No. 1 Clemson 37, Wake Forest 13: Standout players and position grades
|Saturday, September 12, 2020, 11:44 PM-|
Despite the long layoff, the outside noise and no fans in the stands, Clemson came to play in Saturday night’s season opener at Wake Forest.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 351 yards and a score and ran for two touchdowns, Travis Etienne posted a 102-yard effort on 17 carries and No. 1 Clemson defeated Wake Forest 37-13 at Truist Field Saturday night in Winston-Salem.
The Tigers start the season 1-0, while Wake Forest falls to 0-1.
Lawrence was connected on 22-of-28 passes, while Amari Rodgers had five catches for 90 yards. Tight end Braden-Galloway had five catches for 60 yards. The Tigers had 561 yards of total offense.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Lawrence was anxious to get back on the field following Clemson’s loss LSU in the national championship and he showed why he is arguably the best player in college football. In just a little over three quarters, he completed 22-of-28 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown and rushed for two more scores.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Myles Murphy was lauded as an impact player by the coaches even back as far as January and he quickly made his name known to college football. In his first game as a Tiger, he tallied seven total tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks.
STAT OF THE GAME: Clemson set a school record for consecutive true road wins as Dabo Swinney's team has won 13-straight true road games now.
Clemson grades by position
Lawrence said on a taped ESPN interview pregame that his plan was set to graduate in December and move on to a pro career after the 2020 season -- and he looked every bit an NFL QB already by spreading the ball all around the field and making good calls on read plays for a couple rushing TDs. (Not adding garbage-time QB play in the grade with Lawrence’s near-perfect night)
Etienne got the rock early-and-often in the first half and pounded away at a solid Wake Forest defensive line, also showing off improved pass protection skills and making an impact in the receiving game. With Lyn-J DIxon likely being held (had been injured in preseason), former walk-on Darien Rencher received seven touches for 34 yards and true freshmen Kobe Pace and Demarkcus Bowman were able to show off a little of what they can do in the second half.
Clemson had as big a distribution of impactful targets as it has in a while versus a Power 5 opponent, with Amari Rodgers showing off his connection with Lawrence and the huge addition year-to-year of more middle-of-the-field connections -- specifically to tight ends in Braden Galloway and Davis Allen. Even down two NFL-ready WRs from last year with Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins, Clemson showed it has plenty of options here.
A revamped Clemson O-line did its job and more versus the strength of the Wake Forest defense, with Lawrence getting sacked just twice and few TFLs during non-garbage-time possessions.
The hype is real on the impact young defensive linemen with a pair of sacks for Murphy and negative plays caused by KJ Henry and Bryan Bresee as well early. The Deacs had no shot at running the ball against this front and Sam Hartman was under quite a bit of pressure.
A Clemson LB group down starter James Skalski for a half held the line in a shutout first 30 minutes that saw just 113 yards for the Demon Deacons, and Skalski got in on some plays once let on the field in the second session.
Wake Forest was its own worst enemy at times with some drops after getting open versus a Clemson secondary down two potential starters in cornerbacks Derion Kendrick and Mario Goodrich. The young Tigers back there shook off some blown coverages to keep Wake Forest contained well overall though when it counted.
It was a dynamite game from the Clemson kicking group anchored by a 3-for-3 night -- including a career-high 52-yarder -- from BT Potter, and a solid effort punting from Will Spiers. Bresee also got his hand on a field goal attempt that went off the mark.
UP NEXT: Clemson hosts The Citadel next Saturday at 4 p.m. to open its 2020 home slate.
-- Nikki Hood and Brandon Rink