SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Rare is that a college football team possesses the kind of star power Clemson boasts. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Running back Travis Etienne. Wide receivers Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers.
The Tigers's biggest names might be offensive players, but coach Dabo Swinney's team is full of talent on defense, too. Saturday in the Carrier Dome, the defense stood out in the Tigers' 41-6 victory.
The win marked Clemson's 18th in a row, which is the longest streak in program history.
The Tigers led 17-6 at the half and ran away with the game in the final two quarters, thanks in big part to strong play from the defense.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence finished 22 for 39 for 395 yards and three touchdowns — in addition to 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground — but he also threw two interceptions.
He was bailed out on both occasions by the Tigers' defense, though.
Clemson was a long way from home Saturday — more than 800 miles, in fact. But after the final whistle, the Tigers met in the end zone, looking up at the pockets of Clemson fans in attendance. The players and coaches placed their arms around one another, swaying to the sound of the school fight song. The Tigers, for the 18th game in a row, were victors.
What went right
Clemson's defense deserves the highest of praise. After Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito threw for 330 yards and one touchdown last week, DeVito finished Saturday 15 for 27 for 172 yards. He was sacked eight times.
The Orange were a non-factor running the ball, racking up just 15 yards on the ground.
What went wrong
Lawrence had some big moments, including a 48-yard pass to Justyn Ross late in the third quarter. He was far from perfect, though, and his two interceptions in the third quarter come to mind.
The sophomore now has five interceptions this season after throwing four all of last year. Lawrence made enough big plays to make up for the mishaps Saturday, but he'll need to turn things around if the Tigers want to capture a second straight national title.
Clemson's regular-season schedule is fairly light the rest of the way, meaning interceptions from Lawrence probably won't decide the fate of games. But competition will increase in the postseason, and when it does, Clemson will need Lawrence to display improved decision making.
Lawrence's second interception of the third quarter was returned to the 3-yard line, and the game was still within reach for the Orange. The home team needed to act fast, though.
They trailed by 18 points but a quick touchdown would vault them back into contention with about six minutes left in the third quarter. Syracuse needed three yards.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables' unit stepped up to the challenge. The Orange called four running plays, with quarterback Tommy DeVito getting stopped on fourth down on the 2-yard-line. The Clemson sideline exploded, and the Orange players walked back to the sideline with slumped shoulders. The game was all but finished.
Clemson returns to Death Valley next Saturday to host Charlotte in a night game. The 49ers (2-1) beat UMass, 52-17, in Week 3. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.