances, as well as detailed facts from the series’ history.

Clemson and Syracuse will meet for just the 12th time when the Tigers head to Syracuse, N.Y. to battle the Orange on Sept. 30. It is not an old series, in fact the two met just once prior to Syracuse joining the ACC in 2013.

Clemson has owned the series to this point, and likely will be the favorite heading into the 2023 matchup. Though the Orange is usually tough at home, the Tigers own a 4-1 record in the Dome, including three double-digit wins.

Memorable Game: With Kelly Bryant watching from his couch at home and Trevor Lawrence knocked out of the game, Clemson was forced to rely on third-string quarterback Chase Brice to lead them back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit against Syracuse in the 2018 meeting. Luckily for Brice and the Tigers, they still had Travis Etienne. The Clemson running back rushed for 203 yards and scored three touchdowns, including a 2-yard run with 41 seconds to play, lifting No. 3 Clemson to a 27-23 come-from-behind win. After being demoted to second string quarterback, Bryant left the Clemson team prior to practice that Monday. Lawrence, making his first career start, was knocked out of the game early in the second quarter after he took a hard hit to the head. Syracuse’s Eric Dungey scored on a 1-yard run with less than 13 minutes to play, giving the Orange a 23-13 lead. But Etienne answered Dungey’s touchdown two minutes later with a 26-yard run to cut the Syracuse lead to 23-20. After getting a stop, Brice hit Tee Higgins for 20 yards on a fourth-and-six play to keep the drive going, and then ran off the right side for a 17-yard gain that placed the football inside the 20-yard line. From there Etienne and the offensive line took over as he rumbled in from two yards out to keep Clemson’s undefeated season alive. This game marked the last time anyone came within three scores of beating the Tigers the rest of the season.  

Memorable Play: Facing fourth down-and-six from his own 48-yard line, late in the game, Chase Brice hit Tee Higgins for a 20-yard gain near the Clemson sideline to keep the game-winning drive alive in Clemson’s 27-23 victory over Syracuse. The fourth-and-six play may not be remembered as well as Tajh Boyd’s to DeAndre Hopkins’ 26-yard gain on the famous 4th-and-16 play. However, considering the Tigers went on to become the first team in major college football to go 15-0, it should be. Brice will forever live in Clemson lore thanks to this play, which kept the Tigers’ undefeated season alive.

Significant Win: The 2022 meeting was the only time in the history of the series in which both Clemson and Syracuse were ranked heading into the game. The Tigers came in with a 7-0 record and No. 5 ranking, while the Orange was 6-0 and ranked No. 14. Trailing 21-10, Clemson turned to freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik, who came off the bench to lead the Tigers to 17-fourth quarter points. Klubnik was inserted into the game after starter DJ Uiagalelei struggled with two interceptions and a fumble, which Syracuse returned 90 yards for a 21-7 lead in the second quarter. Klubnik led the Tigers on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that Phil Mafah capped with a 1-yard touchdown. Then on Clemson’s next drive, running back Will Shipley scampered 50 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and a 22-21 lead. Klubnik found Joseph Ngata in the back of the end zone for a successful two-point conversion and a 24-21 advantage with 11:26 to go. B.T. Potter added a 44-yard field goal with 1:33 to play and R.J. Mickens picked off a Garrett Shrader pass with 32 seconds left inside the Clemson 20 to seal the victory. Shipley finished the afternoon with 172 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. The Clemson defense held the Orange to 119 total yards and out of the end zone in the second half. The Tigers went on to win the ACC for the seventh time in eight years, while the Orange lost six of their final seven games.

Significant Loss: Clemson came into the 1996 Gator Bowl on the heels of a five-game win streak to close the 1995 regular season. But on a rain-soaked afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla., the Tigers had their worst performance in a bowl game to that point. Led by future NFL star Donovan McNabb, the Orange blew out Clemson, 41-0. McNabb completed 13-of-23 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, while future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison caught seven passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The Syracuse defense held Clemson to less than 200 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers. The Orange finished the season 9-3 and ranked in the final polls, while Clemson completed an 8-4 mark and fell out of the final top 25 rankings.

Did You Know? The 2022 meeting was the first meeting in the 81-year history of Memorial Stadium that both teams came into a game with a 6-0 or better record. The Tigers were 7-0, while Syracuse was 6-0.

Series Record: Clemson leads 9-2

Games played at Clemson: Clemson leads 5-0

Games played at Syracuse: Clemson leads 4-1

Neutral Site Games: Syracuse leads 1-0

First Meeting: Syracuse won 41-0 in the 1996 Gator Bowl

Last Meeting: Clemson won 27-21 in 2022, at Clemson

First Meeting as ACC opponents: Clemson won 49-14 in 2013, at Syracuse

First Clemson win in the series: Clemson won 49-14 in 2013, at Syracuse

Last Game at Syracuse: Clemson won 17-14, 2021

Last Syracuse win: 2017, 27-24 at Syracuse

Last Syracuse win at Clemson: N/A

Current win streak: Clemson has won five straight

Longest win streak in the series: Clemson’s current five-game win streak

Clemson’s longest win streak: Clemson’s current five-game win streak

Other series facts: Clemson has won nine of 10 meetings since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013. The Tigers had won four in a row by at least double digits before Syracuse ended the streak with a 27-24 Friday night win over the Tigers at Syracuse in 2017… The 2021 meeting marked the first contest between the two programs in which Clemson was not ranked in the AP Top 25…

Clemson’s Top Individual Performances vs. Syracuse

Quarterback: Tajh Boyd – 20-of-27 for 455 yards and 5 TDs, 2013 (Clemson won 49-14)

Running back: Travis Etienne – 27 carries for 203 yards and 3 TDs, 2018 (Clemson won 27-23)

Receiver: Tee Higgins – seven catches for 150 yards, 2019 (Clemson won 41-6)

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