Records fall as Tigers dominate Wake Forest to move to 11-0


by - Senior Writer -
Travis Etienne breaks free for yards in the first half
Travis Etienne breaks free for yards in the first half

CLEMSON – Records continue to fall and Clemson continues to dominate.

Trevor Lawrence threw for a career-high four touchdowns and Travis Etienne recorded his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing effort as No. 3 Clemson dominated Wake Forest 52-3 on Senior Day in Death Valley Saturday evening.

Lawrence finished the day completing 21-of-27 passes for 272 yards and the four touchdowns. Etienne carried the ball 16 times for 121 yards and a score. Tee Higgins caught four passes for 64 yards, but three of his receptions went for touchdowns.

The victory is a school-record 22nd consecutive home win. The Tigers also won their 26th consecutive game, dating to the 2018 season opener. To date, there have been only 21 winning streaks of 26 games or more in the 150-year history of major college football, including only three such streaks since 2000.

Clemson has scored 50-plus points in four straight games, tying 2016 Louisville for the longest streak in ACC history.

Clemson opens a season 11-0 for the fifth time in program history, joining 11-0 starts in 1948, 1981, 2015 and 2018. This is Clemson's 6th game with 50-plus points this season, most in the FBS per @ESPNStatsInfo. Clemson joins 1972 Nebraska and 1944 Army as the only teams in the AP Poll Era (since 1936) to win four straight games by at least 45 points.

Wake gained just 105 yards of total offense, the 11th consecutive game the Tigers have held an opponent under 300 yards of total offense in a game.

Wake entered the game ranked 13th in total offense, averaging 487 yards per game. The last time the Demon Deacons were held under 300 yards was in a 63-3 loss to Clemson last season (249). The last time they were held under 200 yards was against Clemson in 2016 (197). The only time in the Dave Clawson era that the Deacons have been held under 100 yards occurred in the first game of his tenure when they gained just 94 in a loss at Louisiana-Monroe.

“Today was a great day. Senior Day is always a bittersweet day," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "It’s always emotional during the course of the week, and we try to manage it the best we can and think about all of the positive things that have happened over the course of the past four or five years. Wake Forest is a good football team. I’m proud of how our guys competed. They show up and prepare well every week. Our staff’s done a great job, and our players have a good focus about them. It’s been a real joy to coach this group and see how they’ve come together and improved.

“Today was a historic day. For our seniors, they’re the fastest to 52 wins in college football history. They’ve given us great leadership, and a lot of those guys played outstanding football today.”

Swinney said the defense set the tone early.

“I’m super proud of our guys. It’s been an amazing journey with this group. The defense set the tone today," Swinney said. "Wake Forest’s offense was averaging around 500 yards of offense entering the game and only had 41 yards passing today. Of course, it was a big loss for them to not have their top two receivers, but they still have a great quarterback and offensive life and a unique offensive scheme. Our guys were locked in all week. I can’t say enough about our preparation. The turnovers were huge for us. We’re playing well on offense. We had a lot of great contributions on special teams, as well. It was a complete game.”

Three running plays led to a Wake Forest punt to open the game, and Dom Maggio’s 59-yard boot outkicked the coverage. Punt returner Amari Rodgers backpedaled, gathered in the punt and raced 53 yards up the right sideline to the Wake 28-yard line. Three plays later Lawrence hit Tee Higgins on a skinny post from 14 yards out for a 7-0 lead a little over three minutes into the contest.

The next play from the Demon Deacons made things worse. Quarterback Jamie Newman started the drive by throwing a pass to the sideline that was easily intercepted by senior safety Tanner Muse, who stepped out of bounds at the Wake 41-yard line. Four plays later Etienne broke through the middle and bowled over two defenders at the goal line, and Clemson led 14-0 at the 9:55 mark of the first quarter.

A Clemson turnover set up Wake’s first score. Punter Will Spiers had the ball slip through his hands and the ball was recovered by the Demon Deacons deep in Clemson territory, setting up a 30-yard Nick Sciba field goal that made it 14-3 late in the first quarter.

Clemson forced another Wake punt and turned the next possession into a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Etienne accounted for 34 of those yards and the drive ended with a 36-yard field goal from B.T. Potter. With 8:45 remaining in the first half Clemson led 17-3.

Clemson forced yet another Wake Forest punt and took over at it's own 20 with 2:19 left to play in the half. A 23-yard pass to Diondre Overton on third down helped set up a bruising 25-yard run by Etienne a few plays later. Lawrence and Higgins ended the six-play drive when they connected on a 14-yard lob into the end zone for a 24-3 lead.

The Demon Deacons picked up a quick first down, but Newman underthrew his receiver on the drive’s third play and he was intercepted by A.J. Terrell. Terrell returned the interception 37 yards down the sideline to the Wake 30 and the Tigers had one last chance with 20 seconds left on the clock.

It took just seven seconds for Lawrence to once again find a wide-open Higgins – this time on a post route – for a 30-yard touchdown that put Clemson up 31-3 at halftime.

The Tigers continued to score after the break, going on a nine-play 60-yard drive to open the second half. Facing a 3rd-and-goal at the Wake 10, Lawrence sat patiently in the pocket and waited for freshman receiver Frank Ladson to flash in the back of the end zone. Lawrence fired a frozen rope that Ladson grabbed with both hands for the score and a 38-3 Clemson lead.

Following yet another Wake punt, the Tigers took just six plays to cover the 86 yards for the score. A slip pass that Lyn-J Dixon turned into a 55-yard gain to the Wake Forest nine turned into Dixon’s nine-yard scoring run. With 7:05 left in the third quarter, Clemson led 45-3. The Tigers pulled the starters at that point.

Clemson added a 21-yard pass from Chase Brice to Joseph Ngata early in the fourth quarter for a 52-3 lead.

Clemson is off next week, then travels to arch-rival South Carolina in two weeks to complete the regular season.


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