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Clemson’s Hot Start Lifts Tigers Past Wake Forest, 35-13

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The Tigers got off to a strong start and didn’t look back.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers (10-1, 7-1) rebounded from last week’s upset loss to Pittsburgh and clinched the ACC Atlantic with a 35-13 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-5, 3-4). Wake Forest starting quarterback John Wolford missed this game due to injury, and redshirt freshman Kyle Kearns made his first career start. What stood out about Saturday evening’s contest?

Clemson exerted its will from the onset. Wake Forest forced Clemson into a 4th-and-1 situation early on, but then Wayne Gallman took the ball 42 yards to the house to quickly put Clemson up 7-0. Clemson went on to lead 21-0 after the first quarter, with no drive lasting longer than 3 minutes and 30 seconds. They started the second quarter with a touchdown just over 2 minutes in after Deshaun Watson scampered for a 2-yard run to give the Tigers a 28-0 lead.

To Wake’s credit, the Deacs battled back over the remainder of the game. Wake capitalized on a muffed punt by Ray-Ray McCloud before Mike Weaver made a 42-yard field goal to put the Deacs on the board. Wake followed that up with its best drive of the game. The Deacs went 64 yards on just 6 plays, and finished with a 1-yard touchdown run by Cade Carney. The highlight of the drive was a 41-yard reception by Cam Serigne.

Wake played well out of halftime, and its field goal following a 7-play, 82-yard gave the Deacs the only points of the quarter. The highlight of that drive was a 51-yard reception by Chuck Wade. Wade has great burst, and should only create more chunk plays as his Wake career progresses. Dave Clawson opted to kick the field goal on 4th-and-goal from the 5-yard line down 28-10. Though it ultimately didn’t matter, I would have gone for it on fourth down. Clearly they needed at least 17 points at that point, and it was going to be 3 possessions, but Wake isn’t going to get many opportunities than just having to convert one 5-yard play.

FINAL STATS

Clemson finished things off in the beginning of the 4th when the Tigers marched down the field for a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped off with a Wayne Gallman run. That made the game 35-13, and that’s where it ended.

Kyle Kearns finished 7 for 18 for 126 yards. While it’s somewhat unfair to do this, if you take out the pass to Serigne and the pass Wade, then he was just 5 for 16 for 34 yards. Wolford will need to return next week if Wake Forest is going to beat Boston College. The Deacs had some success running the ball against the Tigers. Cade Carney had 18 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Matt Colburn had 10 carries for 38 yards. Hopefully Wake can heal up this week and get ready to take on Boston College in a very winnable season-finale. Boston College will enter with 5 wins and will be playing with a sense of urgency, so Wake will have to compete hard in order to win this one.

Clemson will finish the regular season next week with a home game against South Carolina, while Wake Forest will host Boston College.