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College football: Syracuse watches a Clemson clinic

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SYRACUSE — Tajh Boyd rudely welcomed Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference on Saturday with a scintillating, virtuoso performance.

The Clemson senior quarterback, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, certainly looked the part as he helped usher in a new era for the two-touchdown underdog Orange. Boyd passed for a school record 455 yards and a personal-best five touchdowns, completing 20 of 27 passes, as the Tigers pounded the Orange 49-14 in an ACC football game before a disappointed Homecoming Weekend crowd of 48,961 in the Carrier Dome.

Just think what Boyd could have done if he played the entire game instead of only three quarters.

Clemson (5-0 overall, 3-0 ACC) looked every bit like the third-ranked team in the country as Boyd precisely picked apart the SU defense with short- and long-range passes.

He had already accumulated 363 passing yards and four touchdowns by halftime, then tossed in a long scoring strike to Sammy Watkins at the end of the third quarter before taking a seat for good.

SU, meanwhile, couldn’t generate a consistent offense against the speedy Clemson defense. Sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt, making his second college start after two big games against Wagner and Tulane, suffered through a miserable afternoon, completing just 8 of 24 passes for a net 52 yards.

It all left the Orange feeling frustrated, but realistic about what it needs to do the rest of the season to compete in the ACC.

“That’s a great team. But they didn’t surprise us with anything they did,” said SU defensive tackle Jay Bromley. “They were exactly the same team we saw on tape. However, they made plays and we didn’t early on and we got in too big of a hole. Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes and become a better team for it.”

SU (2-3, 0-1) first-year head coach Scott Shafer said simply, “We weren’t good enough against a great team. We gave them too many plays early, and felt like we were fighting for our lives in the first few minutes. We tried just about everything to get back in it, but came up short.”

Trailing 35-7 at halftime and close to getting blown out, the Orange made a game of it for awhile in the second half.

SU scored on its first possession of the second half, on Prince Tyson-Gulley’s 28-yard run, and had two great opportunities after an interception and a fake punt that gained 29 yards.

But both times, the Orange failed to convert from deep inside Clemson territory. And Boyd made them pay, hooking up with the speedy Watkins for a crushing 91-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the third quarter to negate any SU comeback.

“I’m proud the way we kept fighting,” Shafer said. “When you get knocked down like we did the first half, the only thing you can do is get back up and play for pride. I thought for a few minutes we were one or two plays away from making it a game.”

Unfortunately for SU, Boyd made sure the Orange couldn’t mount a complete rally.

The ACC preseason Player of the Year, Boyd completed his first three passes and had the Tigers in the end zone just 38 seconds into the game with his first of two touchdown passes to a wide open Aaron Humphries covering 60 yards.

After that, it was offensive show by Clemson and a total defensive meltdown by the SU defense in the opening 30 minutes.

Boyd finished the half completing 18 of 23 passes for 363 yards. He completed three passes each to four different receivers and also threw TD passes to Martivas Bryant (40 yards) and Stanton Seckinger (17 yards).

“There is a reason they are No. 3 in the nation,” said SU linebacker Marcus Spruill. “Great players make great plays, and they have great players at a number of positions. I just think we had some miscommunication on a few of their big plays, and that really cost us.”

SU, meanwhile, had little success moving the ball the first half, gaining just 139 yards.

The lone offensive highlight for SU was a 66-yard scoring burst by Jerome Smith on the first play of the second quarter.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he was “thrilled” with the way his club reacted to the big crowd and the loud atmosphere.

“With all the Orange, it actually looked like a home game,” Swinney said. “Tajh was in complete control, like he usually is, and we always follow his lead.”

Boyd said he loves the big-game atmosphere because it makes him concentrate even harder.

“I just try to stay in my own world and not listen to the crowd,” Boyd said. “I have to give my line all the credit for giving me time, and my receivers for getting open so often. I have some of the best skill players in the country. It was just a little pitch and catch that first half, just like an off season workout.”

Shafer said the bottom line was “we had too many negatives today. The second half we saw some things they did a lot better, and that helped us play a little better defense.”

“Today was a great learning opportunity as a team and as a coaching staff,” Shafer said. “We’ll look at the tape, correct our mistakes and come back ready to go next Saturday.”

Syracuse next plays North Carolina State in a 3:30 p.m. start Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.





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