Clemson holds off Syracuse 17-14 when late FG misses

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – DJ Uiagalelei passed for 181 yards and one touchdown, Kobe Pace rushed for 76 yards and another score, and Clemson held off Syracuse 17-14 on Friday night.

Clemson (4-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), coming off a bye week, played its first game as a team not ranked by the AP since Nov. 22, 2014, a 28-0 win against Georgia State, and held on for the victory after Syracuse place-kicker Andre Szymt missed a 48-yard field goal attempt with 38 seconds left.

Syracuse (3-4, 0-3) came into the game off two ACC losses decided on the final play of each game, and that seemed a possibility again on a night Orange tailback Sean Tucker continued his amazing season with 157 yards rushing on 22 carries.

Clemson had only surrendered five offensive touchdowns this season, the second fewest in the country. Syracuse got one in the second quarter and a stunner midway through the fourth when Garrett Shrader hit Trebor Pena for a 62-yard score just over two minutes after B.T. Potter‘s 40-yard field goal had given the Tigers a seemingly insurmountable 17-7 lead.

Uiagalelei, who finished 21 of 34 passing, guided Clemson on a 13-play, 58-yard scoring drive that broke a 7-7 tie with time winding down in the second quarter. He keyed the drive with three pretty completions – a 17-yarder to Davis Allen on a fourth-and-5 play, an 11-yarder on the left side to Ajou Ajou to the Syracuse 13, and a 6-yarder over the middle to Justyn Ross to set up Kobe Pace’s 2-yard touchdown run with nine seconds left for a 14-7 lead,

Clemson took a 7-0 lead six minutes into the second quarter helped by a personal foul called against Syracuse linebacker Mikel Jones. Uiagalelei tacked on a 10-yard run, then hit Joseph Ngata in the right corner of the end zone. Ngata caught the ball falling backwards with one foot inside the line.

Syracuse tied it at 7-all just over three minutes later behind Tucker, who burst through a big hole and sprinted down the left side before being brought down at the 2 after a 39-yard gain. At that point, Clemson had run 23 plays for 95 yards and Tucker had nine carries for 126. Shrader scored untouched on the next play, just the second rushing touchdown allowed this season by the Tigers.

Tucker entered the game ranked second nationally with 791 rushing yards, second with 131.8 yards per game and was the national leader in all-purpose yards (165.83). He needs 52 yards to reach 1,000. The last Syracuse tailback to reach the 1,000-yard mark was Jerome Smith, who ran for 1,254 yards in 2012.

WASTED RUN

Syracuse squandered the only scoring threat in the first quarter after Tucker broke a 54-yard run down the right side to the Clemson 19. After Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called a timeout, Shrader was intercepted by Tyler Venables just inside the 10-yard line on the next play. It was the only turnover of the game.

RECORD FALLS

Szymt became the program’s all-time leading scorer with his extra point after the Orange’s first touchdown. It gave him 335 points, one more than Nate Trout’s mark, set in 1999.

HONORING FLOYD

Pro Football Hall of Famer Floyd Little, one of Syracuse’s greatest tailbacks, was honored at halftime as part of Floyd Little Life and Legacy Day. Little was a three-time All-American in the mid-1960s and went on to play nine seasons for the Denver Broncos. He died on New Year’s Day of cancer.

MILESTONE

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney coached his 179th career game in the ACC, passing Al Groh (Virginia and Wake Forest) for fourth all-time in the conference.

THE TAKEAWAY

Clemson: The Tigers entered the game just outside the AP Top 25 with the 27th most votes. They must jump No. 16 Wake Forest and No. 22 North Carolina State, both undefeated in ACC play, if they hope to try for a seventh straight league championship. To do that, the offense will have to get better. The Tigers entered the game averaging just over 21 points.

Syracuse: Tucker again proved that he’s a special back and Shrader got hot late but still finished only 17 of 37 for 191 yards passing. Shrader only rushed for six yards on seven carries after putting up monster numbers the previous two games (178, 137). The Orange could do nothing offensively on a third-quarter possession that started near midfield and scored on big plays, not sustained drives.

UP NEXT

Clemson travels to Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.

Syracuse is at Virginia Tech on Oct. 23.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.