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McPherson ceremony a bright spot for Orange

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SYRACUSE — Don McPherson had his Syracuse University football jersey No. 9 retired Saturday.

Unfortunately, that halftime ceremony was about all the near sellout crowd at the Carrier Dome had to cheer about as McPherson’s alma mater suffered a 49-14 loss to Clemson in its Atlantic Coast Conference debut.

Although disappointed in the Orange effort, McPherson said the honor bestowed on him made the day a little more tolerable.

“We didn’t get the job done today, but that’s a great team over there,’’ McPherson said. “I still think this program is going in the right direction, and that coach (Scott) Shafer is the man to guide us back to national status.’’

McPherson set 22 school records and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy to Notre Dame’s Tim Brown after leading the Orange to an 11-0-1 season in 1987.

He led the nation in passing that season and won numerous player of the year awards in a spectacular senior season.

McPherson said the memories of that season are still fresh in his mind although it’s been 26 years since he has worn an Orange uniform.

“They’ll stay with me forever, no matter what,’’ said McPherson, who does TV commentary, motivational speaking and runs his own foundation for underprivileged children. “Syracuse gave me everything I have today, and there’s no way I can ever repay my gratitude.’’

SHAFER GETS HOT

With Clemson leading 35-7 and the clock winding down to halftime, coach Dabo Swinney eschewed a sure field goal and instead went for it on fourth down from inside the Syracuse 10-yard line.

That didn’t sit too well with SU coach Scott Shafer. He was seen on the ABC feed yelling something at Swinney as they ran off the field.

Shafer said later it was just his frustration spilling over, nothing more. “I said a few things I shouldn’t have because I got caught up in the heat of the moment,’’ he said. “I need to downstream myself when those things are about to happen.’’

Shafer said he had “the utmost respect for coach Swinney and his program. He’s a competitor just like me, and I probably would have done the same thing the way they were beating our defense.’’

Swinney said he wasn’t sure what Shafer said, but that it was no big deal. “I coach my team like I need to, and so does Scott,’’ Swinney said.

CROWD INTO IT

The announced crowd of 48,961 was just 300 fans short of an official sellout. It was the largest crowd in the Dome since the Orange hosted Miami on Nov. 18, 2000, when 49,327 attended.

Shafer said he was never prouder than when he came out of the tunnel and saw the enthusiasm in the stands.

“We asked the crowd to be the 12th man, and they certainly tried,’’ Shafer said. “The fans did a better job than we did, and we owe them more.’’

TIDBITS

n Clemson is the 11th team ranked in the top five in the AP poll to visit the Carrier Dome since it opened in 1980. And the highest ranked team to come here since No. 1 Miami visited Central New York during the 2002 season.

n SU’s loss snapped a three-game winning streak against ranked opponents. SU defeated No. 10/11 Louisville last November, No. 11/14 West Virgiinia in 2011, and No. 25 Rutgers in 2010.

n SU’s 323 rushing yards was a season high. Jerome Smith finished with a team- and season-high 125 yards.

n Julian Whigham’s interception of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in the second quarter ended Boyd’s streak of 187 consecutive passes without throwing a pick.

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