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Why Syracuse has been such a tough place for Clemson to play

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence: ‘I’m not going to play perfect’ and that’s OK

Clemson football quarterback Trevor Lawrence discusses his play during the 2019 season.
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Clemson football quarterback Trevor Lawrence discusses his play during the 2019 season.

Clemson’s last trip to Syracuse was a memorable one — for all of the wrong reasons.

The Tigers suffered a stunning 27-24 loss in the Carrier Dome in 2017, ending their 11-game winning streak. Clemson appeared caught off guard the entire night as the Orange piled up 440 yards and 28 first downs against Brent Venables’ defense.

But what surprised then-freshman receiver Amari Rodgers the most was the crowd noise.

“What I remember is they had an awesome environment,” Rodgers said. “It was really better than we expected it to be.”

The crowd should be even better for this weekend’s matchup, particularly if Syracuse can build some early momentum.

The Orange are expecting their first sellout crowd in more than two decades this weekend against Clemson.

“I think they’re expecting one of the biggest crowds they’ve had in a long time. I think that’s exciting,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s a night game. I think it’s ABC. We’ve got a national audience. Everybody wants to put their best foot forward, and that includes the fans. The fans will show up and they’ll do an awesome job there. They always do.”

Clemson didn’t just struggle in the Carrier Dome its last trip to Syracuse.

The Tigers had to hold on for a 37-27 victory against Syracuse in 2015. Clemson turned the ball over three times in that game against an Orange team that finished the season 4-8 (2-6).

“It’s a confined space, so there’s just an echo, if you will,” Swinney said. “There’s nowhere for the noise to go, so it stays in there. You let them get it going in there it’ll get rocking. They do a nice job up there.”

Slowing it down

Syracuse has given Clemson some problems with its tempo in the past, but the Orange are playing at a slower pace with new starting quarterback Tommy DeVito.

Syracuse is averaging less than 75 snaps per game this season after averaging 82 in 2018.

Swinney does not expect the speed of Syracuse’s offense to cause the Tigers problems this year.

“We’re a tempo offense too, so we practice that way every day... the first couple of games they’ve really slowed it down more than they’ve tempoed,” Swinney siad. “They’ve looked to the sideline a lot and just kind of picked their spots. They have some fire plays where they go really fast. But they have not been lightning quick. They play fast. They play with tempo. But very similar to what we do.”

Kendrick proves himself

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for Clemson against Texas A&M was the play of sophomore cornerback Derion Kendrick.

In his first real test against a passing team after switching from receiver to defense in the spring, Kendrick excelled against a veteran group of Texas A&M receivers. The Aggies went at Kendrick early and often but did not have much success.

“He was well-positioned, poised, physical, played with good technique for the most part... I mean he’s got some swag. He brings energy. He’s a confident player and knows he can play the game,” Swinney said. “He likes practice. He’s always talking at practice. It’s not disrespectful, he’s just got a swag to him. And he has mental toughness and is not affected by a play.

“That’s a key ingredient to being a corner. He’s thirsty for knowledge and likes to be coached. He’s an easy guy to coach because he’s a worker. I love DK, he’s a lot of fun.”

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