College football: Syracuse can't convert field goal vs. Clemson, loses third straight crusher

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Oct. 16—SYRACUSE — Sean Tucker delivered a performance to make Floyd Little proud, but a night of celebration ended in agony for the Syracuse University football team.

Andre Szmyt came up short on a 48-yard field goal attempt with 43 seconds left and the No. 25 Clemson Tigers outlasted the Orange, 17-14, in the Atlantic Coast Conference clash before 36,670 fans Friday night in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse fell to 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the ACC, dropping its three conference games by three points each in crushing fashion over consecutive weeks. The previous two games were lost on the final play for SU, which will next play at 12:30 p.m. next Saturday at Virginia Tech.

"To watch them play that hard and for them not to have the victory, it makes me feel bad, it makes me want to work harder," SU coach Dino Babers said. "It's so close, it's inches, it's one numerous play and series of plays, but man, I can lose sleep and that's OK, but it bothers me that they haven't had the opportunity to win one of these. But it's going to happen, all this stuff is going to stick with them, and it's going to come out on the other end and be good."

Tucker finished with 157 rushing yards on 22 carries, and matched Curtis Brinkley's program record with his fifth straight outing of 100 yards or more on the night SU honored legendary running back Floyd Little with a halftime ceremony.

The second-year freshman increased his season rushing total to 948 yards and is closing in on becoming SU's first 1,000-yard rusher since Jerome Smith in 2012. He also remains on pace for the SU single-season rushing record of 1,372 held by Joe Morris since 1979 and became the first player in the FBS to surpass 1,000 all-purpose yards this season.

Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader complemented with his best passing performance of the season to nearly help SU pull off the fourth-quarter comeback as the Tigers sold out to stop the run.

Shrader went 17-for-37 for a season-high 191 passing yards — the biggest play came when he found Trebor Pena for a 62-yard touchdown pass with seven minutes and 18 seconds left to cut the Clemson advantage to 17-14 following the extra point. Pena caught the ball at the 30-yard line and ran the rest of the way to the end zone, diving across to beat a defender for the score.

On the previous possession, B.T. Potter made a 40-yard field goal to give Clemson (4-2, 3-1) its largest edge of the game at 17-7 with 9:22 left.

"Disappointed is an understatement because we feel like we could have beaten all three of these teams, especially today," Shrader said. "Offensively, we were very sloppy, and you look up in the fourth quarter and still have a chance to win it, that's a silver lining, but there's no moral victories and we have to get better, period."

Clemson scored just before halftime to take a 14-7 advantage into the break. Kobe Pace punched in a one-yard touchdown with nine seconds left in the second quarter, capping off the scoring drive that was extended when Will Spiers found Davis Allen to gain 17 yards on a fake punt.

Shrader scored with 5:33 left in the half on a two-yard run for SU to tie the game at 7-7, faking a handoff to Tucker up the middle and running off left tackle for a wide-open trot into the end zone.

Tucker surpassed 100 rushing yards on that scoring drive to match Brinkley's team record streak — he provided a 39-yard run to set up Shrader's score — and Szmyt connected on the extra point for his 335th career point to take sole possession of the program's all-time scoring record.

The Tigers got the scoring started with nine minutes left in the first half when Joseph Ngata hauled in a 20-yard touchdown catch from DJ Uiagalelei in the back corner of the end zone for a brief 7-0 edge.

The Floyd Little Life and Legacy Celebration was conducted at halftime and featured a video tribute before his family was presented with a No. 44 SU jersey featuring the "FL 44," patch that is featured on team jerseys this year. There was also an on-field emblem of the same design added to the 30-yard line.

Little's wife Deborah, and family spoke to his love for SU and thanked fans for always showing it back to the beloved Pro and College Football Hall of Fame icon who died at age 78 on Jan. 1.

"Syracuse University, Floyd Little loved you," Deborah Little excitedly yelled to a loud ovation.

"We wanted to dedicate this game to Floyd, and we're definitely disappointed about the loss," Tucker said afterward.

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