Clemson offense comes a-Wake in dominating win over No. 10 Demon Deacons
|Saturday, November 20, 2021, 4:59 PM- -|
CLEMSON – The Tigers are still alive in the hunt for an ACC Atlantic Division crown.
Clemson ran over, through and around No. 10 Wake Forest, setting season-highs in rushing yards and total yards in a dominating 48-27 victory over the Demon Deacons on Senior Day on a sun-drenched but cold afternoon in Death Valley.
The Tigers improve to 8-3 overall and finish the year 6-2 in the ACC. Wake Forest falls to 9-2 overall and now sits at 6-1 in the ACC with a game next week at Boston College. A win by the Eagles and a loss by NC State would hand the Tigers the Atlantic crown.
Clemson put up 543 yards and rushed for 333 yards, the most since gained 419 against Wofford in November of 2019. Kobe Pace had a career-high 191 yards on 24 carries, while Will Shipley had 19 carries for 112 yards. Beaux Collins had four catches for a career-high 137 yards. DJ Uiagalelei was 11-for-19 for 208 yards.
Clemson won five straight ACC Atlantic Division titles from 2015-19 and then earned an ACC Championship Game berth in a divisionless season in 2020. The win also gives Clemson at least six regular-season conference wins for an 11th straight year and pulls the Tigers within three of the longest such streak in ACC history (Florida State, 14 from 1992-2005).
Clemson’s senior class finishes 26-0 at home in the last four years and becomes the second straight senior class to go undefeated at home in a four-year span. The 2020 and 2021 seniors are the first to post back-to-back undefeated home records over four years since the 1940 and 1941 Clemson seniors who played home games at Historic Riggs Field before the opening of Memorial Stadium in 1942.
The win came on the 52nd birthday of head coach Dabo Swinney. It’s also the 34th consecutive home win to extend the school record, and its the 13th consecutive game against Wake Forest, dating back to 2009.
"It was our best day on our last game at home. Just have to tip my hat to these guys," Swinney said. "You go from 2-2 and lots of disappointment and noise and lots of guys out, and now they've won 6 out of 7. The foundation of our program has won the day for us. You saw it all today. It was an historic day. Five years in a row without a loss at home. I hope if anything comes from this season, people can appreciate how hard it is to win. Five years in a row undefeated at home is unbelievable. Back-to-back senior classes that have never lost at home is unheard of in college football."
"It was a special locker room to know they finished well." \
Swinney said the Tigers didn't want Wake celebrating a division championship in Death Valley.
"We didn't want anybody coming to Death Valley to get a trophy handed to them. They'll have to go to Boston to earn that," Swinney said. "I really felt like we could stop the run. I felt like their only real chance was if they beat us over the top and gave them a couple of short fields. We won the line of scrimmage. Seven sacks. Seven different guys had a half-sack."
Wake head coach Dave Clawson said Clemson was the better team.
"Obviously, we're disappointed by the result. Clemson outplayed us, outcoached us and they took advantage of our mistakes," Clawson said. "I thought our team played hard and never quit. However, we just made too many mistakes. We had three turnovers and a lot of penalties. We could not get off the field on third down defensively. We have to bounce back. We have a championship game next week at Boston College. We will look to correct a lot of the mistakes and get our team to bounce back."
The Tigers forced Wake into a three-and-out on the game’s first series, and after a 50-yard punt took over at their own 31. Shipley ran for 17 yards on the second play of the drive and Uiagalelei hit Beaux Collins on a 16-yarder to move into Demon Deacon territory, but two errant passes led to a 50-yard field goal from BT Potter for a quick 3-0 lead. The field was the sixth of 50 yards or more in Potter’s career, moving him into first place in school history in that category.
The Tigers forced another Wake Forest punt and took over at their own 23. The key play of the drive was on 3rd-and-8 at the Clemson 41. Uiagalelei shrugged off two defenders and rolled right, stopped just short of the line of scrimmage and lofted a 52-yard pass to Beaux Collins that put the Tigers at the Wake seven-yard line. On fourth-and-goal at the one, Shipley leapt into the endzone for a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Wake finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter, going up tempo and putting together a 14-play, 81-yard drive that culminated in a 23-yard field goal by Nick Sciba. With 10:21 to play before the half the Tigers led 10-3.
Clemson’s offense responded in a big way. Shipley returned the kick to the Tigers’ 29, and Clemson put together an 11-play, 71-yard drive. The Tigers ran the ball eight of the 11 plays, and facing a third-and-goal from the two, lined up in the jumbo package with Shipley in the Wildcat. Shipley took the snap, faked a run and then threw a pop pass to Davis Allen in the end zone. Allen was interfered with, bobbled the ball twice and then gathered it in for the score. With 5:15 to play before the half the Tigers held a 17-3 lead.
Wake Forest added a late touchdown and the Tigers took a 17-10 lead into the half.
Clemson took the opening kickoff of the second half and started with a 42-yard run by Shipley. Pace added an 18-yard run to give the Tigers first-and-goal, but a pitch by Uiagalelei to Shipley was batted down by a Wake defender and recovered by the same defender to end the drive. However, Wake Forest returned the favor on the very next play – Myles Murphy stripped the Wake ballcarrier from behind and Baylon Spector recovered it at the 20. Three plays later Pace pushed the pile into the endzone to complete an eight-yard scoring run, and with a little over 11 minutes left in the third quarter Clemson led 24-10.
Wake responded with another Sciba field goal – this one from 31 yards out – and Clemson led 24-13 with 8:08 left in the third.
It didn’t take the Tigers long to respond. An 18-yard pass to Shipley on second down set up the touchdown. On 3rd-and-8 at the Clemson 42, Beaux Collins beat his man deep and despite being interfered with, caught a beautiful throw with one hand and raced into the end zone to complete the 58-yard scoring play. With just under five minutes to play in the quarter the lead expanded to 31-13.
Wake didn’t help itself – on the very next play from scrimmage quarterback Sam Hartman dropped the snap and it was recovered by Tyler Davis at the Wake 20. Four plays later Pace rumbled in from two yards out and the Tigers led 38-13 with three minutes still to play in the third quarter.
The Demon Deacons responded with a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, but on that drive Myles Murphy sacked Hartman for the Tigers’ 40th sack of the season. Clemson now has at least 40 sacks in every season since 2014, the only team in the nation to have such a streak. After the touchdown Wake went for two but the pass was broken up and Clemson led 38-19 very early in the fourth quarter.
Clemson then went conservative and put together a time-consuming drive (7:41) that ended with a Potter 35-yard field goal. With just over seven minutes remaining Clemson led 41-19. Both teams added late touchdowns to account for the final points.
Clemson plays at South Carolina next week, where the Tigers will attempt its six-game winning streak in the rivalry. The game is set for 7:30 pm on the SEC Network.