Lawrence scored the Tigers' first touchdown run (Photo per the ACC).
Lawrence scored the Tigers' first touchdown run (Photo per the ACC).

Tiger pummel Demon Deacons in season opener

by - Senior Writer -

The kids can play, and the veterans are pretty good, too.

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. Clemson hosts The Citadel next weekend (4 pm).

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.

One year after playing the earliest season opener in school history (Aug. 29, 2019 vs. Georgia Tech), Clemson played its latest season opener since 1986 (Sept. 13, 1986 vs. Virginia Tech).

Clemson has won 29 of its last 36 season openers. Head coach Dabo Swinney is 11-1 in his career in season opening games with the only loss coming at Georgia to open the 2014 season. Clemson now owns 68 all-time wins over Wake Forest, its second-highest victory total against any opponent (71 wins vs. South Carolina). Clemson has a 58-9-1 lead in theseries since the formation of the ACC in 1953, an .858 winning percentage.

Clemson has won 12 in a row in the series, all under Swinney, by a combined score of 442-127.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the uncertainty of the previous months made the win memorable.

“Well, it’s a special night. I’ve been a part of a lot of great games, a lot of openers," Swinney said. "I hope to coach many, many more years. But this is one that I’ll never forget. Truly special to be a part of it. The focus and the mental toughness that it took to get to this point is special. And I’m just really proud of our team."

Swinney likes how his team responds in openers.

"When I got a job 12 years ago before we set our goals out. One was to win the opener. We are 11-1in openers. I’m really proud of that. And that that’s a credit to our strength conditioning, how we train and how we do camp, how we prepare. I was really impressed with our team tonight. We had a couple of miscues early, but so, so proud of our guys, especially our first groups," Swinney said. "I thought they played really, really well and just fun to see us play, but we’ll get better. Great teams get better. And we got a lot of things on tape, a lot of situations that sometimes take four or five games to pop up in games. We got a lot of work that’s going to help our team and we got to play a lot of people. We played seventy eight out of the eighty that made the trip and that’s going to that’s going to help us because you think you know, but until you go play kind of get exposed a little bit, sometimes it becomes a little more real than practice. And we got a lot of guys that are going to be really good players for us. But if we needed them to win the game tonight, you know, they weren’t quite ready. And again, sometimes you got to be exposed a little bit to see the light. And so I think we’re going to have an enormous amount of growth from our backups."

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said Clemson was the better team.

"First off, I just want to start out and give credit to Clemson. They're an excellent football program, and they came out strong like they always do, and played better than us tonight and won the game," Clawson said. "Their quarterback and tailback are both special players. We are disappointed with the result, but I think there's a lot of positives to build on. I thought we played hard for 60 minutes. We came out of this healthy, we're going to get some guys back that we didn't have with injuries or COVID related that, if our guys can continue to do the right things, hopefully we can be close to full strength next week as we try to start defending our Big 4 Championship on the road against NC State."

The Tigers punted on the first drive of the game, but the offense was clicking the rest of the half. Clemson took over on its own eight midway through the first quarter and turned in a 92-yard scoring drive. The first two plays of the drive were passes to Rodgers – covering 36 yards and 17 yards – and Lawrence completed the drive with a two-yard touchdown run and Clemson led 7-0.

Following a Wake punt, the Tigers took over at their own 20, and the drive started with a 25-yard completion to tight end Braden Galloway. Seven plays later the Demon Deacons once again followed the fake to Etienne and Lawrence scored easily from one-yard out and the Tigers led 14-0.

Wake had a chance to get on the board on the ensuing drive, but freshman Bryan Bresee got a finger on the 44-yard field goal attempt to keep the Deacons scoreless.

A 10-play, 49-yard drive followed by the Tigers and BT Potter hit a 42-yard field for a 17-0 Clemson lead at the 10:54 mark of the second quarter.

Later in the half, Clemson put together an impressive 10-play, 91-yard drive that featured Lawrence carving up the Deacon defense in the middle of the field. The drive ended on a 12-yard pass to a wide-open JC Chalk in the back corner of the end zone, and Clemson led 24-0 with 1:21 to play before the half.

Wake went just five yards on three plays and took just 32 seconds off the clock, and Swinney called a timeout to get the ball back with 37 seconds to play. Clemson marched down the field and got a 52-yard field goal from Potter and led 27-0 at intermission.

Wake took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 54 yards in just seven plays, with Nick Sciba kicking a 39-yard field goal that made it 27-3.

The Tigers made it look easy on the ensuing possession, marching 75 yards in just six plays and getting a two-yard run from Etienne that made it 34-3. The Tigers ended the next drive with Potter’s third field goal of the night, a 29-yarder, for a 37-3 advantage. At that point Swinney pulled most of the starters and left the game to the backups.

The Deacons added a fourth quarter field goal and a late touchdown pass against a bevy of freshmen to account for the final score.

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