CLEMSON, S.C. – No. 5 Clemson got a big victory. And a quarterback controversy.
Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik came off the sideline in the second half as a replacement for struggling starter D.J. Uiagalelei and led Clemson on back-to-back touchdown drives Saturday for a 27-21 comeback victory against No. 14 Syracuse at Memorial Stadium.
Clemson heads into its open date with a clear lead in the Atlantic Division of the ACC with Syracuse now tied with Wake Forest with one loss. The Tigers have also beaten the Demon Deacons.
Clemson set an ACC record with its 38th consecutive home victory and reached 8-0 on its season for the ninth time.
Clemson had three turnovers in the red zone as Syracuse led 21-10 at halftime . Uiagalelei threw an interception and then had fumble that was returned 90 yards for a Syracuse touchdown. The Tigers turned it over on two of their first three possessions of the second half as well. Shipley fumbled on the first play after Clemson got the ball at the Orange 41.
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Uiagalelei’s second interception happened on the next series when the Tigers were inside the 20 again. Klubnik entered after that possession and the move seemed to light a fire in the Clemson running game.
Klubnik led an 80-yard drive where he completed just one pass. And the Tigers scored on just two run on the next series with Shipley running 50 yards for the TD. On the two-point conversion to make it a 24-21 lead, Klubnik escaped a sack and found Joseph Ngata in the back of the end zone.
Shipley finished with 172 yards with two touchdowns and Phil Mafah had 94 yards as the Tigers ran for 292 yards on the day.
Clemson’s defense talked all week about the need to stop Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader from running, but the Tigers did little to stop him in the first half. He had nine carries for 67 yards and a touchdown while completing 9 of 11 passes for another TD. Some of the runs were decisions made in the pocket. The Tigers said they were ready for that, but it didn’t seem they had a spy on him.
The second half was much better as the Orange failed to score and the defense clinched the victory when R.J. Mickens intercepted Schrader in the final minutes.
The Tigers are now on the verge of wrapping up a berth in the ACC title game when it returns to ACC action Nov. 12 against Louisville. They play Notre Dame the week prior. Clemson could also secure the division title if both Wake Forest and Syracuse lose before that game against the Cardinals.