Clemson’s dominant defense continued to flex its muscles Saturday as the Tigers topped Wake Forest 28-14 at Death Valley.
Clemson shut down the Demon Deacons for three quarters and led 28-0 early in the fourth before Wake Forest scored a pair of touchdowns late against Clemson’s reserves.
The Demon Deacons had 200 yards through three quarters and finished with 336.
“Wherever the ball was spotted, they were ready to play,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said of the defense. “They created push back. They just bowed up and got stops. I’m proud of them … We’re 6-0, and it was another big division win for us.”
The Tigers got off to a fast start, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives before both defenses settled in.
Clemson took a 14-0 lead with 6:18 remaining in the first quarter, and neither team scored again until Travis Etienne’s 1-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a three-score lead halfway through the third quarter.
“I thought we played with a lot of precision early in the game,” Swinney said. “Very, very, very precise with what we were doing. It got a little sloppy here and there, but had control of the game, really, the whole game.”
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was hurt on the play before Etienne’s run and limped off the field after the touchdown with an ankle injury. He did not return and was in a walking boot for postgame interviews. His status for next week is unknown.
Wake Forest played without its starting quarterback, John Wolford, who injured his shoulder this week in practice. Kendall Hinton got the start and finished 14-for-30 passing for 203 yards and two scores. Hinton also led Wake Forest in rushing with 92 yards.
Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson split time with Bryant out, with Johnson finding Cannon Smith for a 13-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring for Clemson.
The Tigers opened the game with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Deon Cain.
Clemson then forced a three-and-out, and the Tigers drove down the field for another score, going 76 yards in 12 plays. Adam Choice finished the series with a 4-yard touchdown run.
“Just proud of how we came ready. Right out of the gate we set the tempo on both sides of the ball,” Swinney said. “I loved overall the focus that they had coming into this game. I’m not crazy about how we finished there the last little part of the fourth quarter, but we’re committed to playing a lot of guys.”
Tanner Muse led Clemson with eight tackles, while Austin Bryant and Tre Lamar had seven. Clemson had eight tackles for loss, with Bryant leading the way with two.
Star of the game: Austin Bryant – The junior defensive end was part of a dominant front seven that held down Wake Forest’s offense for 50 minutes. Bryant made seven tackles, including five solo stops, and had a pair of tackles for loss.
Play of the game: Clemson was leading 14-0 early in the third quarter and had gone five consecutive drives without points when Hunter Renfrow caught a 29-yard pass on fourth-and-3. The Tigers scored three plays later.
Stat of the game: 3-3: Clemson was 3-for-3 on fourth down conversions.
Plenty of players: The Tigers had 11 players catch a pass, all four running backs had carries and 29 players recorded a stat defensively.
Etienne pushing Feaster: Clemson freshman running back Travis Etienne is pushing Tavien Feaster for the starting job. Etienne had 15 carries to Feaster’s 11 and got the ball on a critical fourth down in the first half.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.