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Trevor Lawrence threw two touchdown passes and Travis Etienne ran for three scores as No. 1 Clemson shook off a sluggish performance to win its 27th straight Atlantic Coast Conference game and put away pesky Syracuse 47-21 on Saturday.
The Tigers opened 6-0 for the sixth straight season, but it took a late burst to get it done — just like usual against Syracuse (1-5, 1-4).
The Orange were the last ACC team to defeat the Tigers (5-0 ACC) with a 27-24 victory in 2017. A year later at Death Valley, Syracuse again looked primed for the upset as it held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter before Clemson's 27-23 escape to keep its national championship season intact.
Despite entering as 45-point underdogs, coach Dino Babers and Syracuse kept the Tigers out of synch much of the game and was down just 27-21 late in the third quarter.
“I don't know what it is with the Orange vs. the Orange,” Babers said.
The Syracuse Orange couldn't finish this one off, however.
Andrew Booth Jr.'s fumble recovery and touchdown run after Rex Culpepper was sacked late in the third quarter turned the game in Clemson's favor for good.
Etienne added rushing TDs of 9 and 1 yard. Lawrence threw for 289 yards with scoring passes of 25 yards to Cornell Powell and 18 yards to Davis Allen.
The Tigers broke fast for a 17-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the game. That's when things got away from the five-time defending ACC champion.
Syracuse freshman Drew Tuazama blocked a punt and four plays later Sean Tucker scored on a 7-yard run. Then right before half, Orange cornerback Garrett Williams caught a pass off Amari Rodgers' hands and took it 39 yards for a pick six.
Lawrence had gone 12 games without throwing an interception before the streak ended last week against Georgia Tech.
Syracuse made it a one-score game when Nykeim Johnson caught an 83-yard TD pass from Culpepper to draw within 27-21 — and stun the crowd of about 19,000 before Booth's defensive score got the Tigers rolling to victory.
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said the Tigers were not sharp as in last week's rout of Georgia Tech, yet still found a way to win the game — something that will serve them well going forward as they face the harder part of of the season in November and December.
“We’re not entitled to roll the ball out there and win,” Elliott said. "Nobody’s going to lay down for us.”
Syracuse: How to explain the Orange? There seemed no way Syracuse should be in position to scare the Tigers, yet it had its chances late. Babers is going to have to channel this effort the rest of the season if the Orange hope to get out of the ACC basement.
Clemson: The Tigers have one of these showings every year, it seems. A season ago, they needed a late stop to hold off a North Carolina comeback with a 21-20 victory. The two years before that, it was struggling against Syracuse. Clemson also generally finds its fire — and its way to the ACC title and College Football Playoff.
Clemson was without three defensive starters in linebacker James Skalski, tackle Tyler Davis and cornerback Derion Kendrick. Skalski and Davis were listed as unavailable before the game with injuries. Kendrick was dressed out on the sidelines and never got in. Syracuse was without leading receiver Taj Harris, left at home as discipline for using an obscene gesture at the camera in a home loss to Liberty last week.
Syracuse returns home to play Wake Forest on Saturday.
Clemson finishes a two-game homestand with Boston College on Saturday.