CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson coach Dabo Swinney understands this won’t be the usual run-of-the-mill road trip when the third-ranked Tigers head to Syracuse for the first time.
Swinney said he’ll change his team’s typical road protocol Friday and do a brief walk-through at the Carrier Dome when the team arrives in upstate New York. On Saturday, Swinney expects it to be business as usual for the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Clemson is looking for its second 5-0 start in the last three years.
“Hey, we ask for solid orange,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said, referring to a school slogan. “We’re going to get it when we get up there.”
Boyd and the Tigers might not like what they see once they arrive. Syracuse (2-2) has won two straight and will make its ACC football debut in what’s expected to be a jam-packed dome.
Plus, Syracuse has gotten the better of heralded quarterbacks like Boyd in recent years. The Orange beat Geno Smith and then 11th-ranked West Virginia 49-23 at the dome in 2011. Last year, Syracuse pulled off a 45-26 upset of Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville, also ranked 11th at the time.
Syracuse running back Jerome Smith said the team can’t wait to get this game started.
“Everybody is ready to go,” Smith said. “We’re excited to bring them here. It’s the first ACC game. Bring them in here.”
Swinney said the players will need to have to put the different locale behind them long before kickoff. The Tigers have done well in domes – they defeated Auburn and LSU at the Georgia Dome last season – and got acclimated to Syracuse’s stuffy, non-air-conditioned confines through intense workouts at Clemson’s indoor practice facility which opened last winter.
“Every time you play, it’s huge and it shouldn’t matter where that’s at,” Swinney said.
Still, the coach knows it’ll take a little more time than usual to come down from the experience and jump into routine.
“I think our guys will be excited about it because it’s a new place,” Swinney said. “I’ve never been there.”
And a few Tigers might a geography lesson before takeoff. Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas thought the New York Giants shared the dome with Syracuse, which is about a four-hour drive north of the NFL team’s MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
“I’ve only been north of West Virginia one time,” Clemson center Ryan Norton said. “So anytime I can get on a plane, I think it’s a privilege.”
Clemson and Syracuse have met in football just once before when freshman quarterback Donovan McNabb led the Orange to a 41-0 victory over the Tigers in the Gator Bowl following the 1995 season.
The Tigers are coming off a similarly dominating performance last Saturday against Wake Forest with Boyd leading the way in a 56-7 victory. Boyd threw three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth, joining former North Carolina State QB Philip Rivers as the only ACC passers to account for more than 100 touchdowns in their college careers. Boyd is 10 behind Rivers’ record of 112.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Boyd was back to his old, relaxed self after struggling a bit in wins against South Carolina State and North Carolina State by trying to be too perfect with his footwork and throws.
Morris knew when Boyd hit his first pass of the game – a 12-yard strike to Adam Humphries – that his senior quarterback would have a stellar day. Two plays later, Boyd connected on a 64-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins and the rout was on.
Clemson was also strong on defense, holding the Demon Deacons to 222 yards overall and just 80 yards in the second half.
The Tigers have already won on the road, outlasting the Wolfpack 26-14 in a Thursdaynight game where they struggled to get going. Swinney said his players have shown the capacity to improve as the season goes along and expects a stronger performance in this latest road test than two games ago.
“We’ve got one under our belt on the road where we played OK,” Swinney said. “Hopefully, we can play a little better this time.”