CLEMSON, SC -- Woody Dantzler ravaged Wake Forest with his feet, not his arm, while the Clemson defense simply ran roughshod over an overmatched Wake Forest.
The Tigers used a 436-yard rushing performance, 170 coming from Dantzler, and a defensive effort which limited the Demon Deacons to 159 total yards en route to a 55-7 pasting of WFU in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener in front of 73,000 fans at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.
No. 16 Clemson (3-0, 1-0 ACC) is off to its best start since 1991, the last time the Tigers won the ACC title. The Tigers, playing in the program's 1,000th game, are now 3-0 for only the fifth time in the 103-year history of Clemson football.
The Tigers' offensive unit amassed a grand total of 623 yards in their throttling of the Deacs, but it was the defensive performance which impressed head coach Tommy Bowden the most.
"I think defense is going to be the key to our season," he said. "As far as giving us the ball a bunch. I think if they give us the ball a bunch, there will be some scoring opportunities with what we do."
Clemson's defense kept handing the ball to its offense all day long. Besides two turnovers, the unit forced Wake to punt 10 times and didn't allow the Deacons to convert a first down until only :44 remained in the first half.
"They're tough and big and strong up inside," said Wake Forest (0-3, 0-2 ACC) coach Jim Caldwell. "It was tough for us to muster up a running game. And with a team that has a real strong defense, particularly with guys that come off the edge the way they do, you better be able to put together some kind of a running game, which we couldn't. They were very effective against us."
Clemson, meanwhile, had no problem mustering up a running game of its own. In fact, Dantzler had already accumulated 101 yards on only seven carries by the end of the first quarter. The Tigers ran at will on a Wake Forest defense which chose to play a less-than-aggressive style up front.
It was a picked-poison Clemson gladly took advantage of.
"(Wake Forest) weren't giving much up-field rush," said Dantzler, who ran for two scores and threw for another on Saturday, while completing 9-of-19 attempts for 159 yards through the air. "They were just trying to sit, wait, stay in the throwing lanes and bat some balls down. So we just went with the run."
And went, and went, and...
Following Clemson's opening volley, a 30-yard field goal from Aaron Hunt, the Tigers went on an offensive rampage. Bernard Rambert scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 13-yard run with :33 left in the first quarter to cap a six-play, 80-yard drive, giving CU a 10-0 advantage. Dantzler ran one in from 39 yards out with 9:14 left before intermission to put the Tigers up 17-0. After Tony Lazarra's field goal made it 20-0 with 5:57 to go, Rambert again hit paydirt from 13 yards out, handing Clemson a 27-0 advantage with :58 left in the first half.
The Tigers went up 34-0 when Dantzler, who carried 15 times, bulled in from a yard away at 13:44 of the third quarter. Dantzler then hit Travis Zachery, who rushed for 73 yards to go along with 86 yards receiving, on a 52-yard scoring pass down the middle of the field to give CU an insurmountable 41-0 lead with 11:04 left in the third. Kevin Youngblood (30-yard pass from Willie Simmons) and Chad Jasmin (11-yard run) added late touchdowns for the Tigers, while Keith Kelly continued to impress. The true-freshman tailback had 101 yards rushing on 16 carries.
The only drama remaining was whether the Clemson defense could pitch the shutout. With 13:06 left in the game, the Tigers lost the bid for the goose egg when Ira Williams caught a 6-yard scoring strike from Anthony Young.
"That was a sparkling performance by our first team (defense)," said CU defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. "I'm very, very proud of our kids. But it's only one step towards our goal. We've got a tremendous challenge next week."
That challenge comes in the form of the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville next Saturday, the first road contest of the year for Clemson.
Notes: The 436 rushing yards was by far and away the highest total on the ground for Clemson in the Bowden era. The previous high was 290 at Maryland last season... Simmons' 30-yard strike to Youngblood was the redshirt freshman's first career touchdown pass... Wake Forest starting QB, the highly-touted and highly controversial C.J. Leak, was forced to leave the game on a stretcher after suffering a dislocated left knee after being sandwiched between two Clemson defenders in the third quarter... CU running back Terry Witherspoon got his first carry of the year, a 10-yard gain, with 12:49 left in the game... Senior safety Robert Carswell notched his first career sack with under 9:00 left in the game... Starting left guard Jermyn Chester suffered cartilage damage to his right knee during fourth quarter action and was forced to leave the game. Chester has torn his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee on two separate occasions.
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH FINAL
--- --- --- --- -----
Wake Forest 0 0 0 7 7
Clemson 10 17 21 7 55
Cle-FG Hunt 30, 7:02
Cle- Rambert 13 run, (Hunt kick), :33
Cle-Dantzler 39 run (Hunt kick), 9:14
Cle-FG Lazzara 26, 5:57
Cle-Rambert 13 run (Hunt kick), :58
Cle-Dantzler 1 run (Hunt kick), 13:44
Cle-Zachery 52 pass from Dantzler (Hunt kick), 11:04
Cle-Youngblood 30 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 1:38
WFU-Williams 6 pass from Young (Ashe kick), 13:06
Cle-Jasmine 11 run (Hunt kick), :49
First downs 8 30
Rushes-yards 35-102 66-346
Passing 57 187
Comp-Att-Int 7-17-0 10-21-0
Return Yards 213 51
Punts-Avg. 10-43 4-33
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 3-25 3-20
Time of Possession 24:32 35:28
RUSHING-Wake Forest, A.Young 5-42, Stone 1-41, Staton 5-11, Scott
6-17, Mughelli 5-8, Love-lane 3-4, Williams 4-3, Leak 6-(minus
24). Clemson, Dantzler 15-166, Kelly 16-93, Zachery 15-73,
Rambert 6-46, Jasmin 7-26, Simmons 3-18, Witherspoon 2-11, Schell
1-3, Gardner 1-0.
PASSING-Wake Forest, Leak 6-15-0-51, A.Young 1-2-0-6. Clemson,
Dantzler 9-19-0-157, Simmons 1-2-0-30.
RECEIVING-Wake Forest, I.Williams 3-25, Davis 1-22, Caldwell 1-6,
Stone 1-4, McCoy 1-0. Clemson, Zachery 3-86, Gardner 3-40,
Robinson 3-31, Youngblood 1-30.