SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Eric Dungey threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns, Cole Murphy kicked a tiebreaking field goal in the fourth quarter, and Syracuse stunned No. 2 Clemson 27-24 on Friday night to put a damper on the Tigers’ chances to repeat as national champions.
Clemson (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) had won 12 consecutive games on the opponent’s home field, the longest streak in Clemson history and tied for the second longest active streak in the nation. Clemson also had won 11 consecutive games overall, the longest active winning streak in the nation, and 12 straight away from home against ACC teams. Clemson lost its last road game of 2014 at Georgia Tech.
“We had opportunities. We didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They did. This is going to hurt, but you move forward.”
The Orange (4-3, 2-1) are 3-6 against the previous year’s national champion, also beating Penn State in 1987 and Michigan in 1998.
Clemson won the title last year despite a loss to Pittsburgh. That was not lost on the Tigers.
“Every goal is there for this team,” Swinney said. “We’ve got to get better from this, have the type of season we want to have.”
The Tigers took a big blow when quarterback Kelly Bryant suffered an apparent concussion in the final minute of the first half. He was knocked down hard by defensive tackle Chris Slayton and lay on the turf for a couple of minutes before being helped to the locker room. Slowed after spraining his left ankle last week against Wake Forest, Bryant passed for 116 yards and ran for minus-8 yards.
Clemson has a bye week to heal and correct its mistakes.
“I’m sure they’ll still have an opportunity to play for the national championship,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “They’re a national championship team. They’re going to be fine.”
Bryant, who watched the second half from the sideline, entered the game averaging 277 yards of total offense, but noticeably favored an injured ankle as Syracuse gained a surprising 17-14 halftime lead.
Zerrick Cooper replaced Bryant to start the second half and guided the Tigers to a tying field goal.
The Tigers tried a trick play with time winding down, but Will Spiers threw an incompletion on a fake punt.
Dungey hit Dontae Strickland for a 23-yard score to open the game and also hit Ervin Philips for 66 yards in the first quarter and Steve Ishmael for 30 in the third to break a 17-17 tie.
Syracuse used big plays to stun the Tigers, hitting six of 20 yards or more as the Orange outgained Clemson 440-317. And the Orange defense limited the Tigers to 2 of 11 on third down, none more critical than Cooper’s overthrow on third down before the fake.
The Orange responded quickly as the Carrier Dome crowd rocked the building with raucous cheers of `Let’s Go Orange!’ Dungey raced 45 yards down the left side and hit Ishmael on the next play for a 30-yard scoring pass.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers scored in 56 seconds on Travis Etienne’s 52-yard run to tie it at 24.
The Orange defense took a page out of Clemson’s playbook. The Tigers were among just three teams in the nation averaging at least 230 yards rushing and 230 yards passing (Ohio State and Oregon are the others). The Tigers managed just 39 yards rushing in the first half and 113 total.
“They came ready to play,” Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell said. “They came out, they saw blood, they saw they had a definite chance to win the game and we just didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had to make a comeback.”
The Tigers scored in just 67 seconds on their first possession, with Tavien Feaster capping a three-play drive with a 37-yard run untouched up the middle of the Orange defense. But the Orange defense arose to the occasion from that point on.
In Clemson’s first six games, no team had scored more than seven points against the Tigers through three periods. Opponents were averaging 4.3 points, 9.7 first downs, 71 yards rushing, 105 passing yards and 176 yards in total offense through three quarters. Syracuse had eight first downs and 152 yards in the first quarter alone, 100 through the air and outgained the Tigers 270-155 in the first half.
The Clemson defense finally asserted itself midway through the second quarter, forcing a fumble by Strickland that Tanner Muse scooped up and raced 63 yards untouched down the right side to tie it at 14-14.
Clemson: If the Tigers hope to keep in the hunt for the playoffs, either Cooper or freshman Hunter Johnson will have to assume the load at quarterback if Bryant has to sit. Clemson also needs to find some consistency in the kicking game. Alex Spence missed a 35-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 38-yarder in the third and is 2 of 6 since taking over for injured Greg Huegel.
Syracuse: The Orange once again proved that they can play with the big boys. Syracuse upset No. 17 Virginia Tech last October. Dungey needs to stay healthy, though. He had to sit out a play in the second quarter after a hard hit near the goal line and the Orange had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Murphy.
Syracuse was twice pinned inside its own 10 by punts in the first half. The Orange escaped the first time when Christian Wilkins was called for roughing the passer on a third-down play and Dungey rescued them the second with consecutive completions of 20 yards to tight end Ravian Pierce and 15 yards to Jamal Custis.
Clemson: The Tigers have a bye before facing Georgia Tech at home.
Syracuse: The Orange travel to face No. 11 Miami.