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Clemson storms back late to defeat Syracuse

Aralynn Minnick, Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson wide receiver Beaux Collins (80) and running back Will Shipley (1) celebrate with wide receiver Joseph Ngata (10) in the end zone against Furman. 

Overcoming an onslaught of miscues, No. 5 Clemson surged back late against No. 14 Syracuse on Saturday to come away with a 27-21 victory at Memorial Stadium. 

Entering the fourth quarter with a 21-10 deficit, Clemson (8-0) went on to score 17 unanswered points, giving the Tigers a six-point advantage with 1:33 left in the game.

After a 1-yard rushing touchdown by running back Phil Mafah, it was running back Will Shipley who gave Clemson a one-point lead on a 50-yard scamper down the right sideline. 

After the score, Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik, who replaced starting signal-caller DJ Uiagalelei at the 4:53 mark in the third quarter, connected with wide receiver Joseph Ngata for a successful two-point conversion. 

Two drives after Mafah’s score, Clemson went up six points on a 44-yard field goal by B.T. Potter. 

Trying to stop Syracuse (6-1) from scoring a game-winning touchdown, Clemson safety R.J. Mickens ultimately intercepted Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader with 15 seconds left to seal the victory. 

Mickens’ clutch play came at the end of a stout second half for Clemson, which held Syracuse to 119 total yards and forced six punts in the final 30 minutes of the game. 

Meanwhile, Shipley was the leader on offense, as he finished with 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Mafah also had his fair share of opportunities, finishing with 18 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. Clemson had 293 total rushing yards compared to Syracuse’s 124. 

Clemson’s late takeaway won the game, but it was the Tigers’ four offensive turnovers that put them down early in the first place.

At the center of those turnover issues was Uiagalelei, who had three giveaways in less than three quarters of play. 

With 9:14 left in the second quarter, Uiagalelei lost the ball on a quarterback keeper, and Syracuse defensive back Ja’Had Carter returned it 90 yards for a Syracuse defensive touchdown. 

The lost fumble was a microcosm of Uiagalelei’s plays, as he completed 62% of his passes for 138 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

Still, after the game, head coach Dabo Swinney reaffirmed that Uiagalelei remains the leader of the Tigers’ offense. 

“Sometimes Steph Curry goes 2-for-25. DJ got out of rhythm and made some bad plays. DJ is our QB,” Swinney said. “There ain’t no question about that. DJ is our guy. That’s our leader. You can write that right now. Now he’s got to play better, and he will.”

Uiagalelei acknowledged after the game that he needs to play far better than he did on Saturday. 

Luckily for him and the rest of the Tigers, Clemson will be off next week and will have plenty of time to self-correct before traveling to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish on Nov. 5. 

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