CLEMSON - Brian Mance saved his biggest play for a time when Saturday's game,
and perhaps the season, hung in the balance.
Mance forced a fumble by Wake Forest's Chris Barclay mere feet from what
would have been an important late touchdown, preserving Clemson's 31-23
victory over the Demon Deacons Saturday afternoon at Death Valley before a
Homecoming crowd of 81,000.
The win keeps alive the Tigers' hopes for at least a second place finish in
the Atlantic Coast Conference, but didn't come without a bit of drama at the
"It was a tremendous effort," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. "The last
two games we've been out-gaining people and then losing the games. Today they
out-gained us (523-280) and we won the game."
Barclay's fumble was the fifth Wake Forest turnover - all in the second half
- and came just when it looked as if the Deacs would have a chance to tie the
game with just over 1:00 to go.
But as Barclay broke free on a third-and-two play from the Clemson 18, Mance
came over from his left cornerback slot, hit the Wake Forest tailback from
the side and jarred the ball loose at about the 5-yard line. It rolled
through the back of the end zone for a touchback, giving the Tigers
possession at their own 20 with just 1:15 left in the game.
Willie Simmons took a knee three times to preserve the Clemson (4-3, 2-2 ACC)
victory, one that for much of the afternoon looked more like a pipe dream
than a possibility.
"The last play was desperation," Mance said. "You have to try one last thing.
If I had tackled him he would have fallen toward the end zone. You just try
anything at that point in time.
"We practice that type of play every day after practice. We work on turnovers
and on scooping and scoring with the fumble. We also work on stripping the
ball like that, so I have to give (defensive coordinator John) Lovett a
The Tigers found themselves trailing 23-14 after Wake Forest's (4-4, 2-3)
first possession of the second half, a quick two-play, 57-yard drive capped
by a Tarence Williams 11-yard touchdown run.
But the Demon Deacons would commit turnovers on five of its final six
possessions, two of which led to Clemson touchdowns.
The first score, set up by a Travis Pugh recovery of Nick Burney's fumble,
came on a two-yard Bernard Rambert run with 3:55 left in the third quarter.
The touchdown pulled Clemson to within 23-21.
Later, Aaron Hunt's field goal with 9:38 left gave the Tigers a 24-23 lead,
and after Altroy Bodrick pulled down the third of Wake's James MacPherson's
interceptions on the ensuing possession, Clemson put itself in position to
put the game away - with some help from one of Bowden's patented trick plays.
Lining up for an apparent 28-yard field goal attempt on fourth-and-three at
the Wake Forest 11, holder Jeff Scott instead ran with the snap and dove to
the seven yard line for a first down. Two plays later Rambert scored from the
three for a 31-23 lead, setting up Mance's heroics at the end.
"I thought we played it pretty well," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said of the
fake field goal. "I think they needed three yards for a first down (and) he
got just over that. We just didn't tackle him. We had a guy there to tackle
him, but we just didn't keep him from getting the first down."
For Bowden, his team's play in the second half proved to be a much-needed gut
"Our guys never really quit," he said. "I never heard any complaining or
moaning from the defense when we were struggling on offense. They just kept
getting us the ball and we finally got the 31 points to hold them off."
The well-played second half was in direct contrast to Clemson's first-half
After marching straight down the field for a touchdown (Simmons' 13-yard run)
on its opening possession, the Tigers fell flat in a hurry and proceeded to
go three-and-out on its next four possessions.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, was scoring on four consecutive possessions - three
Matt Wisnosky field goals (28, 40, 26) and a one-yard touchdown run by
fullback Ovie Mughelli. The Demon Deacons piled up 295 total yards in the
first half, 189 of it on the ground, and led the time of possession battle
21:21 to 8:39.
But after finally forcing a Wake Forest punt with 1:23 left in the half,
Clemson's offense sputtered to life behind Simmons.
Simmons completed five consecutive passes for 64 total yards, including a
beautiful 25-yard deep post to J.J. McKelvey to the Wake Forest 1-yard line.
One play later Yusef Kelly blasted through the left side for his eighth
rushing touchdown of the season, pulling the Tigers to within 16-14 with just
:08 left in the half.
Simmons, after suffering through the slow start, finally got things cranking
when Clemson decided to get vertical with its passing game.
After completing 9-of-14 passes for just 89 yards in the first half, Simmons
finished with 205 yards (21-of-33) despite being sacked twice and running for
his life most of the afternoon. More importantly, he completed four passes
for 18 yards or more - including a long of 31 to McKelvey - and took enough
shots deep downfield to keep the Deacons honest.
"He made some really critical throws," Bowden said.
Saturday's win sets up a showdown of sorts Thursday night, when undefeated
and No. 10 N.C. State visits Death Valley for a Thursday night ESPN game. The
Wolfpack, 8-0 after holding off Duke 24-22 Saturday, will be the
highest-ranked opponent Clemson has hosted this season.
Clemson 7, Wake Forest 0
Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 61 yards in 1:50.
Scoring Play: Simmons' 13-yard scramble at 9:52.
Key Play: Rambert's 12-yard run to the WF 13.
Clemson 7, Wake Forest 3
Scoring Drive: 9 plays, 69 yards in 4:22
Scoring Play: Wisnosky's 28-yard field goal at 5:30.
Key Play: MacPherson's 29-yard pass to Barclay to the CU 49.
Wake Forest 10, Clemson 7
Scoring Drive: 16 plays, 92 yards in 4:42.
Scoring Play: Mughelli's 1-yard run at 14:23.
Key Play: MacPherson's 28-yard run to the CU 5.
Wake Forest 13, Clemson 7
Scoring Drive: 8 plays, 37 yards in 3:27.
Scoring Play: Wisnosky's 40-yard field goal at 9:14.
Key Play: MacPherson's 36-yard completion to Davis to the Clemson 30 on
Wake Forest 16, Clemson 7
Scoring Drive: 10 plays, 51 yards in 4:21.
Scoring Play: Wisnosky's 26-yard field goal at 3:51.
Key Play: Williams' 18-yard run to the Clemson 48 on first-and-20.
Wake Forest 16, Clemson 14
Scoring Drive: 6 plays, 65 yards in 1:15.
Scoring Play: Kelly's 1-yard run at :08.
Key Play: Simmons' 25-yard completion to the WF 1-yard line.
Wake Forest 23, Clemson 14
Scoring Drive: 2 plays, 57 yards in :28.
Scoring Play: Williams' 11-yard run at 13:17.
Key Play: Davis' end around run of 51 to the Clemson 6-yard line.
Wake Forest 23, Clemson 21
Scoring Drive: 5 plays, 30 yards in 1:59.
Scoring Play: Rambert's 2-yard run at 3:55.
Key Play: Rambert's 11-yard run to the WF 2-yard line.
Clemson 24, Wake Forest 23
Scoring Drive: 8 plays, 48 yards in 3:55.
Scoring Play: Hunt's 34-yard field goal at 9:38.
Key Play: Simmons' 31-yard completion to McKelvey to the WF 35.
Clemson 31, Wake Forest 23
Scoring Drive: 11 plays, 58 yards in 4:48.
Scoring Play: Rambert's 3-yard run at 3:02.
Key Play: Scott's 4-yard fake field goal run to the WF 7 on fourth-and-three.
WAKE FOREST CLEMSON
First downs 23 18
Rushed-yards 64-365 32-72
Passing yards 158 208
Sacked-yards lost 0-0 2-11
Return yards 33 44
Passes 10-19-3 22-35-0
Punts 3-41.7 8-39.6
Fumbles-lost 2-2 4-0
Penalties-yards 14-125 7-56
Time of possession 31:59 28:01
Tarence Williams 20-97, Chris Barclay 14-89, James MacPherson 7-61, Fabian Davis 5-54, Ovie Mughelli 9-28, Nick Burney 4-20, Cory Randolph 1-8, Cornelius Birgs 4-8.
Bernard Rambert 15-54, Willie Simmons 9-12, Yusef Kelly 4-9, Jeff Scott 1-4, Airese Currie 1-0, - Team 2-MINUS 7.
James MacPherson 10-18-158- 3, Cory Randolph 0-1-0- 0.
Willie Simmons 21-33-205- 0, Charlie Whitehurst 1-2-3- 0.
Fabian Davis 3-75, Jason Anderson 3-29, Chris Barclay 1-29, Ray Thomas 2-14, Jax Landfried 1-11.
JJ McKelvey 5-70, Kevin Youngblood 6-43, Derrick Hamilton 6-40, Yusef Kelly 3-20, Jackie Robinson 1-20, Tony Elliott 1-15.