CLEMSON, S.C. — Freshman quarterback Cade Klubnik rallied No. 5 Clemson to two fourth-quarter touchdowns after replacing mistake-prone starter DJ Uiagalelei and the Tigers won their ACC-record-setting 38th straight game at home, 27-21, over No. 14 Syracuse on Saturday.
Will Shipley ran for two touchdowns and a career-high 172 yards as the Tigers (8-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their 14th straight overall — but not without a big-time scare from the Orange (6-1, 3-1).
Uiagalelei was picked off twice and had a fumble Ja'Had Carter returned 90 yards for a touchdown as Clemson trailed 21-10 at the half.
The Tigers caught fire with the five-star Klubnik behind center. He led a 15-play, 80-yard series that ended with Phil Mafah's 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal to cut the deficit to 21-16.
After a Syracuse punt, the Tigers and Klubnik got going again. He started with an 11-yard run before Shipley burst through the line for the go-ahead, 50-yard touchdown run for a 22-21 lead. Clemson went for two and Klubnik escaped one tackler in the backfield before finding Joseph Ngata for the final points.
Klubnik pumped his fist and the once-subdued Death Valley crowd broke into hysterics.
Clemson held Syracuse to 119 yards with no points in the final two quarters. Garrett Shrader took Syracuse to the Clemson 30 with 32 seconds left but was picked off by safety R.J. Mickens on his final throw.
Syracuse entered as the ACC's biggest surprise with a dynamic offense led by Shrader and the league's No. 1 defense. Both showed up in the first half.
After Shipley's 1-yard touchdown on Clemson's opening drive, Shrader answered by completing 4 of 5 passes for 62 yards, with the last a 12-yard swing route to tailback Sean Tucker for a TD.
The Syracuse defense held firm on three straight lengthy first-half drives, with Carter's interception, his long fumble return score, and a fourth-and-short stop of Uiagalelei to get the ball back.
Shrader cashed in with his legs with runs of 21, eight, and seven yards, the last for a touchdown that put the Orange up 21-7 right before the half.
Klubnik's performance was eerily similar to Clemson's last close call at home against Syracuse in 2018 when Chase Brice — he of the Appalachian State Hail Mary win this season — came in for injured starter Trevor Lawrence and led a 94-yard fourth-quarter scoring drive in the final minute for a 27-23 win.
Syracuse: It was certainly a tale of two halves for the Orange, who looked unstoppable and on a mission in the first 30 minutes before caving to the Tigers. Syracuse also made its share of mistakes with several costly penalties down the stretch contributing to Clemson's win.
Clemson: Quarterback controversy? Don't be so certain. Fans were hopeful Klubnik would take over for Uiagalelei when the season began after he struggled at times in 2021. While Klubnik was essential to beating Syracuse, Clemson is still Uiagalelei's team going forward.
Clemson linebacker Barrett Carter, third on the team with 33 tackles, missed the game due to a concussion. He's the latest starter to miss time this season, including defensive linemen Xavier Thomas, Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis. For Syracuse, top cornerback Garrett Williams did not play after getting hurt against North Carolina State last week. Williams is third on Syracuse with 32 tackles.
Syracuse returns to the Dome to play Notre Dame on Saturday.
Clemson has the week off before heading to Notre Dame on Nov. 5.