© Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers Hang On For Win

Come from behind victory over Syracuse

September 29, 2018 - 3:56 pm
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — With new starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence knocked out of the game, No. 3 Clemson rallied behind Travis Etienne, who ran for 2-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 27-23 victory over Syracuse on Saturday.

Etienne finished with three TDs and a career-high 203 yards rushing to bail out the quarterback-depleted Tigers (5-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who went from having one too many starting-caliber QBs earlier in the week to not enough by the second half against the Orange (4-1, 1-1).

Lawrence left his first career start late in the second quarter with a possible concussion. Lawrence was promoted to starter earlier in the week by coach Dabo Swinney and that prompted senior Kelly Bryant, who had started the first four games and led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff last year, to leave the team.

That left one-time third-stringer Chase Brice to lead the comeback — and it looked bleak when Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey bulled his way in for a 1-yard score with 12:58 remaining to make it 23-13.

Etienne's 26-yard touchdown run with 11:08 to go drew Clemson within a field goal and Brice, a redshirt freshman with just eight career passes, directed a 94-yard scoring drive that included a 20-yard completion on fourth-and-6 to keep things going.

When Etienne went in for the go-ahead score, most of the 80,122 at Memorial Stadium erupted in celebration after fretting most of the contest.

Dungey was sacked twice by freshman Xavier Thomas on Syracuse's final drive. The Orange were trying for their first 5-0 start since 1987. Dungey finished with two rushing touchdowns. He was 26 of 41 passing for 250 yards and an interception.

The win capped an odd week for the Tigers, who lost a popular, charismatic leader — and potential safety net in Lawrence's absence — in Bryant. And now Lawrence's status is up in the air. The crowd went silent as Lawrence lay on the turf after getting hit hard to the head in the second quarter.

Swinney said Bryant would be welcome back to the team if he changed his mind. A new NCAA rule allows players to participate in four games and still take a redshirt season. Bryant's plan is to redshirt this season and transfer to another school, where he would eligible to play immediately next season because he has already graduated.

Lawrence, the former five-star recruit, was so-so in his starting debut. Lawrence fumbled on his second snap and was off target much of his time in. He was 10 of 15 for 93 yards. Brice entered right before halftime and ended with 83 yards passing.

THE TAKEAWAY

Syracuse: The Orange had chances to put this one away and make it two straight victories against Clemson, but could not overcome the Tigers' talented defense in the second half.

Clemson: The Tigers would surely love a bye week so Lawrence could heal and the players could have some to absorb their chaotic week. This victory should help galvanize the team as it goes for a fourth straight ACC crown.

MISSING TIGERS

Clemson announced shortly before kickoff two reserves in cornerback Mark Fields and receiver Cornell Powell would not play.

UP NEXT

Syracuse finishes a two-game road swing at Pittsburgh next Saturday.

Clemson heads to Wake Forest next Saturday.

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