Tigers Escape with Overtime Win Over Wake

by - Correspondent -
Kelvin Grant jumps over the defensive back to make the game-tying conversion catch.

CLEMSON - Given the choice to roll over and die or go out fighting, No. 15 Clemson chose the latter.

The Tigers blew a 16-point first half lead and ultimately trailed by eight late in the game before rallying for a dramatic 37-30 double overtime victory Saturday in Death Valley. At 3:58 running time, it was the longest game in Clemson football history.

The Tigers (1-0) are now 4-0 all-time in overtime games.

This one almost didn't make it that far.

Clemson trailed 27-19 late in the fourth quarter before Yusef Kelly dove over from the one-yard line to pull the Tigers within two points with 1:48 left in the game. Charlie Whitehurst then threw a perfect lob pass to Kelvin Grant, who jumped over the smaller defensive back to make the game-tying conversion catch.

“You look more for physical mismatches than you do anything else,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. “It’s tough to stop because those guys (defensive backs) just don’t practice that (the fade) all that much.”

“He does it every day in practice,” said Whitehurst. “That’s the biggest play of his life probably. I hope there is more to come."

After exchanging field goals in the first overtime, the Tigers got the game-winner on an 11-yard slip screen pass from Whitehurst to tailback Kyle Browning in the second extra period, and led 37-30 after Stephen Furr's extra point.

The Clemson defense then shut down Wake offense on four straight plays to send the announced crowd of 79,500 home happy.

“They have had our number,” said Bowden. “We lost by thirty last year and we won by seven so we are making progress. Wake Forest is a well coached team.”

After spotting the Demon Deacons (0-1) a 3-0 lead, Clemson roared to life behind the strength of this team - it's skill position stars.

It started with Whitehurst finding wideout Airese Currie on a deep post for a 31-yard touchdown. Then, after Wake went three-and-out and punted on the next possession, Justin Miller returned the kick 69 yards for another score - starting to his left, reversing to his right and sprinting down the home sideline for the touchdown.

Not to be outdone, Chansi Stuckey blocked the next punt through the back of the end zone for a 16-3 lead, and not long afterwards Furr made it 19-3 when he clanged a 42-yard field goal off the left upright and through.

But Wake Forest immediately stole back the momentum, and did so in a big way.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Mauck made his first collegiate pass attempt one to remember, launching a prayer deep downfield while backpedaling under pressure and watching as wide receiver Jason Anderson made a leaping catch in traffic and turn it into an 85-yard touchdown.

The Deacs scored again before the first half was up, getting a two-yard scoring run from Birgs to cut Clemson's lead to 19-17.

A field goal in the third quarter and Chris Barclay's 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth gave Wake Forest the 27-19 lead, setting up the wild finish.

Barclay rushed for 179 yards on the evening, leading a Wake Forest rushing attack that gained 254 total on the afternoon. The Deacs had rushed for 321 yards in 2003's 45-17 upset victory in Winston-Salem.

Whitehurst finished the day 20-of-41 for 288 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Currie had nine catches for 152 yards, while Stuckey had eight for 112.

Clemson only managed 83 net yards rushing on 35 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards per carry.

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