first_imgJust as quickly as Chris Fredrick’s interception gave Syracuse the ball, it was gone. With the ball on Clemson’s 9-yard line, Tommy DeVito was flushed to his right and tried to find Abdul Adams in the end zone. Instead, he found Clemson cornerback Mario Goodrich.Three plays later, Clemson was into the end zone. On the Tigers’ ensuing drive, Syracuse took the ball away again. SU’s defense picked off Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence for the second time in the third quarter, and again returned it inside the Clemson 10-yard line. Again, Syracuse failed to score. Four plays went one yard, and the borderline-heroic efforts by the Orange defense resulted in zero points. In a game much closer than the 41-6 final score suggests, it was the Syracuse’s (1-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) defense that kept it in the game and gave SU any hope of a win in its home opener. A week after its embarrassing 63-20 loss to then-unranked Maryland, the Orange defense came out against the top-ranked Tigers (3-0, 2-0) and did yeoman’s work, picking off Lawrence twice and holding Travis Etienne to just 76 rushing yards. “I thought the defense played good enough for us to make it a game,” SU head coach Dino Babers said. “We’re a little disappointed with the point production.”Last week versus the Terrapins, the Syracuse defense looked lost throughout, unable to adjust to Maryland’s offensive schemes and mid-game adjustments. It allowed 42 points by halftime and by the fourth quarter, looked frustrated and disengaged. Against Clemson, it was exactly the opposite. Fueled by the sold-out crowd, the Orange forced the Tigers to go three-and-out on the game’s first drive. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe SU defense wasn’t on the bench for long, though, as an unfruitful first offensive possession by Syracuse ended in the same fashion. Culminating in Taj Harris’ back-breaking drop on 3rd-and-5, the Orange were forced to punt after a series that lasted just 36 seconds. After Clemson scored on the ensuing drive, SU struggled on offense again. Two rushes by Moe Neal went a combined four yards and were followed by a false start and a sack. Out jogged the Syracuse defense again. “It’s tiring,” Fredrick said about the offense’s short drives. “…Obviously you think you’re gonna be sitting down for a while. But you stay ready and you go back out.”Time after time, SU’s defense was forced to go back out onto the field after short rests. Even after it stopped Clemson on three straight possessions, including two three-and-outs. Aside from two long drives in the first half, the reigning national champions struggled to move the ball against Syracuse, which forced the Tigers into punting the ball two times during the first quarter alone. Max Freund | Staff PhotographerThe Orange even contained Etienne, who gashed them for 203 yards and three touchdowns last season. After allowing over 300 yards to Maryland running backs last week, stopping Etienne was one of the question marks for SU heading into Saturday’s game, and its defense stepped up to the challenge. He was tackled for short gains, never breaking off a run for longer than 15 yards.“We stopped the run for the most part, got them off on third down,” Fredrick said. “Things that we didn’t do last week. So those were positives.”Just like it did in the season opener, the Orange defense paced the team and kept it in the game. Set it up for scoring opportunities. Except this time, those scoring opportunities never came to fruition. When Syracuse’s offense did manage to get into Clemson territory, it failed to turn red zone trips into touchdowns. Two field goals in the second quarter gave the Orange points on the scoreboard but did little to make up for the fact that five of their other drives during the period ended after three plays. Then came the pair of second-half interceptions. First by Fredrick then by Trill Williams, the latter of which setting up Syracuse at the Clemson 3-yard line. Neither converted for touchdowns.“If the offense is not scoring, then we gotta do more,” Fredrick said. “…We gotta treat every game differently. We might have to do more than the offense some games.”After finishing third in the country in turnovers forced last season, many expected regression in the category — including Babers. But through three games this year, the Orange are averaging nearly exactly as many takeaways a game as they did last season. They’re still as potent as any defense in the country and they’re still one of the best in forcing turnovers. Against Clemson, the secondary picked off arguably the best quarterback in the nation twice. On Saturday against the Tigers, that didn’t mean anything for Syracuse. Clemson was simply the better team, and SU’s offense failed to ever get going. That’s not to say the defense’s performance meant nothing. Last week after the loss to Maryland, Babers said he thought his defense could still be one of the strengths of the team. Against the Tigers, it confirmed that.  Comments Published on September 15, 2019 at 1:49 am Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img