Inside the Interviews: Cuse and Clemson talk stunning upset


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Kelly Bryant looks for running room Friday (Photo by Rich Barnes, USAT)
Kelly Bryant looks for running room Friday (Photo by Rich Barnes, USAT)

SYRACUSE, NY – The Syracuse Orange stunned second-ranked Clemson 27-24 Friday night in the Carrier Dome.

There was more than enough blame to go around – a lackluster offense, a defense that couldn’t get off the field, missed field goals and penalties galore.

Clemson fell to 6-1 and second place in the ACC Atlantic behind N.C. State, while Syracuse improved to 4-3.

Coming into the game, the Tigers owned the nation’s longest winning streak at 11 games and hadn’t lost a true road game in two years and 11 months – going back to Deshaun Watson’s freshman season at Georgia Tech.

Here are the quotes from both postgame locker rooms:

SYRACUSE HEAD COACH DINO BABERS

Opening Statement:
“First of all my hat goes off to Coach Dabo Swinney. The Clemson Tigers are a wonderful team, and I’m sure they will still have an opportunity, and should, to play for a National Championship. That’s a championship team. That’s not a bunch of individuals. That was a hard-fought match. They’re going to be fine, they really are. I’m very proud of the young men. The seniors, Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett Steve Ishmael, Ervin Philips, Jamar McGloster, that senior class, three head football coaches, all the things they've been through, to have an opportunity like that is something they will never forget for the rest of their lives. It’s something that they will tell their sons and their daughters, and then they’ll tell their grandsons and their granddaughters. It will be one of those deals when it’s, ‘No, grandpa not the story about how you beat Clemson at the Loud House.’ And, they’ll have to sit there and listen to it again. It’s truly one of those moments that you coach for. I’ve had those moments but to be able to share a moment like that with these young men is really special and really means a lot to me. I’m really proud of them.”

On what the win means:
“You know, you guys called it a signature win, and I just concurred. This is big. I’ve only been a part of beating a number two team once before and that was when I was at UCLA beating USC when they were number two. This is big. I’m excited for the players. I’m excited for the university and the community. How about the fans tonight? Are you kidding me? We have a dome. No one else does. We’re loud. We’re crazy up here, and that’s the atmosphere it should be every time you come to the career dome. It should be a very difficult place to play. That was a good football team, and I thought the fans were fantastic. They were the 12th man on defense and it made it very difficult for the offense to communicate, and that helped our young men. It motivated them. It gave them the effort they needed to beat a fantastic Clemson team.”

On locker room postgame:
“Basically what I’m saying right now, that I’m really proud, and really proud of them. The thing about the locker room is that you get to look into those young people’s eyes. And when you’re looking at them, and they’re looking back, there are certain things you know they will never forget. How would you like to do something positive that somebody would never forget for the rest of their lives? I’ve seen more days than I’m going to see, and to know I put a mark in time and in a 124 people’s lives. They’re going to live a heck of a lot longer than me I can promise you that, so that’s really special. That’s what coaching is all about. I’ve never wanted to coach professional football, it’s never been something I wanted to do, even though I’ve had opportunities. To me, the true spirit of the game is college football. It’s more popular, and the guys are really doing it. They're not getting paid; they’re doing it for the love of the brother next to them, for the love of the brotherhood. It’s a band of brothers.”

On performance on both sides of the ball:
“From a defensive standpoint, we’re getting better. We still have our two defensive ends, Black and Coleman, who haven’t played in a long time. We need to get those guys back, but the other guys are rotating and giving a fantastic effort. There’s no rotation on the offense. They’re going to play every snap unless they’re down, and if they go down we’re going to put another guy in. We’re just not deep enough in either one of those areas yet. I don't know how many plays we played, but the way we were running the ball the fourth quarter, I guarantee it was a lot. It was over 80 something because you could see they were getting a little taxed.”

CLEMSON HEAD COACH DABO SWINNEY

Opening Statement:
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed. There’s a lot of pain in our locker room, but this is a story about Syracuse. This isn’t about Clemson, it’s about Syracuse. They outplayed us and our coaches and I give them a ton of credit. This was a football game that they flat out wanted more than we did and that’s 100% on me, so there’s a lot we have to talk about and a lot we need to fix. We made mistakes, we had a lot of penalties and on the third down, we couldn’t stop them. We just didn’t do the things that you have to do to win games. That’s my responsibility, but my love for my team is not conditional, it’s unconditional. It’s not based on the scoreboard. These guys lay it on the line every single week, but we just came up short.

“We had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities like they did. I give them credit, but I love my team and this one is going to hurt for a couple days, but we move forward. Failure is a part of the journey -- you win with class and you lose with class. We have to go back to the drawing board. The players have a couple days here and then we get ready for our biggest game of the year. This game is behind us and all we can do is grow from it and learn from it. The only thing off the table for this team is that we’re not going to be 12-0, that’s for sure. We still have an opportunity to win the division, but we have to make the right decisions, regroup and get better from this. If we do that and respond the right way as coaches and players, then we will hopefully have the type of season we want to have. The story of the night is that Syracuse outplayed us, outcoached us, and we’re just incredibly disappointed, but we have to move forward.”

On moving forward:
“We have a big list of things. First of all, we have to get healthy. We have to recharge a little bit. Then we have to study this tape because we have a lot to learn from this tape. We need to see the weaknesses and mistakes from this game and how we correct those and how our players respond to those. Mainly, we need to just go back to work. These guys won twelve games in a row and it wasn’t our night tonight, but we lost a game. We aren’t going to do anything other than what we always do and that is, whether we win or lose, we try to do better every week. Even when we win, there’s always a lot of mistakes to correct. I just have to make sure I have the team ready.”

On how the team looked going into the game:
“I thought we had a decent week of practice. We were off to a good start from an offensive standpoint. It was just defensively we didn’t have the juice tonight and they were better than us. I thought their quarterback played lights out. [Ishmael] made a bunch of plays. There were a lot of things that we have the opportunity to learn from by watching this tape.”

SYRACUSE QB ERIC DUNGEY

On what to take from the win:
“For me it’s just a win. All that is awesome, but like Coach Babers said, he expects us to win. At the end of the day, we beat the number two team in the country, but that’s what he expects from us and what we expect from one another. We still have five games left in the season, so we need to get to work.”

On Steve Ishmael:
“I think Steve is the best receiver in the nation. Look at him, we put him against the best defensive backs every week and he is making plays. You could tell that the defensive backs had a lot of respect for him. They were holding him and grabbing him, so that shows he is doing something right.”

SYRACUSE LB ZAIRE FRANKLIN

On what the win means:
“Parris and I were saying that, after everything we have been through, we have seen the lowest of the lows. We lost eight in a row and everyone was leaving. I had doubts about the future of the program, as did everyone. Coach Babers has done so much for us, he has taught us what it means to be a family, and what it means to be a man. I’m glad that the seniors get to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

On playing against Clemson:
“I’m not going to downplay our victory today, Clemson is a great team. Coach Swinney is a class act; he came and talked to us after the game. That is what it looks like when we put together a full game. We played LSU and it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, same with NC State. Clemson is the best team we have played all year and we finally decided to come together and put a game together. In the grand scheme of things, we accomplished something major, but for us, it confirms everything we have been working hard for.”

SYRACUSE LB PARRIS BENNETT

On emotions after the game:
“After the game, I was definitely emotional. I haven’t done anything like that at any level of anything I have ever done. So for me, it was definitely amazing.” On the crowd in the Dome: “Honestly, it was loud. On every down, it was rocking and you could tell that Clemson could hear it. We fed off the energy and it made us more confident.”

CLEMSON DL CHRISTIAN WILKINS

On the play of the Syracuse offense:“They were a better team and I give a lot of respect to them. I give a lot of praise to them because they did it. Congrats to them. It’s a hell of a win against us. Their quarterback number [Eric Dungey] is a heck of a player. He’s got my respect tonight. They just did the little things that we didn’t do tonight. I put this loss totally on me.”

On adjustments that could have been made:
“We left a lot of plays out there as a defensive line and a defense. We could have had a few more sacks. We missed some tackles.”

CLEMSON DE CLELIN FERRELL

On the pace of the Syracuse offense:
“We knew [they were fast] coming into the game. They run a very fast-paced offense. A lot of those plays we just weren’t locked in mentally. It was bad technique, bad discipline. It was a gratitude to them. They came out, they knew.”

CLEMSON QB ZERRICK COOPER

On looking ahead:
“It’s football. Everybody has a bad game. We are going to sit back, relax, watch the film and come back next week and get ready for Georgia Tech.”

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