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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

Dino Babers’ late-game strategy costs Syracuse against Clemson

Dino Babers wearing a headset

Syracuse coach Dino Babers left a lot to be desired with his late-game strategy Friday night against Clemson.

The Orange had the opportunity to get a big win against the Tigers, or at least push the game to overtime, when they got the ball back with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. Trailing 17-14, Syracuse were deep in their own territory, but had ample time to put a drive together.

Syracuse did just that. Spurred by a 17-yard completion on 4th and 7, the Orange moved into Clemson territory with under two minutes to go and two timeouts remaining. The Orange ultimately got the ball to the Clemson 31-yard line on 3rd and 2 with 54 seconds left, prompting Babers to use his first timeout. The ensuing play was a stuffed run, leaving Syracuse with a decision: attempt a 48-yard field goal or try to extend the drive, running the risk of a defensive stop ending the game.

Babers called timeout again, Syracuse’s last, then curiously sent the field goal unit anyway. That did not work, as Syracuse missed the kick and lost the game.

It’s hard to figure out what Babers was thinking here. First, there’s the fact that his timeout usage was weird, to say the least.

That raises other questions. Was it really a higher-percentage play to try a 48-yarder on 4th and 1 than it would have been to try to get the first down and at least get closer, if not score a touchdown? If Babers was always going to kick the field goal, why waste the final timeout instead of letting the clock run down? Even if Syracuse made the kick, Clemson would have been left with 43 seconds to try to score themselves.

Syracuse has long had clock management trouble under Babers. The fact that it happened again really doesn’t speak well of him or his ability to adjust.

Photo: Nov 16, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers looks on during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Syracuse Orange defeated the Duke Blue Devils 49-6. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

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