SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Scott Shafer is already making friends in his first year as a head coach, and Syracuse’s first year in the ACC.
Clemson opted to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Syracuse 5 with a 35-7 lead. When quarterback Tajh Boyd was sacked by star defensive tackle Jay Bromley, Shafer was caught on camera yelling an expletive directed at Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
The fiery Shafer addressed the incident in his opening statement, thanking the boisterous Carrier Dome crowd for their noise in the Orange’s opening ACC affair and then offering remorse for his outburst.
“Anybody who knows me knows I’m extremely emotional — sometimes over the top,” Shafer said. “I said a few things out there today that I feel bad about, I really do. In the heat of the moment, they’re the same things I said on the basketball court or the football field when I was a kid playing, but I’m an adult now and I need to constrain myself a little bit better.”
There was no altercation at the postgame handshake.
“He was great after the game,” Swinney reported, who called it a “risk-reward” proposition to go for the touchdown instead of taking three points for a 31-point lead.
“Were we supposed to take a knee? We’ve got a whole lot of football left, and anything can happen,” Swinney said. “You saw in the third quarter when they had momentum there; there’s nothing less important than the score at halftime.
“A game is never over until the last second ticks. So I’m not taking knees in the second quarter.”
Shafer indicated he didn’t hold a grudge for Swinney’s decision.
“I think it’s OK because it’s all within the rules, and Dabo is a competitor and he wanted to do a good job on that play,” Shafer said. “I just felt bad that I was a little over the top there, yelling across the field. He’s competitive, I’m competitive and I’ve got all the respect in the world for him, and I hope he still feels good from his side of the fence.”
Syracuse had only allowed four sacks in its first four games. Clemson had four Saturday, including two more for junior defensive end Vic Beasley, who had two other tackles for loss despite a quiet first half.
“Vic is one of those guys you’ve got to deal with for four quarters, not just two quarters,” Swinney said. “He impacts the game with his speed and ability to chase people down.”
The Tigers had four interceptions for the first time in four years. Senior cornerback Darius Robinson said his two-pick day was his first since middle school.
Bashaud Breeland also picked off starter Terrel Hunt, and freshman Jayron Kearse had his first career pick in the final minute against backup Drew Allen.
For the first time since 2000, four consecutive Clemson opponents have been held to 14 points or less.
“I tell you, it’s a great feeling to know you don’t have to score every time, that you can play some field position, because our defense is hard to go the distance against,” Swinney said.
The Orange made three trips to the red zone, and came away with zero points.
“They can be on the ten, on the five, on the one,” Robinson said. “It’s our job as the defense to keep them out of the end zone.”
Clemson junior wide receiver Adam Humphries was hot early, catching three balls for 116 yards (his personal best) and two scores in the first quarter alone.
Humphries squirted behind the secondary for a 60-yard score 38 seconds into the game, the second straight week Clemson scored on a deep passing play on the third snap of the game. Sammy Watkins did the deed against Wake Forest to spark a 56-7 victory.
Watkins finished with four catches for 126 yards, giving the Tigers two 100-yard receivers for the fifth time in school history.
Sophomore tailback Zac Brooks had Clemson’s first rushing touchdown from a yard out, and was the team’s leading rusher with 46 yards on nine carries. Walk-on C.J. Davidson’s 2-yarder completed the scoring with 3:56 remaining.
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant was found wide open for a 40-yard touchdown, and tight end Stanton Seckinger also had a 17-yard scoring grab.
“I felt like I dropped two dimes today,” Boyd said. “The one to Stanton, and then that one (to Watkins for 91 yards.) That one, I give all the credit to Sammy right there; I haven’t seen a guy hit a second gear like that in a long time.”
Strong safety Travis Blanks left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury, but team trainers indicated his major ligaments were intact. Swinney said he was “likely” to play next week.
Freshman special-teamer Ben Boulware hyperextended his knee in the third quarter. Left guard Kalon Davis got the start, but left with a pulled groin.